Soursop Leaves: Nutritional Properties, Uses and Preparation

Soursop leaves have a myriad of benefits, such as anti-diabetic, antimicrobial, and liver-protective properties. We'll tell you why.
Soursop Leaves: Nutritional Properties, Uses and Preparation
Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor

Written and verified by the nutritionist Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor.

Last update: 04 March, 2023

Soursop is an exotic fruit native to the American tropics, whose flavor is so particular that it pleases all palates. It’s characterized by a green color with thorns, a large size, and a white and soft pulp. Almost all parts of the Annona muricata tree are used, but few people know about the uses and properties of soursop leaves.

This leaf is used in many parts of the world to treat a wide range of diseases. The most recognized are hypertension, headaches, parasitosis, and asthma. However, the question arises whether its effects are more anecdotal than scientific.

Here we analyze the nutritional and bioactive components of soursop leaves and their uses. In addition, you’ll learn how to prepare it to improve the treatment of some ailments.

What is soursop?

The scientific name of the soursop tree is Annona muricata L. The Spanish called the fruit manjar blanco and it is arguably the largest of all the annonas. Unlike the custard apple, red annona, and atemoya, the soursop is kidney-shaped, but is covered with soft spikes.

Its creamy pulp is acidic and astringent in taste, so it’s often consumed in ice cream, juices, and jams. It’s recommended to avoid constipation due to its high fiber content.

Much work has been done with the fruit and other parts of the plant, such as the roots, seeds, and even its leaves. Food, industrial and medicinal products have been prepared from them. For example, soursop leaves are used to prepare infusions.

Nutritional properties of soursop leaves

Soursop leaves are dark green, shiny, large, and oval-elliptical in shape. Like other leaves, it has a water content of more than 60%. The rest of the solids are made up of proteins, insoluble cellulose fiber, hemicellulose, and minerals such as magnesium, iron, and copper.

The magazine Interciencia reports the difference between fresh and dried soursop leaves. While the former contain 65% water, the dry ones barely reach 10%. This makes its nutrients more concentrated.

Proteins in the dried leaves are almost 15% and in the fresh ones 6%. Drying the leaves increases the proportion of minerals to 7% and fat to 3%.

Bioactive components of soursop leaves

Beyond their nutritional contribution, some phytochemical compounds stand out that are related to their medicinal benefits. Such is the case of flavonoids, polyphenols, essential oils, and acetogenins.

Flavonoids and polyphenols have been found in a good proportion in soursop leaves, which increases their antioxidant properties. On the other hand, acetogenins are the bioactives to which their major biological and healing activity is attributed. They are derived from some fatty acids and the best known are anonaine, muricatocin, xylopin, bulatacin, antimycin and trilobacin. They represent the most potent phytochemicals in the leaf.

Uses of soursop leaves

Soursop leaves have been shown in some trials to have anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-ulcer, and anti-cancer effects, although more information is lacking. The following is what has been studied so far.

1. Antidiabetic effect

In a study with rats with high levels of insulin, it was demonstrated that it has the capacity to regenerate the beta cells of the pancreas. These cells are responsible for producing insulin for release into the bloodstream.

Rats in the control group treated with 200 milligrams of soursop leaf extract showed intense regeneration of these cells. Compared to another control group.

The explanation lies in the active compounds called xylopin, anonaine, isolaurelia, muricatocin A and kaenferol 3-O-ruthinoside.

As soursop fruit.
This plant could promote pancreatic cell regeneration, improving insulin production.

2. Antimicrobial power

Acetogenins from plants belonging to the Annonaceae family, such as soursop, have been studied for their antimicrobial effect. In one study, their mode of action was analyzed.

It was found to be effective against bacteria such as E. faecalis, the S. typhimurium and S. aureus. All of them decreased their growth and died after being exposed to soursop leaf extract.

3. Liver and stomach protector

In an animal study it was proved that it is able to reduce the impact of jaundice and some toxins capable of damaging the liver, such as paracetamol. In addition, further research established that soursop leaf extract has a protective effect at the stomach level.

4. Anti-arthritic properties

In the same study in rats, different doses of soursop leaf extract were administered. After 2 weeks, joint edema was reduced. Higher doses inhibited the appearance of cytokines capable of causing inflammation; something that characterizes rheumatoid arthritis.

5. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic

Research in rodents found that soursop extract helps decrease inflammation by blocking chemical mediators of inflammation. Another study also resulted in similar findings, confirming that inflammation in rodents had decreased by 37%. However, there are no human studies.

6. Possible anticancer effects

These leaves contain an antioxidant that promotes the reduction of an enzyme with mutagenic potential, causing cell death. Acetogenins are selectively toxic against several types of cancer cells, without harming healthy cells.

The potential of soursop leaves has been studied against skin and lung cancer cells. This has resulted in positive effects in vitro. Therefore, more studies in humans and laboratory animals are still needed.

Soursop leaf contraindications

Being antimicrobial, soursop leaf is capable of altering the intestinal flora when consumed in high doses. Therefore, it should be consumed in moderation from less to more, increasing from a quarter cup to a cup progressively, during a month.

1 cup is the maximum dose per day.

As it can also be vasodilating and hypertensive, its consumption is not recommended during pregnancy. And it would also be prudent to avoid it during lactation.

Microbiota intestinal se altera con la guanábana.
The antibacterial capacity of the leaf could alter the normal intestinal flora.

Preparation of soursop leaf infusion

To prepare this infusion you’re going to need the following:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 liter of water
  • 7 soursop leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of honey

Bring the water to a boil in a pot. Remove it when it starts boiling and add the soursop leaves for 4 minutes, so that the drink doesn’t become bitter. Let it cool a little.

Strain the leaves and add the juice of a lemon and honey. You can drink it hot or cold.

An alternative that needs further confirmation

It’s advisable to consult a doctor before starting to use the leaf, as studies still aren’t entirely conclusive. Soursop leaves represent a natural alternative, but more evidence in humans is needed.

If your doctor doesn’t find any contraindication for your case, it isn’t out of place to prepare your soursop leaf infusion. But test tolerance progressively.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.