Acerola is a small tree that grows in dry areas of the Caribbean and Central and South America. Traditionally, its fruit has been used to treat diarrhea, arthritis, fevers, and kidney, heart, and liver problems. Acerola contains 10–50 times more vitamin C by weight than oranges. Other important substances found in acerola include bioflavonoids, magnesium, pantothenic acid, and vitamin A.
Acerola is primarily marketed as a source of vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Because of these constituents, it has substantial antioxidant properties.1 One study found that acerola significantly increased the antioxidant activity of soy and alfalfa.2 It is not clear, however, that this rather theoretical finding indicates anything of significance to human health. Other powerful antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene have proved disappointing when they were subjected to studies that could discern whether their actions as antioxidants translated into actual health benefits.
Like many plants, acerola has antibacterial and antifungal properties, at least in the test tube.3,4 However, no studies in humans have been reported.
A typical supplemental dosage of acerola is 40–100 mg daily.
As a widely used food, acerola is believed to have a relatively high safety factor. However, it has been discovered that people who are allergic to latex may be allergic to acerola as well.5
Maximum safe doses in young children, pregnant or nursing women, and people with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.
1. Hassimotto NM, Genovese MI, Lajolo FM, et al. Antioxidant activity of dietary fruits, vegetables, and commercial frozen fruit pulps. J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53:2928–35.
2. Hwang J, Hodis HN, Sevanian A. Soy and alfalfa phytoestrogen extracts become potent low-density lipoprotein antioxidants in the presence of acerola cherry extract. J Agric Food Chem. 2001;49:308–14.
3. Motohashi N, Wakabayashi H, Kurihara T, et al. Biological activity of barbados cherry (acerola fruits, fruit of Malpighia emarginata DC) extracts and fractions. Phytother Res. 2004;18:212–23.
4. Cáceres A, et al. Plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of dermatophytic infections. Evaluation of antifungal activity of seven American plants. J Ethnopharmacol. 1993;40:207–13.
5. Raulf-Heimsoth M, Stark R, Sander I, et al. Anaphylactic reaction to apple juice containing acerola: cross-reactivity to latex due to prohevein. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002;109:715–6.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 12/15/2015
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