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.
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.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
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.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
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.
Patients with a history of kidney stones (nephrolithiasis) should also not take acerola as large doses of vitamin C in acerola may cause the production of urate, cystine or oxalate stones.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Acerola is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
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
Acerola cherry extract may increase the antioxidant effects of alfalfa or soy. Caution is advised.
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.
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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.