If you are interested in learning more about natural health supplements, then you have come to the right place.
Something that you might be keen to learn about is acerola, which is a type of fruit that is known to have certain benefits upon consumption.
Acerola can be useful for a variety of different reasons, and we are going to explain more about these benefits and uses here for you to read about.
This will help to give you a better understanding of what this fruit has to offer.
In this article, we are going to delve into the history, uses, benefits, and safety precautions when it comes to taking acerola as a health supplement, so you will know exactly what you can expect from it.
It is really important to be aware of the correct doses and safety instructions when taking any supplement, and acerola is no exception to this rule, which is why we are going to provide you with as much information about it as possible.
What is Acerola?
Unlike the standard cherry fruit, which is part of the Rosaceae family as well as many other types of fruit, the acerola cherry is part of the Malpighiaceae family, just like other tropical fruits.
Some of the other plants that can be found in this family are the Byrsonima lucida (Locustberry) and Banisteriopsis caapi (Caapi Vine).
The acerola cherry is also often referred to as the West Indian Cherry or Barbados Cherry, and this is due to the fact that it is native to areas like southern Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean islands.
This cherry was originally a wild fruit shrub until it became commonly cultivated after the second world war. During WW2, acerola cherry was given to Puerto Rican families to plant in victory gardens.
Research that has taken place in Puerto Rico would suggest that this fruit is one of the highest natural sources of vitamin C, which led to this cherry being planted in school yards in order to increase the vitamin intake of school children.
This cherry is also thought to have been introduced to Brazil around the same time, and this region is now the top cultivator of the acerola cherry.
This is a tart fruit that is not usually seen outside of where it is cultivated due to its fragile nature.
The History of Acerola
The benefits of acerola are not something that have been discovered recently, and interestingly, the Amazonian Indians were the first people to notice the huge beneficial potential of this fruit.
They consumed it in order to fight against certain forms of diarrhea, dysentery, and liver disorders.
When they arrived in South America, the Spanish conquistadors became very interested in the properties of acerola, and sailors quickly became used to drinking the juice to prevent a disease that was called scurvy.
As the centuries passed by, the deadly disease that occurred due to a vitamin C deficiency had all but disappeared, but the benefits of acerola continued, and is still used today.
Acerola Cherry Supplement
Acerola is something that produces cherry-like berries, but they are not actually true cherries. The berries are pleasant in taste, and they have even been used in modern and folk medicine.
Some of the more traditional uses of acerola include treatment for liver ailments, diarrhea, dysentery, coughs, and colds.
Although, more recently, there has been a lot of interest in using the vitamin C content of acerola as a supplement.
Lots of claims have been made about using it as a supplement, but there is little research to back up these claims.
The Uses of Acerola
Acerola cherry is mostly popular due to the fact that it is a high natural source of vitamin C and other antioxidant compounds, such as carotenoids.
It has been found to have up to 14.6 mg of vitamin C per just 1 gram of ripe fruit, which is much higher than many other common fruits.
Vitamin C acts as a cofactor for protein and hormone synthesis, and as a free-radical scavenger that works to fight oxidative stress in the body.
There are lots of factors that can end up leading to oxidative stress, and this is something that can go on to cause tissue damage if there is insufficient antioxidant storage in the body.
Modern diets are typically defined as being made up of low-quality food that is high in saturated fat, refined sugar, and low in micronutrients. They are also associated with an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS), or pro-oxidant compounds, in the body.
An animal study that took place using rats that were fed this type of diet and given a supplement of acerola cherry juice were found to have decreased diet-induced oxidative damage to the kidneys, liver, heart, and brain.
Due to its high levels of vitamin C, acerola can be taken to help boost overall immunity.
As well as this, acerola is an astringent, which could make it useful for helping to treat things like skin blemishes, promoting skin elasticity, and aiding digestive issues.
Some of the other uses of acerola include:
- athletic endurance
- skin astringent (cream)
How Should Acerola Be Taken?
If you want to take acerola, you can actually consume the berry or the fruit part of the acerola plants to reap the benefits that it has to offer. The taste of these berries has often been described as sweet, fragrant, and astringent.
It can be eaten either raw or by cooking it into a dish. One of the best ways to get your hands on this fruit is to grow it yourself, as it does perish quite quickly.
The best way to preserve them is to freeze them right after you have picked them.
Acerola fruit can be most commonly found in the form of a supplement, and this is because the berry will decompose within just 5 days of being harvested.
It will lose most of its nutrition within these short few days, and even the juices will spoil easily without added preservatives. So, while the best way to take it is to eat the fruit, you can also get your hands on some supplements.
Supplement forms include:
- Liquid extract (tincture)
The powder supplement is made from dehydrated and powdered acerola cherry juice, which can be mixed into beverages, smoothies, juices, and more.
You can also make smoothies from your frozen berries. You should always follow the guidelines of vitamin C supplementation when taking it at home because this vitamin contributes the most to acerola’s nutritional content.
If you are unsure, always follow the directions on the packaging or talk to a medical professional first.
The Benefits of Acerola
The majority of acerola’s health benefits come from the fact that it is rich in vitamin C, and the more that the fruit ripens, the more that the vitamin C is lost.
Acerola ripens very quickly, so this stage is time sensitive. In a study that took place with various vitamin C-containing fruits, acerola was found to outperform all of the other fruits that were tested, especially when it was grown organically.
Acerola has much higher amounts of vitamin C than other types of fruit, and the only thing that was higher than it was rose hip.
The berry was also found to have a high amount of vitamin A in comparison to the other tested fruits.
Vitamin C is something that is required, and it is a water-soluble vitamin that is not stored in the body, which means that you need daily amounts of this vitamin.
Vitamin C, as well as vitamin A, is known as an antioxidant, which helps to prevent free radical damage and certain illnesses. More recent studies concluded that acerola is rich in antioxidants.
Vitamin C also builds collagen, protects mucus membranes, and prevents scurvy, and it is important to keep the immune system functioning as it should, and to help the body fight infections, viruses, and cancer.
More research is needed for further evidence to support these claims, but one study showed that cherries that are high in antioxidants and vitamin C are able to assist the body in stopping the growth of colon cancer.
This suggests that acerola could be used in place of a vitamin C supplement.
When acerola is consumed as food, it also contains decent amounts of the following nutrients:
- Niacin – Vitamin B3
- Riboflavin – Vitamin B2
- Thiamine – Vitamin B1
Does Acerola Have Side Effects?
Just like with any other supplement, it is possible to take too much acerola cherry. As it is rich in vitamin C, you can experience digestive disturbances if you take too much of it.
You should take acerola as you would any other vitamin C supplement. You should follow any instructions when it comes to dosage or taking these supplements, and be sure that you are choosing supplements from a reputable manufacturer.
If you do take too much acerola, you might experience:
- Digestive cramps
- Dizziness or fainting
- Flushed appearance
- Headaches or migraines
You are not likely to need medical attention for these symptoms, and they are quite uncommon or rare. If you do experience any of these symptoms upon taking acerola, then you should lower your dosage.
They should go away once you have lowered the amount that you are taking, and you should contact your doctor if you are worried.
There is a chance that taking high amounts of acerola for a long period of time could lead to kidney stones, and you should contact a doctor straight away if you experience any side or lower back pain.
This could be a symptom of kidney stones. If you grow your own acerola plant, then you should be aware of contact dermatitis when you are harvesting it.
Other than this, the berry is not toxic and is completely safe to consume.
If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, then you should avoid taking this supplement as there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether it is safe to use in medicinal amounts when pregnant or breast-feeding.
Interestingly, people that are allergic to latex might also have an allergic reaction to acerola, which is something that you should be mindful of if this applies to you.
Reactions to Other Things
The following things can cause moderate interaction, and you should be cautious with this combination.
Fluphenazine (Prolixin) – Acerola contains vitamin C, and large amounts of vitamin C can decrease the levels of fluphenazine that is in the body. This could mean that it does not work as well as it should.
Warfarin (Coumadin) – This is something that is used to slow down blood clotting, and large amounts of vitamin C can decrease the effectiveness of warfarin.
This could decrease the effectiveness of it and increase the risk of blood clots. You should be sure to have your blood checked on a regular basis, as the dose of your warfarin may need to be changed.
The following things can cause minor interaction, and you should be watchful with this combination.
Estrogens – Acerola does contain a large amount of vitamin C, which is something that can increase how much estrogen the body is able to absorb. Increasing the absorption of estrogen can increase the effects and side effects of estrogen.
What is the Right Dosage for Acerola?
The correct dose of acerola will depend on a variety of different factors, including the user’s age, health, and other conditions.
There is not currently enough research and evidence to determine the appropriate dose of acerola for any one person, but you should keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe, and dosages are really important.
You should always follow the instructions or directions on the product label or consult with a medical professional or pharmacist before you start taking it.
Research suggests that acerola is high in vitamin C, which means that it can be consumed as a food or supplement to help you to meet your vitamin C needs.
It also contains other important vitamins and minerals, and it is a great source of antioxidants.