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