Database Entry for Acerola - Malpighia glabra Database Entry for Acerola - Malpighia glabra

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(Malpighia glabra)

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Acerola - Malpighia glabra


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  • Family: Malpighiaceae
    Genus: Malpighia
    Species: glabra
    Synonyms: Malpighia biflora, M. fallax, M. lucida, M. neumanniana, M. nitida, M. peruviana, M. punicifolia, M. semeruco, M. undulata, M. uniflora
    Common names: Acerola, Antilles cherry, Barbados cherry, cereso, cerezo, escobillo, health tree, huesito, Puerto Rican cherry, West Indian cherry
    Part Used: Fruit, leaves

    From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:

    Main Actions Other Actions Standard Dosage
  • is nutritious
  • kills fungi
  • Fruit
  • fights free radicals
  • dries secretions
  • Fresh Juice: 1 cup 2-3 times daily
  • increases urination
  • Tablets: 1-2 g twice daily

    Acerola (Malphighia glabra) is a small tree or shrub that grows up to 5 m high in the dry, deciduous forest. It produces an abundance of bright red fruit 1-2 cm in diameter, with several small seeds that look similar to the European cherry. For this reason, acerola is also known as the Antilles, Barbados, Puerto Rican, or West Indian cherry tree. The mature fruits are juicy and soft with a pleasant, tart flavor. Acerola can be found growing wild and under cultivation on the sandy soils throughout northeastern Brazil. It is native to northern South America, Central America, and Jamaica. Its cousin, M. punicifolia, is present as far north as Florida and Texas.


    Acerola juice is as common and popular in Brazil as orange juice is in North America. As a natural remedy in Brazil, a handful of fresh fruit is eaten for fever and dysentery. It is also used there as an anti-inflammatory, astringent, stimulant for the liver and renal systems, diuretic, and to support heart function as well as to heal wounds. It is employed as a nutritive aid for anemia, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, liver problems, rheumatism, tuberculosis, and during convalescence.

    In North America, the use of acerola is mostly based on its high content of vitamin C, which has long been thought in conventional and alternative health practices as a powerful antioxidant.


    Until the plant camu-camu appeared on the scene, acerola was considered the richest known source of natural vitamin C. Oranges provide 500 to 4,000 parts per million (ppm) of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, whereas acerola has been found in tests to provide ascorbic acid in a range of 16,000 to 172,000 ppm1,2 Acerola can contain up to 4.5% vitamin C, compared to 0.05% in a peeled orange. The vitamin C content of acerola varies depending on ripeness, season, climate, and locality.3 As the fruit begins to ripen, it loses a great deal of its vitamin content; for this reason, most commercially-produced acerola is harvested while still green.

    Acerola also provides twice as much magnesium, pantothenic acid, and potassium as oranges. It also contains vitamin A (4,300 to 12,500 IU/100 g, compared to approximately 11,000 IU for raw carrots) and thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin in concentrations comparable to those in other fruits.

    Thus far, 150 other constituents have been identified in acerola.4 In addition to ascorbic acid and the other vitamins mentioned above, acerola contains 3-methyl-3-butenol, dehydroascorbic acid, calcium, dextrose, diketogulonic acid, fructose, furfural, hexadecanoic acid, iron, limonene, l-malic acid, phosphorus, protein, and sucrose.


    Acerola has not been the subject of much clinical research since it is mainly consumed as a food, rather than used as an herbal remedy. In one in vitro study, the leaves, bark, and fruit of acerola were reported to have antifungal properties. New findings show that acerola may potentiate the benefits and actions of other supplements (the cholesterol-lowering actions of soy and alfalfa, in one study).

    Recent research in cosmetology indicates that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger for the skin, and acerola extracts are now appearing in skin care products that fight cellular aging. In addition to its vitamin content, acerola contains mineral salts that have shown to aid in the remineralization of tired and stressed skin, and its mucilage and proteins have skin-hydrating properties and promote capillary conditioning.


    In North America, acerola is used for its high content of vitamin C. Dried acerola fruit extracts can now be found in tablet form and as an ingredient in many over-the-counter multivitamin products in the United States as a natural form of vitamin C.

    Main Preparation Method: juice

    Main Actions (in order): antioxidant, nutritive, astringent, antifungal

    Main Uses:

    1. for its natural high vitamin C content
    2. for colds/flu (for its vitamin C content)
    3. for skin care/anti-aging (for its antioxidant and vitamin content)
    4. as an overall health tonic (tones, balances, strengthens)
    5. as a heart tonic (tones, balances, strengthens)
    Properties/Actions Documented by Research: antioxidant, antifungal

    Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
    anti-inflammatory, astringent, cardiotonic

    Cautions: High dosages of vitamin C may cause diarrhea.

    Traditional Preparation: In South America, acerola juice is freely consumed like most other fruit juices. Consumers in the United States should take acerola supplements based on the vitamin C content provided in the products available in the marketplace. The adult recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 60-75 mg daily. Therapeutic dosages of vitamin C for colds and flu, general illnesses, and debility are 1-5 g daily.

    Contraindications: A study published in 2002 reported that acerola caused allergic reactivity similar to that of the well-known allergen latex. Those who may be allergic to latex may also be allergic to acerola in supplement form or to its addition in various fruit juices.
    Large dosages of vitamin C can cause diarrhea.

    Drug Interactions: None reported.

    Brazil for anemia, diabetes, dysentery, fever, heart function, high cholesterol levels, inflammation, liver problems, rheumatism, tuberculosis, water retention, wounds, and as a drying/astringent agent
    Guatemala for diarrhea
    Mexico for fever and as an astringent
    Venezuela for bowel inflammation, breast disorders, dysentery
    Elsewhere for diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis, liver disorders, and as an astringent

    The above text has been reprinted from The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005
    All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, including websites, without written permission.

    * The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease. Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.

    © Copyrighted 1996 to present by Leslie Taylor, Milam County, TX 77857.
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    Last updated 2-11-2013