Graviola for Cancer: What We Know

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on April 20, 2024
5 min read

Graviola (Annona muricata), also called soursop, is a fruit tree that grows in tropical rainforests. It's also called guanabana and Brazilian paw paw. People have long used its fruit, roots, seeds, and leaves to treat all kinds of ailments, including cancer. The fruit is dark green and prickly. Graviola also is available in capsules, tablets, and powders.

Modern scientists have been studying the plant for 50 years. They see potential promise in graviola. Animal studies have shown graviola might have a future in diabetes treatment. It also has shown antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties. 

Studies have found it kills cancer cells in test tubes and in animal studies. But scientists don’t yet know whether it works as a treatment for cancer in humans.

Graviola contains hundreds of chemicals called acetogenins (ACGs). In lab tests, ACGs kill many types of cancer cells without harming healthy ones. They can treat tumors that haven’t responded to cancer medicines. 

ACGs seem to work in different ways to kill, block, or otherwise fight different types of cancers. The pathways include:

Cell death. Normally, old or damaged cells die naturally, a process called apoptosis. Cancerous cells often find a way to dodge this and to survive. Graviola leaf extracts may force cancer cells to go through normal cell death. More research is needed to determine whether graviola is an effective and safe cancer treatment. 

Block metastasis. This is another name fora cancer spread. Lab studies found that graviola extracts stopped cancer cells from growing and metastasizing.

Scramble signals. Cells receive messages from inside and outside the cell. Signaling pathways relay the messages. A mistake in one of these pathways can lead to cancer. Graviola blocks pathways that control the growth and life cycle of cancer cells.

ATP. Every cell in your body uses a compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy. When graviola blocks ATP in cancer cells,  the cells die.

You shouldn’t use graviola in place of your regular cancer therapy. If you’d like to add it to medicine you already take, talk to your doctor.

Scientists have studied graviola for many kinds of cancers. Findings from lab and animal studies have been encouraging. But they haven’t tested graviola on people to know if the results will hold up. 

Breast cancer. In one study, graviola leaf extract shrank breast tumors in mice. Other studies looked at the effect of graviola fruit extract on a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). This protein sits on the surface of cells and helps them grow and divide. Some breast cancer cells have too much EGFR. The cells grow faster and are harder to treat.  Graviola blocked the growth of these cells.

Liver cancer. In several studies, graviola extract caused cell death in liver cancer cells.

Lung cancer. Graviola leaf extract stopped the growth cycle of lung cancer cells.  

Pancreatic cancer. A powder of graviola leaves and stems caused cell death in pancreatic cancer cells. Graviola also blocked signaling pathways that help pancreatic tumors spread.

Prostate cancer. In studies, graviola fruit pulp extract stopped prostate cancer cells from spreading.

Colon cancer. One study found that an extract from graviola leaves killed colon cancer cells in the lab.

Skin cancer. An extract from graviola leaves inhibited tumor growth in a study of mice with skin cancer.



People in South America and Africa use graviola for food and medicine. No one knows the best dose or how much is safe. Possible harms from graviola may include:

Nerve damage. Some lab animals got tremors and other movement problems similar to symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. 

Low blood pressure. Graviola could lead to a drop in blood pressure in animals and humans. This may cause trouble if you already have low blood pressure or on medication to lower it.

Low blood sugar. Graviola potentially may be dangerous if you’re prone to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or take diabetes drugs.

Faulty tests. Graviola can interfere with nuclear imaging because it stops your body from absorbing the radioactive drugs used in the test. It also might interfere with your blood pressure reading or blood sugar level tests.

If you take a large dose of graviola at one time, it might cause nausea and vomiting.


You can buy graviola fruit powder, leaf or stem powder, and pulp extract from health food stores and other retail outlets. It's also sold as a tea made from the leaves.

 In some places, you can find graviola fruit in the produce section of markets. You can plant the trees and harvest your own fruit in some parts of Florida, although the tree isn't native to the United States. 

The fruit has a consistency similar to custard. The taste is often described as a combination of apple and strawberry.  People use the fruit in smoothies, juices, and ice cream.

The fruit is safe to eat. Avoid the seeds, however, because they can be toxic.

Graviola food and drinks are generally fine when you add them as a normal part of your diet.

Dietary supplements in forms such as pills, tablets, powders, and liquids are regulated by the FDA. However, the FDA doesn't make rules for supplements the way it does for drugs. It doesn't establish recommended doses, for instance. 

Graviola is a tropical fruit also called soursop, guanabana, or Brazilian paw paw. People have long used the fruit, leaves, and bark in traditional healing. Research has shown that it has anti-diabetic, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It's often touted as a cancer treatment. Studies in test tubes and on animals have shown some potential in treating cancers of the breast, prostate, liver, lung, pancreas, colon, and skin. However, it's not clear whether those lab results would carry over to humans. It's generally safe to eat graviola as part of a normal diet. You also can find it as a dietary supplement in the form of powders, tablets, and pills. There's no recommended dose of graviola as a dietary supplement. If you're thinking of taking graviola – especially if you have cancer – it's important to check with your doctor first. 

What does graviola do for the body?

Animal and lab studies have found that compounds in graviola may have cancer-fighting abilities. Traditionally, it's been used to treat digestion problems, fevers, insomnia, and infections. Some studies have suggest it might help fight diabetes and treat ulcers. But we don't know enough about how it works in humans to say for sure whether it's beneficial. 

Who should not take graviola?

Talk to your doctor before taking graviola, especially if: 

  • You take medicine to lower your blood sugar.
  • You take medicine to lower your blood pressure.
  • You have an imaging test, such as a PET scan, coming up.

Who should not drink soursop tea?

It's not clear whether graviola, or soursop, tea is safe for pregnant women. There's not enough information to say whether it is safe for young children. You should avoid using the tea for long periods of time.

Is graviola a superfood?

There's no official definition of a superfood. Generally, it means a food is low in calories and also packed with nutrients such as antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Superfoods also may be rich in fiber, flavonoids, and healthy fats.

One cup of raw graviola contains: 

  • Calories: 148
  • Dietary fiber: 7.42 grams
  • Protein: 2.25 grams 
  • Carbs: 37.8 grams
  • Sugar: 30 grams

It also contains potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and antioxidants.