The Benefits of Acerola: A Comprehensive Guide
Nature is full of unique compounds and plants with different qualities despite sharing certain characteristics. For example, fruit is one of the most diverse forms of produce known to man, yet most fruits share several nutrients. Some fruits are more obscure than others and have medicinal traits that make them invaluable additions to your diet. In some cases, fruits are so nutritious that they are labeled superfruits and are used in holistic medicine to reduce pharmaceutical dependency.
While most fruits cannot replace modern medicine, they can reinforce our health and improve our natural functions to expedite recovery and healing. Some fruits are used to manufacture cosmetic products due to the compounds synergizing with our hair and skin.
One fruit that most people have not heard of is the acerola cherry, which is an interesting example of the traditional cherry family. Acerola might not get as much publicity as its common counterparts, but it has one advantage over other cherries, making it infinitely more valuable. Acerola cherries provide health benefits that directly affect our ability to stay healthy in the face of illness.
The idea of relying on some fruit you might not have heard of before to improve your health might cause you to hesitate. Regardless, understanding how acerola cherries affect our bodies is essential if you intend to consume one.
What is An Acerola Cherry?
Malpighia emarginata is a tropical, fruit-bearing shrub that has no connection to the Prunus (cherry) genus. Simply put, M. emarginata is not a real cherry plant, and the fruit that grows from it is not actually a cherry. Therefore, the term "acerola cherry" is a misnomer likely created due to certain physical similarities between acerola and common cherries. M. emarginata is also known as the Barbados cherry plant, likely due to its tropical origins.
The main producer of acerola plants is Brazil, but the plant originally comes from the Mexican peninsula of Yucatán. The plants were also native to Central America and the Caribbean, with Brazil being one of the furthest countries to produce them naturally. International distribution is dominated by Brazil, which produces 32,990 tons of acerola annually.
In 1998, Brazil established a germplasm bank to preserve the plant's genetic variability to produce subspecies. The plants are either evergreen shrubs or small trees, usually between 6.6 and 9.8 feet tall. In rare cases, an acerola tree can grow to 20 feet tall, but this is uncommon.
The plants were cultivated for their bark, leaves, and flowers, but the main selling point is the fruit and seeds. It takes 3 years for M. emarginata to start flowering, and 4 weeks after, bright red drupes begin to grow. The fruit is considered mature at this stage, usually 1 to 3 centimeters in diameter and weighing between 3 to 5 grams. The fruit's shell is smooth and thin and has a very short shelf life, expiring within 3 days at ambient temperatures.
As a result, acerola cherries are categorized as "highly perishable" since they must be harvested and stored in cooler conditions within those 3 days to remain viable. Despite sharing color with cherries, the similarities end there, and acerola fruit is completely different from the inside out. For starters, acerola cherries do not have pits like normal cherries but have 3 small seeds inside. Furthermore, the fruit's exterior is segmented into 3 lobes. The biggest difference is the taste since traditional cherries are sweet while acerola cherries are sour. The taste of acerola cherries is connected to the fruit's acidic nature.
Despite the differences, acerola cherries are popular among holistic health enthusiasts. The question we are left asking is, "Why?"
What Are the Benefits of Acerola Cherries?
Like most fruits, acerola cherries are nutritious and healthy, making them an excellent treat for health-conscious individuals. These same characteristics contribute to acerola cherries' health benefits since the fruits contain high concentrations of certain compounds. Specifically, acerola cherries are renowned for their rich vitamin C content.
Vitamin C is one of the most important compounds in human health and must be introduced regularly. One of the main biological advantages other animals have over humans is that we cannot produce vitamin C naturally and must consume foods that contain it. As a result, it is common for people to develop deficiencies, with 7.1% of Americans being deficient in vitamin C. In extreme cases, a vitamin C deficiency becomes so severe that we develop scurvy.
Fortunately, this is difficult to contract since modern health practices help us subconsciously protect our bodies from the condition. The vitamin C content of acerola cherries is sufficient enough that they were used in a study to compare the vitamin C benefits of different fruits.
The study compared persimmons, strawberries, and acerola cherries, which all have vitamin C. The study demonstrated that acerola cherries outperformed the other 2 fruits in all aspects, making acerola cherries one of the most effective sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is only one of the major nutrients available in an acerola cherry, though it is arguably the most important. Nevertheless, consuming an acerola cherry also provides significant concentrations of:
- Vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-3
All of these compounds play a role in improving our health and, in some cases, our appearance (vitamins B-2 and C). While consuming an acerola cherry provides a large amount of vitamin C, there is a question we must answer to justify the fruit's continued cultivation: What does vitamin C do for us?
What Are the Medical Benefits of Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is an important nutrient and, as mentioned, is not something we can produce ourselves. Ironically, humans are among the few animals incapable of producing their own vitamin C. Most other species naturally synthesize vitamin C as an aspect of their biology, while we are forced to introduce it via outside resources. Acerola cherries are one of several major sources of vitamin C, though Americans tend to use more mundane sources.
Regardless, acerola cherries are a viable source of vitamin C if you need to increase your intake. While most people assume you only need to consume more vitamin C if you have a deficiency, there are several reasons why adding more vitamin C to your routine can benefit your health. One of the main reasons vitamin C supplementation is a good idea is that it is an antioxidant.
Antioxidants are powerful compounds that protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. "Free radicals" are molecules that damage and strain the body, usually triggering our natural inflammatory response to try and heal from the effects. When enough free radicals accumulate in the body, it can trigger oxidative stress, promoting several chronic health conditions and diseases.
Reducing the risk of oxidative stress is crucial to preventing certain health complications, including cardiovascular strain from inflammation. Studies have shown that vitamin C increases the antioxidant content of our blood by up to 30%, allowing us to reduce the impact of chronic inflammation.
While vitamin C's antioxidant qualities are extremely beneficial, other qualities make it an important addition to your routine. While oxidative stress can contribute to heart disease, cholesterol is one of the main factors. The human body contains 2 types of cholesterol:
- High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL): HDL is the good cholesterol and the type we want to keep elevated.
- Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL): LDL is the bad cholesterol and the type we want to keep reduced.
When our LDL levels are elevated, and our HDL levels are reduced, the risk of heart disease skyrockets. Fortunately, evidence suggests vitamin C can help us manage our cholesterol more effectively. A review of 9 separate studies accounted for 293,172 patients between them. In every study, the subjects were divided into test and control groups, with the test groups receiving vitamin C supplements and the control groups receiving placebos.
The review determined that after 10 years, the subjects who took 700 milligrams of vitamin C daily had a 25% lower chance of developing heart disease. This trend was echoed by other reviews that demonstrated vitamin C's efficiency against heart disease, but a later analysis discovered a key factor.
An analysis of 13 studies focused on the benefits of taking 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily and how it affected the risk of heart disease. This analysis determined that the subjects taking vitamin C supplements experienced significant reductions in their LDL concentrations, reducing the strain of high cholesterol on the heart. In fact, the subjects lost 7.9 milligrams per deciliter, marking one of the more impressive LDL reductions in human biology.
What Are the Cosmetic Benefits of Vitamin C?
Vitamin C's benefits are not limited to the medical but also extend to cosmetic enhancements. As strange as it might sound, using vitamin C topically can enhance the quality and appearance of your skin. The antioxidant qualities of vitamin C make it an effective resource for reducing skin inflammation so you can reduce redness and swelling. That said, there is a more important use for vitamin C insofar as skincare is concerned.
One of the most frustrating skin conditions is hyperpigmentation, a condition where parts of your skin develop spots or blotches that are darker than the rest of your complexion. Several things can cause hyperpigmentation, but the main catalyst is overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. Essentially, spending too much time in the sun can cause your skin to change colors.
Believe it or not, some people willingly subject themselves to excess UV radiation to intentionally alter their complexion. For the longest time, this process (known as sun tanning) was believed to enhance our physical appearance and make us more attractive. While there might have been an appeal to sun tans, the exposure caused an uptick in hyperpigmentation cases.
This phenomenon is because our bodies produce a pigment called melanin when exposed to UV radiation. Melanin darkens the skin and protects the deeper layers from solar damage that might cause health issues. Unfortunately, our melanin production can occasionally go into overdrive and activate when it is not needed. This causes parts of the skin to get darker and reduces the consistency of our complexion.
Fortunately, vitamin C seems to be extremely effective at reducing the severity of hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C inhibits our body's melanin production, preventing us from releasing the pigment into our skin. By reducing the amount of melanin we produce, the pigment is less likely to spontaneously affect random parts of our complexion. Additionally, vitamin C's antioxidant concentration can counteract inflammation-induced hyperpigmentation.
In some cases, vitamin C has been used to reverse the effects of hyperpigmentation by actively brightening the affected skin. While hyperpigmentation can never be reversed completely, vitamin C can lighten the skin enough that the initial discoloration is practically invisible.
While you are unlikely to enjoy the cosmetic benefits of vitamin C by eating acerola cherries, the effects are too important to overlook. Fortunately, there are other ways of introducing vitamin C to your body than eating fruit.
Finding the Right Blend
Acerola cherries are an interesting fruit, even if their name is a misnomer. Despite its peculiar appearance, these fruits contain one of the most important nutrients to human health. Vitamin C is essential, and acerola cherries are one of the most effective sources. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys the idea of eating a sour fruit to enhance their concentration of vitamin C. Fortunately, there are alternatives that allow you to enjoy the full range of vitamin C's benefits, including those restricted to topical application. The challenge is finding a vendor that provides these resources.
We at Teami have always maintained that natural substances resonate better with our bodies since we were designed to accept them. We have cultivated a catalog of natural health and beauty products designed to help you reach your ideal self. One of our main products is our Hibiscus Infused Vitamin C Serum to help treat your skin. However, we are happy to announce our new Immunity + Antioxidant, Elderberry, and Vitamin C Gummy, which can offer the full range of vitamin C's internal health benefits. We encourage you to visit our website and try your desired vitamin C product. After all, finding the right blend is a Teami effort.
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