Graviola and Anti-cancer Potential

The Graviola tree can be found in rainforests in Southeast Asia, Central America, South America, and Africa. This tropical tree is also known as Soursop, Guanabana, Brazilian pawpaw, and Lakshman in different regions around the world. The Graviola tree has been favored by native communities for centuries, put to great use for its many therapeutic properties. Not only the fruit but the bark, roots, leaves, and seeds have been long used to treat fevers, arthritis, diabetes, rheumatism, insomnia, and parasitic, viral, and bacterial infections.

Graviola plant-based remedies can be found in many forms across the planet, such as juices, teas, and powders. Many people take Graviola as a daily supplement to harness its abundant minerals, vitamins, phytochemicals, and bio-active compounds. Alkaloids, phenols, flavonoids, and essential oils are to thank for this versatile plant’s anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-parasitic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Fascinatingly, researchers are now finding that Graviola may even have the ability to destroy cancer cells [1].

Can Graviola Cure Cancer?

Many in-vitro studies suggest that Graviola leaves, fruit, seeds, and stems contain extremely potent cancer-fighting substances. These bio-active substances have been proven to seek out and destroy cancer cells, including breast, liver, pancreatic, lung, prostate, and colon cancer.

The National Cancer Institute supported Purdue University in a study that showed that Graviola leaf extract destroys cancer cells “among six human-cell lines”. What’s more, it was shown to be particularly effective against prostate and pancreatic cancer cells. A subsequent study found that Graviola leaf extract was equally as fatal to lung cancer cells. In 1997, a Purdue University study found that compounds in Graviola extracts can kill cancer cells that have become resistant to toxic chemicals found in chemotherapy drugs.

In 1996, the Journal of Natural Products published a study finding that Graviola seeds contain a compound 10,000 times more effective at killing colon cancer cells than popular chemotherapy drug Adriamycin. What’s more, the researchers found that this compound was able to be selective and only destroy toxic cancer cells (colon adenocarcinoma cells), leaving healthy cells intact.

It is agreed among Oncologists that pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal types of cancer and one of the hardest to treat. In 2012, the University of Nebraska Medical Center conducted a study proving that compounds in Graviola extract inhibited “multiple signaling pathways that regulate metabolism, cell cycle, survival, and metastatic properties in pancreatic cells” [2]. More recent studies suggest that Graviola has excellent cancer-killing abilities, especially in breast [3], prostate [4], and gastric cancer [5].

Acetogenins against cancer: Phytochemicals with anti-cancer properties

What makes Graviola so great at killing cancer cells? It comes down to a group of natural compounds called annonaceous acetogenins. Graviola fruit, leaves, bark, roots, and seeds contain more than 100 “annonaceous acetogenins”, arming the plant with antioxidant, pain-relieving, cancer-killing, and anti-inflammatory abilities. Researchers have found that acetogenins can target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone, an ability called “selective toxicity”. What’s more, acetogenins can combat even the most stubborn cancer cells that resist traditional cancer drugs.

Restricts the production of ATP molecules in cancer cells

Every living cell has a mitochondria, an organelle responsible for creating energy. Mitochondria use nutrient-derived chemical energy to produce ATP molecules (Adenosine Triphosphate), also known as “the currency of life”. Cells require ATP to execute biochemical processes such as cellular division.

However, cancer cells require a lot more ATP than healthy cells, as they tend to divide at a much higher rate. Annonaceous acetogenins from Graviola can stop cancer cells from producing sufficient amounts of ATP, therefore, slowing their growth rate.

  • Acetogenins obstruct the enzymatic reactions that create ATP in the mitochondria of cancer cells
  • One of the key processes of cancer development is angiogenesis, the process of building new blood vessels. Fresh blood vessels provide oxygen and nutrient-dense blood to cancer cells, allowing them to thrive. Acetogenins inhibit blood vessel growth around cancer cells, therefore starving the cancer cells of oxygen and nutrients

Role of acetogenins in combating drug-resistant cancer cells

Cancer cells can become immune to chemotherapy over time. They do so by recognizing and resisting the chemicals in cancer treatments that are designed to destroy them. The result is MDR (multiple drug resistance). What’s more, cancer cells learn to pump out toxic chemicals, resulting in the ineffectiveness of chemotherapy drugs. To pump out these chemicals, cancer cells need extraordinary amounts of energy drawn from ATP (the energy stash).

Acetogenins slow down ATP production in cancer cells, therefore, hindering their ability to push away cancer-fighting chemicals, making them weak against chemotherapy. This finding paves the way for Graviola as a possible ingredient in integrative cancer treatments. This is bolstered by the fact that Graviola can strengthen the immune system and help the body to fight cancer cells naturally. Because it can differentiate cancer cells from healthy cells, Graviola cancer treatments have limited side-effects commonly associated with conventional cancer treatment, (such as nausea, hair loss, compromised immunity, and loss of appetite). Therefore, Graviola for cancer treatment could improve the quality of life in cancer patients during the treatment process.

Many studies indicate potential Graviola benefits for cancer treatment. These studies were in-vitro or conducted on animals, and due to a lack of double-blind clinical trials on humans, medical professionals avoid confirming positive results on Graviola acetogenins’ role as a fighter of resistant cancer cells. This seems like a reasonable stance when taking a clinical approach but it is interesting to note that Big Pharma is unlikely to invest millions in human studies testing the effects of Graviola, as it is a natural product and cannot be patented, rendering it unlucrative. Sadly, this is the reality of Big Pharma. Financial gain seems to be most important to Big Pharma and its supporting mechanism.

Important note:

However, we would like to state that this article is intended purely for educational and informational purposes. We do not intend to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any mentioned disease. We do not, in any way, intend to substitute for medical advice or treatment plans recommended by your physician or healthcare professional. Consult your doctor before taking Graviola supplements for cancer treatment or any other purpose. 


  1. Paul, Jeno; Gnanam, R.; M. Jayadeepa, R.; Arul, L. Anti Cancer Activity on Graviola, an Exciting Medicinal Plant Extract vs Various Cancer Cell Lines and a Detailed Computational Study on its Potent Anti-Cancerous Leads. Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry. Volume 13, Number 14, July 2013, pp. 1666-1673(8)
  2. Torres MP, Rachagani S, Purohit V, et al. Graviola: a novel promising natural-derived drug that inhibits tumorigenicity and metastasis of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo through altering cell metabolism. Cancer Letters. Oct 1 2012;323(1):29-40. doi: 10
  3. Dai and Hogan, et al. Selective growth inhibition of human breast cancer cells by graviola fruit extract in vitro and in vivo involving downregulation of EGFR expression. Nutrition and Cancer. 2011; 63(5):795-801.
  4. Yang C, Gundala SR, Mukkavilli R, Vangala S, Reid MD, Aneja R. Synergistic interactions among flavonoids and acetogenins in Graviola (Annona muricata) leaves confer protection against prostate cancer. Carcinogenesis. 2015 Jun;36(6):656-65. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgv046. Epub 2015 Apr 11.
  5. Han et al. Annonaceous acetogenin mimic AA005 induces cancer cell death via apoptosis inducing factor through a caspase-3-independent mechanism. BMC Cancer. March 2015