Drugs A - Z
Acerola (Malpighia glabra, Malpighia punicifolia)
Generic Name: Malpighia glabra
CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Acerola fruits, Antilles cherry, Barbados cherry, cerea-do-para, cereja-das-antillhas, cereso, Malpighia emarginata DC, Malpighia glabra L., Malpighia punicifolia, Malpighia punicifolia L., Puerto Rican cherry, West Indian cherry.
Acerola (Malphighia glabra), also known as Barbados cherry, is the fruit of a small tree known as Malphighia glabra L. in the Antilles and north of South America. In 1945, the School of Medicine at the University of Puerto Rico found that the Barbados cherry was a very rich source of vitamin C.
Folk healers have used acerola to treat liver ailments, diarrhea, dysentery, coughs, colds and sore throat. As one of the richest sources of vitamin C, acerola may be used as an immune stimulator and modulator.
Acerola has been used as a supplement for both adults and infants. The Barbados cherry extract, the fruit of Malpighia emarginata DC, has been reported to prevent age-related diseases. The Barbados cherry has been shown to exhibit cytotoxic effects and may be useful in the treatment of cancer. It has high antibacterial activity and shows multi-drug resistance reversal activity.
Currently, there is a lack of available scientific evidence and additional study is needed to evaluate acerola's safety, effectiveness and dosing.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Aging, antibacterial, antioxidant, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), blood clot prevention, cancer, colds, coughs, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery (severe diarrhea), exercise performance, fungal infections, gum disease, hay fever, heart disease, hemorrhage (retinal), hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), immunostimulation, liver disorders, pressure ulcers, scurvy, skin conditions, sore throat, tooth disease, vitamin C deficiency.
Adults (18 years and older)
Safety, efficacy, and dosing have not been systematically studied in adults.
Children (younger than 18 years)
Safety, efficacy, and dosing have not been systematically studied in children.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to acerola or species in the Malpighiaceae family should not use acerola.
Side Effects and Warnings
In general, acerola appears to be generally well tolerated in recommended amounts in otherwise healthy individuals. High doses may cause diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, insomnia, fatigue or sleeplessness due to the vitamin C content.
Patients with gout should not take acerola because the vitamin C in acerola might increase uric acid levels.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Interactions with Drugs
The vitamin C in acerola may interact with acidic or basic drugs, acidify urine and affect excretion. Patients taking medications should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
Vitamin C appears to interfere with the "blood thinning" effects of warfarin by lowering prothrombin time. In theory, acerola may reduce the effectiveness of anticoagulant or anti-platelet agents. Examples include heparin (Hepalean®), lepirudin (Refludan®), warfarin (Coumadin®), abciximab (ReoPro®) and clopidogel (Plavix®).
Use of acerola with medications containing estrogen or birth control pills may increase the absorption and therapeutic effects due to the vitamin C content. Caution is advised.
Use of fluphenazine (Prolixin®) with acerola may decrease blood levels due to vitamin C content. Patients taking fluphenazine should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Vitamin C appears to interfere with the "blood thinning" effects of warfarin (Coumadin®) by lowering prothrombin time. In theory, acerola may reduce the effectiveness of herbs and supplements that are used for their "blood thinning" effects, such as willow bark.
When taken together, the vitamin C in acerola may increase the absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract. Caution is advised.
Due to acerola's high vitamin C content, taking vitamin C supplements in addition to acerola may increase the total amount of vitamin C in the body and lead to adverse effects. Caution is advised.
This information is based on a professional level monograph edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): Tracee Abrams, PharmD (University of Rhode Island); Heather Boon, B.Sc.Phm, PhD (University of Toronto); Chi Dam, PharmD (Northeastern University); Nicole Giese, MS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Mary Giles, PharmD (University of Rhode Island); Tamara Milkin, PharmD (Northeastern University); Adrianne Rogers, MD (Harvard Medical School), Erica Seamon, PharmD (Nova Southeastern University); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration): Lisa Wendt, PharmD (Albany College of Pharmacy); Jennifer Woods, BS (Northeastern University).
BibliographyDISCLAIMER: Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Back DJ, Breckenridge AM, MacIver M, et al. Interaction of ethinyloestradiol with ascorbic acid in man. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 5-9-1981;282(6275):1516.
Caceres A, Lopez B, Juarez X, et al. Plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of dermatophytic infections. 2. Evaluation of antifungal activity of seven American plants. J Ethnopharmacol. 1993;40(3):207-213.
Clein NW. Acerola juice, the richest known source of vitamin C; a clinical study in infants. J.Pediatr. 1956;48(2):140-145.
de Assis SA, Martins AB, Guaglianoni DG, et al. Partial purification and characterization of pectin methylesterase from acerola (Malpighia glabra L.). J.Agric.Food Chem. 7-3-2002;50(14):4103-4107.
de Medeiros RB. [Proportion of ascorbic, dehydroascorbic and diketogulonic acids in green or ripe acerola(Malpighia punicifolia)]. Rev.Bras.Med. 1969;26(7):398-400.
Hanamura T, Hagiwara T, Kawagishi H. Structural and functional characterization of polyphenols isolated from acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC.) fruit. Biosci.Biotechnol.Biochem. 2005;69(2):280-286.
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Motohashi N, Wakabayashi H, Kurihara T, et al. Biological activity of barbados cherry (acerola fruits, fruit of Malpighia emarginata DC) extracts and fractions. Phytother.Res. 2004;18(3):212-223.
Nagamine I, Akiyama T, Kainuma M, et al. Effect of acerola cherry extract on cell proliferation and activation of ras signal pathway at the promotion stage of lung tumorigenesis in mice. J.Nutr.Sci.Vitaminol.(Tokyo) 2002;48(1):69-72.
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Trindade RC, Resende MA, Silva CM, et al. Yeasts associated with fresh and frozen pulps of Brazilian tropical fruits. Syst.Appl.Microbiol. 2002;25(2):294-300.
Visentainer JV, Vieira OA, Matsushita M, et al. [Physico-chemical characterization of acerola (Malpighia glabra L.) produced in Maringa, Parana State, Brazil]. Arch.Latinoam.Nutr. 1997;47(1):70-72.
Visentainer JV, Vieira OA, Matsushita M, et al. Vitamin C in Barbados cherry Malpighia glabra L. pulp submitted to processing and to different forms of storage. Arch Latinoam.Nutr. 1998;48(3):256-259.
Wakabayashi H, Fukushima H, Yamada T, et al. Inhibition of LPS-stimulated NO production in mouse macrophage-like cells by Barbados cherry, a fruit of Malpighia emarginata DC. Anticancer Res. 2003;23(4):3237-3241.