Acerola (Malpighia glabra or emarginata) from theMalpighiaceae family is also known as Barbados cherry. It is an evergreen deciduous tropical shrub or a small tree, which grows to 15 feet.
The shrub has a shallow root system and fragile, though thorny branches. Multiple lanceolate leaves of the plant are glossy when mature; they also have minute hairs, which may irritate human skin.
Acerola inflorescences are made of 2-5 small pink or red flowers with five petals. Although a lot of flowers fall from the tree, many new blossoms occur throughout the year or in the rain period, thus ensuring large amount of fruits to grow and ripen.
The fruit of Acerola tree is a small red cherry-like berry with three lobes and three seeds. The round or sometimes oblate fruits have thin skin and juicy bitter-sweet pulp. They ripen within 25 days; however, from the point of view of medicinal values, they are most potent while unripe.
Acerola is believed to originate from Yucatan. These days it can be found growing wild or cultivated in South and Central America, the Caribbean rim and Jamaica. The shrub grows relatively fast, preferring dry sandy soils and full sun. It can tolerate drought, but it is very susceptible to low temperatures. It has poor tolerance against winds: due to its shallow root system the plant can easily be toppled.
The fruit of Acerola shrub is medicinally valuable due to the large amount of vitamin C.
No doubt, it is most effective and also pleasant to consume fresh fruits of Acerola to enjoy the health benefits offered by it; however, people living in the cool or cold climatic areas cannot find this fruit in the stores. Consequently, they have to seek for other market forms of Acerola. These days one can buy capsules, tablets, powder, lozenges, caplets, fruit concentrates and extracts of this natural healing means.
The unripe fruits of Acerola tree contain incredibly large amounts of vitamin C. This made the fruit so medicinally valuable. In this respect the fruits are used to boost the immune system, activating it to fight infections of different origins. Diseases, caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi, are treated better and more effectively with vitamin C supplementation. Their symptoms and duration are significantly reduced if Acerola fruits are taken by a patient, studies confirm.
The use of Acerola berries can reduce the harmful influence of the free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to the body. This results in the immune system weakening and gradual decrease in the functioning of all the body systems and organs. Acerola eliminates or destroys free radicals, which, in the long run, promotes anti-aging effects.
Although Acerola is said to be contraindicated during or right after the cancer treatment (chemo- or radiotherapy), it is an effective preventive measure against cancer. It is believed to be helpful for cancer patients if used some time after the main treatment.
Vitamin C in Acerola breaks down mucus, which is an ideal condition for herpes virus to multiply. As mucus amount is reduced, herpes symptoms – pain, swelling, and redness – subside as well.
Vitamin C also has balancing effects on the blood fat level and intraocular pressure. Its proper amount in the brain cells is said to be important for the prevention of Parkinson’s disease. It strengthens the respiratory system and promotes the production of collagen, vital for beautiful skin. Vitamin C is also a natural antihistamine.
Acerola fruits are known to lose some amount of vitamin C while becoming ripe. At the same time, this process enriches the fruit with flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties.
Other beneficial for the human health Acerola components are magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, niacin, provitamin A, iron, zinc, vitamins B1 and B2. Protein, lipids, fatty acids, and fibre are also present in the fruit.
The most frequent use of Acerola fruits is due to their immunity-boosting, anti-aging, and antiseptic properties.
The fruits are taken to fight bronchitis, colds and flu, herpes, allergies, cancer, dysentery, diarrhoea, liver disorders and glaucoma. Its creams are applied topically to prevent wrinkles and preserve smooth and beautiful skin.
The fruits of this shrub are also known as a good remedy against stress (which is relieved by vitamin C), infertility (especially in men), and Parkinson’s disease.
Depending on the country, the use of Acerola varies: for instance, it serves as a means to treat tuberculosis, diabetes, and rheumatism in Brazil, while in Venezuela it is a remedy against breast disorders and bowel inflammation.
Many people consume Acerola only as a tasty fruit, just like any other; however, they get much more than just gustatory pleasure – being unaware of it they also improve their health.
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