Anticancer medicinal plant custard apple belongs to the genus Annona spp., It has A. squamosa, A. muricata, and A. cherimola species, all containing acetogenin alkaloid compounds that are said to have anticancer properties.
One alkaloid, bulatacin, possessed antitumor potential against cancerous liver tumors (Chih et al., 2003). Annona muricata leaves are said to destroy colon cancer cells (Moghadamtousi et al., 2014). Acetogenins were also reported to destroy human hepatoma cell lines (Liaw et al., 2002).
The custard apple fruit contains small amounts of neurotoxic alkaloids, and consuming large quantities could cause Parkinson-like symptoms (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 2011; Champy et al., 2005).
Annona atemoya is a hybrid between Annona cherimola and Annona squamosa plants. These belong to the Annonaceae family. The first cross was made in Florida by P. J. Wester of the US Department of Agriculture subtropical laboratory, Miami, in 1908. The hybrid has spread across most of the tropical world (Lim, 2012).
The tree prefers dry, warm tropical areas. The plant does not tolerate prolonged subzero temperatures. It takes 100–120 days from flowering to fruit maturity. Grafted trees begin to yield fruit in 3–4 years. The plant can grow up to 6 m. The fruit is sweet, eaten as a dessert, or used in drinks. The pulp of the fruit is white. Many varieties have a preponderance of seed in the fruit. Fruit, seed, bark, leaves, and roots are traditionally used in treating respiratory ailments and an antiparasitic.
Various parts of the custard apple plant, including the fruit, leaves, bark, and seeds, have been investigated for their potential anticancer properties. Here are some of the findings:
- Anti-proliferative effects: Several studies have reported that custard apple extracts can inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells. For example, a study published in the journal “Food and Chemical Toxicology” in 2011 found that an extract from custard apple leaves could suppress the growth of colon cancer cells in vitro.
- Apoptosis induction: Custard apple extracts have also been shown to induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cancer cells. A study published in the journal “Phytomedicine” in 2012 reported that an extract from custard apple seeds induced apoptosis in breast cancer cells.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Chronic inflammation is a known risk factor for cancer, and custard apple extracts have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. For example, a study published in the journal “Phytotherapy Research” in 2013 found that an extract from custard apple fruit could reduce inflammation in rats with induced colon cancer.
- Antioxidant activity: Custard apple extracts also exhibit antioxidant activity, which can help prevent cancer by neutralizing free radicals that can damage DNA and other cellular components. A study published in “Food Chemistry” in 2010 reported that an extract from custard apple fruit had strong antioxidant activity.
While these findings are promising, more research is needed to fully understand the anti-cancer properties of custard apple extracts and their potential as a cancer treatment.
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