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Scientific Name(s): Malpighia emarginata, Malpighia glabra L.
Common Name(s): Acerola, Antilles cherry, Barbados cherry, Cereso, Cereza, Cerisier, Puerto Rican cherry, Semeruco, West Indian cherry

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 7, 2020.

Clinical Overview


Acerola provides natural vitamin C and other useful vitamins and minerals. It possess antioxidant and antifungal properties. Other traditional uses include as an astringent and for diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis, and fever, although clinical trials are lacking.


There is no clinical evidence to guide human dosage of acerola.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Large doses may produce GI distress. Prolonged, massive dosage may predispose to formation of renal calculi.


Information on whole plant extracts is limited. Vitamin C is readily excreted by the body and is not typically associated with toxicity.

Scientific Family

  • Malpighiaceae


Acerola (previously M. punicifolia L.) is native to the West Indies, but is also found in northern South America, Central America, Texas, and Florida. It grows as small shrubs or trees from 5 to 15 m in height. The branches are brittle and the leaves are glossy and dark to light green. The 5-petaled flowers range from pink to white in color. Acerola fruit is cherry-like, 3-lobed, bright red, and 1 to 2 cm in diameter, containing several small seeds. Mature fruits are soft, pleasant-tasting, and contain 80% juice. The fruits deteriorate rapidly once removed from the tree. Acerola should not be confused with related plants from the Malpighiaceae family Banisteriopsis caapi (known as ayahuasca) and Galphimia glauca, which appear to have activity on the CNS.Delva 2013, Leung 1996, USDA.2016


Traditionally, the fruits have been used to treat dysentery, diarrhea, and liver disorders. Both M. glabra and M. emarginata have been reported to be excellent sources of vitamin C. Acerola is used as a source of food and juice, and due to its high concentration of vitamin C it is sold as a natural health supplement. Delva 2013, Leung 1996


Acerola contains from 1% to 4.5% vitamin C (1,000 to 4,500 mg per 100 g) as ascorbic and dehydroascorbic acids in the edible portion of the fruit. The content of vitamin C in acerola varies with ripeness (highest in green and lowest in fully ripened fruit), season, and climate, and exceeds the vitamin C content of peeled oranges (about 0.05% or 50 mg per 100 g).Delva 2013, Leung 1996

Vitamin C analysis regarding acerola storage after picking finds freezing (−18°C) the fruits to be the best way to preserve vitamin C percentage, as compared with room temperature or refrigeration.Visentainer 1998

In addition, acerola contains vitamin A (4,300 to 12,500 units per 100 g), at about the same level as in carrots. Other constituents include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, bioflavonoids, phosphorus, malic acid, pantothenic acid, potassium, magnesium, and sugars dextrose, fructose, and sucrose. Protein, fiber, lipids, fatty acids, zinc and other mineral content have been described. Delva 2013, Leung 1996, Visentainer 1997

Uses and Pharmacology

Antioxidant properties

Animal data

Antioxidant properties have been described in studies, and are related to the vitamin C, phenolic compounds and carotenoid content of the fruit.Delva 2013, Hwang 2001

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of acerola as an antioxidant.

Chemotherapeutic properties

Animal data

Screening studies have evaluated acerola for cytotoxic and antimicrobial effects.Caceres 1993, Delva 2013

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of acerola as a chemotherapeutic agent.

Vitamin supplementation

Controversy has focused on whether vitamin C derived from "natural" sources is more physiologic than that produced synthetically or semisynthetically (as ascorbic acid). To date, there is no clear evidence that naturally derived vitamin C is superior in its clinical effectiveness than synthetic ascorbic acid. A potential advantage to using acerola as a source of vitamin C is that one receives not only ascorbic acid, but also several other useful vitamins and minerals from the fruit. Whether this is superior to the use of a multiple vitamin preparation has not been determined. However, a bioavailability and pharmacokinetic study conducted in an undefined number of young healthy Japanese males observed that the net 6-hour urinary excretion of ascorbic acid after ingestion of acerola juice to be significantly less than after ingestion of commercial ascorbic acid alone.Uchida 2011

Other uses

Acerola may possess antihyperglycemic activity.Delva 2013

In combination with Cinnamomum zeylanicum and Bidens pilosa, acerola was evaluated in seasonal allergic rhinitis in a pilot study.Corren 2008


There is no clinical evidence to guide human dosage of acerola.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented. Absorption and excretion of ascorbic acid was favourably altered with concomitant consumption of acerola juice.Uchida 2011

Adverse Reactions

No specific adverse effects have been associated with the ingestion of acerola. However, the ingestion of large doses may induce GI side effects, including diarrhea. Prolonged use of massive doses of ascorbic acid may predispose to the development of renal calculi.Leung 1996

A study has demonstrated increase in dentin permeability due to acerola fruit juice.Batitucci 2012


Because vitamin C is a water-soluble compound, it is readily excreted by the body, and it is not typically associated with toxicity.


Batitucci RG, Zandim DL, Rocha FR, Pinheiro MC, Fontanari LA, Sampaio JE. Effect of acid fruit juices combined with electric or sonic toothbrushing on root dentin permeability--an in vitro study. Braz Dent J. 2012;23(6):667-671.23338258
Caceres A, Lopez B, Juarez X, del Aguila J, Garcia S. Plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of dermatophytic infections. 2. Evaluation of antifungal activity of seven American plants. J Ethnopharmacol. 1993;40:207-213.8145577
Corren J, Lemay M, Lin Y, Rozga L, Randolph RK. Clinical and biochemical effects of a combination botanical product (ClearGuard) for allergy: a pilot randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Nutr J. 2008 Jul 14;7:20.18625073
Delva L, Schneider RG. Acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC): Production, Postharvest Handling, Nutrition, and Biological Activity. Food Reviews International 29.2 (2013): 107-26.
Hwang J, Hodis HN, Sevanian A. Soy and alfalfa phytoestrogen extracts become potent low-density lipoprotein antioxidants in the presence of acerola cherry extract. J Agric Food Chem. 2001;49:308-314.11170593
Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: J. Wiley and Sons; 1996:6-7.
Malpighia glabra. USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database (, September 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed September 2016.
Uchida E, Kondo Y, Amano A, Aizawa S, Hanamura T, Aoki H, Nagamine K, Koizumi T, Maruyama N, Ishigami A. Absorption and excretion of ascorbic acid alone and in Acerola (Malphighia emarginata) juice: comparison in healthy Japanese subjects. Biol Pharm. Bull. 2011;34(11):1744-1747.22040889
Visentainer JV, Vieira OA, Matsushita M, de Souza NE. Physico-chemical characterization of acerola (Malpighia glabra L.) produced in Maringa, Parana State, Brazil [in Portuguese]. Arch Latinoam Nutr. 1997;47:70-72.
Visentainer JV, Vieira OA, Matsushita M, de Souza NE. Vitamin C in Barbados cherry Malpighia glabra L. pulp submitted to processing and to different forms of storage. Arch Latinoam Nutr. 1998;48:256-259.9951541


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