Guanabana leaves can be harvested from the graviola tree, a tall tropical evergreen tree that grows 15 to 18 ft (5 to 6 meters) in height.
The guanabana leaves produce a large heart-shaped edible guanabana fruit that is 6 to 9 inches long. The inedible skin is yellowish green in color. Inside is white flesh dotted with 3/4 inch black or brown seeds.
You can find the fruit in most of the warmest tropical areas in South and North America including the Amazon, the Caribbean and Mexico. It also grows in south Florida.
It can also be found in local markets in the tropics. Sometimes, guanabana fruit is referred to as soursop, custard apple, custard pear, paw paw, or sometimes Brazilian cherimoya.
What is the guanabana fruit used for in the kitchen?
Guanabana fruit is excellent for making drinks, ice creams and frozen desserts. Though it can be slightly sour and acidic, as it ripens, it can be eaten raw.
All parts of the Graviola tree are used in natural medicine, including bark, leaves, roots, fruit and seeds. Different properties and uses are attributed to the different parts of the tree.
What is guanabana used for in natural medicine?
The guanabana fruit and fruit juice can be eaten to treat worms and parasites, to cool fevers, to increase mother’s milk after childbirth. It is also used to treat diarrhea and dysentery.
The crushed guanabana seeds are used to treat internal and external parasites and worms.
The bark, leaves and roots can be used as a sedative, as an antispasmodic, to lower blood pressure and to calm nerves. A guanabana leaf tea is consumed for those purposes.
History of guanabana in regional natural medicine
Guanabana has a long rich history of use in herbal medicine, and among indigenous peoples in the tropics.
You find that a tea from the guanabana leaf is used for mucus reduction in the Peruvian Andes. The crushed seeds of the fruit are used to kill parasites. In the Peruvian Amazon the bark roots and leaves are used for diabetes and as a sedative and antispasmodic.
Indigenous tribes in Guyana use a leaf or bark tea of guanabana as a sedative and heart tonic.
In the Brazilian Amazon, the guanabana leaf tea is used for liver problems and the oil of the leaves and unripened fruit is combined with olive oil. It is used externally for neuralgia, rheumatism and to treat arthritis pain.
Jamaica and Caribbean islands
In the Caribbean, especially in Jamaica, Guanabana fruit and its juice have long been used to treat:
- Treat fevers
- Fight parasites
- To bring in mother’s milk.
- To ease diarrhea.
- To soothe anxiety
- Natural medicine usage for cancer
- Plus, the bark or leaves can be used as an antispasmodic, as a sedative, and to soothe nerves.
- It is also used for heart conditions, coughs, difficult childbirth, asthma, asthenia, and hypertension.