Results of a neurological study, published in 1998, found that graviola has the capability to stimulate the brain's receptors for serotonin and may have an antidepressant effect [source: Cassileth]. Traditional usage supports this conclusion. To treat anxiety, one herbal manufacturer markets a tincture of graviola combined with the bark of mulungu, another rainforest tree [source: Amazon Botanicals].
Graviola is a rainforest plant that has been part of the natural and traditional medicine of Central and South America and the Caribbean for centuries. It has an extremely wide range of medicinal properties, which are distributed through the different parts of the plant. The fruit or juice is taken to reduce fever, counteract diarrhea and dysentery, and kill worms and other parasites. The seeds are also a potent antiparasitic and are used traditionally as a remedy for lice. The bark, leaves and roots can be made into a soothing medicinal tea, taken as a sedative or an antispasmodic. Research also bears out the traditional use of graviola tea as a hypotensive -- that is, a remedy for high blood pressure [source: Taylor]. The bark can also be used to treat fever, and the leaves are used topically to speed the healing of wounds. The unripe fruit is especially prized as a digestive aid [source: Weil].
Additional utilization of graviola has been documented within specific native healing traditions. In the Andean mountain ranges of Peru, graviola leaves are brewed to discharge mucus and soothe inflamed mucous membranes. To the east, in the Amazon region, the bark, leaves and roots are used by diabetics to stabilize blood sugar. The leaf tea is taken as a heart tonic in Guyana, a liver remedy in Brazil, and a treatment for asthma, coughs and flu in the West Indies. It is also used for arthritis and rheumatism, and some mothers eat and drink the graviola fruit to increase lactation [source: Taylor].
New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center affirms a number of the plant's beneficial properties, including antiviral, antiparasitic, antirheumatic and emetic effects on its Web site [source: Memorial Sloan-Kettering]. In view of this extensive list of benefits, the claims for graviola's cytotoxic effects on tumors and cancer cells have acquired a certain credibility for many people, despite the absence of scientific evidence on human subjects.
Like any potent medicine, albeit natural in origin, graviola has certain contra-indications and side effects. Continue reading to discover what they are.