Drugs A - Z

Ackee (Blighia sapida)

Generic Name: Ackee

Category

Herbs & Supplements

Synonyms

Achee, ackee apple, akee, akee apple, ankye, arilli, Blighia sapida, Cupania sapida, Blighia sapida, hypoglycin A, hypoglycin B, ishin, Sapindaceae (soapberry family), vegetable brain, vegetable brains.

Background

Ackee (Blighia sapida) is the national fruit of Jamaica and grows in clusters on evergreen trees. Hypoglycin A (the causative toxic substance in ackee) is contained in the aril, seeds and husks of ackee fruit, at various stages of ripeness.

The ingestion of unripe ackee for the purpose of medicinal or nutritional purposes can give rise to acute poisoning called "Jamaican vomiting sickness" or toxic hypoglycemic syndrome (THS). Adverse effects include loss of muscle tone, vomiting, convulsions, coma and death. Deaths have occurred after unintentional poisoning with ackee, and most of these deaths have occurred in small children ranging from 2-6 years-old. Only when the fruit ripens and opens naturally on the tree may the fruit be eaten; however, the membrane at the base should be removed.

Various parts of the ackee tree have been used medicinally to expel parasites and to treat dysentery (severe diarrhea), ophthalmic conjunctivitis (eye inflammation) and headache. More research is needed to make a recommendation of the therapeutic benefits of ackee.

Due to its toxicity, the importation of this fruit into the USA is forbidden by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Evidence

DISCLAIMER: 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.

Tradition

WARNING: 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.
Conjunctivitis (eye inflammation), digestive disorders, dysentery (severe diarrhea), epilepsy, food flavoring, food uses, headache, pain relief, stimulant, ulcers, yellow fever.

Dosing

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.

Safety

DISCLAIMER: 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.

Allergies

Individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to ackee (Blighia sapida), its constituents, or to other members of the Sapindaceae family should not take ackee.

There have been reports of anaphylaxis reactions to ackee fruit.

Side Effects and Warnings

Ackee is likely safe when tree-ripened and properly prepared ackee is taken in food amounts. However, individuals should use caution when consuming imported canned products. There have been numerous cases of toxic levels of hypoglycin detected in cans containing ackee fruit that were imported to the United States. Eating unripe or overripe fruit is not recommended due to potential toxicity.

Ingestion of unripe ackee fruit may cause abdominal pain, intermittent diarrhea, hypotonia (decrease muscle tone), weakness, nausea, vomiting, stupor, hemorrhages (bleeding), confusion, headache, convulsions, tachypnea (rapid breathing), tachycardia (fast heart beat), and intense itching.

Multiple cases of "Jamaican vomiting sickness," also known as toxic hypoglycemic syndrome (lowered blood sugar levels in the body), have been reported after the ingestion of unripe ackee fruit. Unripe ackee fruit may also be toxic to the brain, kidneys and liver. Coma and death have occurred.

Unripe ackee arillus (oil) may decrease the number of neutrophils in the blood and increase platelets.

Cholestatic jaundice, steatosis (fatty liver), vomiting and abdominal pain have been noted with chronic ackee fruit ingestion.

Use cautiously in patients with diabetes, liver disease, or compromised kidney function.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Ackee is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.

Licensed from
The Healthline Site, its content, such as text, graphics, images, search results, HealthMaps, Trust Marks, and other material contained on the Healthline Site ("Content"), its services, and any information or material posted on the Healthline Site by third parties are provided for informational purposes only. None of the foregoing is a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Healthline Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Please read the Terms of Service for more information regarding use of the Healthline Site.
Advertisement