Archive | January 7, 2011

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Acai Berries (Euterpe oleracea)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Acai Berries (Euterpe oleracea)

By Hwaa Irfan

Touted as the wonder drink at the beginning of the 21st century, the magic bullet mentally of the quick fix to health as turned the Acai berry into the biodynamic superfood advancing commercial exploitation of the environment in which it is grown as the latest weight loss fad. As the quick fix superfood, Acai Berries, the poor man’s drink of South America, has become the rich man’s health drink of the U.S. Acai juice entered the Western market in the 1990s making marketers richer, and may have well impoverished the Amazon without thorough testing of the benefits of Acai Berries. Some of the drinks made from Acai berries, is made from a concentrate that has been subject to pasteurization, of which we are familiar with when it comes to milk, and the lost benefits. Heavily marketed, reprocessed and packaged as the health drink, freeze-dried powder, powdered juice extracts, capsules and pills, and fattening energy bars, a lot of health solutions have been promised to the consumers.

Euterpe oleracea has been under the guardianship of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon whose rights have been seriously neglected. When once there were 10 million indigenous peoples, now there are less than 200,000. The rainforest from which it comes from represents 6% of the global rainforests, when once it used to be 14% due its commercial benefits. At a rate of 137 species from the plant, animal and insect kingdom a day is being lost, and when one considers the benefit of Acai berries, what more will be lost to humankind (25% of Western pharmaceuticals is derived from these rainforests, and 74% of plant-derived compounds in current use globally comes from research based on the ethnobotanical knowledge of indigenous peoples)  in the form of food, and medicines when through unsustainable practices including the advancement of biofuels.

Pronounced “a-segh-ee”, Acai is derived from the indigenous Tupian word “wasa’I”, which in English means  “fruit that expels water.” The tree Euterpe oleracea has many practical and medicinal uses from the heart of the palm as a staple food in indigenous Brazil to the bark, and the berries of the tree. Known locally as Assai Palm. Amazonian Palm, Cabbage Palm, cansin, Palisade Palm, and naidi (Columbia).

Euterpe belongs to over 25 species of the palm family, the Arecaceae . Tall and slender, Euterpe oleracea grows up to 25m thriving in the seasonal flooded areas where the soil is waterlogged for months. The palm leaves are ornamental having a distinct shape produce up to eight bunches of fruit throughout the year being heaviest in the dry season July – December, and each tree produces 24kg of berries. The flowers which are small and can be male or female are brown to purple in color. The fruit are the grape-like berries which are smaller, round and blackish-purple in color. The berries grow in bunches containing big seeds turning from green to blackish purple. The berry is protected by a greasy skin, which provides Acai essential oil.

Loved by birds and rodents alike, the seeds of the berry from their droppings helps to propagate Euterpe oleracea.The Acai berry perishes within 24 hours once picked, so outside of its native environment  the berries are only available as frozen pulp or as a juice. The palm heart (from the whitish immature leaves of the palm frond is a staple food to the economically disadvantaged of its native land, which has become popular and thus a commodity which is imported mostly by France, Italy,  Japan, the Netherlands, and the U.S. Unfortunately, without proper management, using the palm heart could qualify Euterpe oleracea as an endangered species as entire groves are felled for the palm heart.

Chemical Properties

It is worth noting that more research is needed to discover all the constituents – an oversight of those who promote Acai berry juice and supplements as a wonderfood. Because the berries deteriorate soon after harvesting only the freeze dried products and supplements are available currently outside of its native home of Central and South America. It has been found that some of the properties of the berry is present in the freeze dried version.

  • Anthocyanins (present powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Proanthicyandins (present powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Homoorientin (present powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Orientin (present powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Isovitexin (present powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Scoparin (present powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Taxifolin deoxyhexose (present in powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Resveratrol ( low in powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Oleic acid (present in powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Palmitic acid (present in powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • B-sitosterol (present in powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Campesterol (present in powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Sigmasterol (present in powdered freeze-dried pulp)
  • Glutathione
  • Phytosterols
  • Catechin
  • Epi-catechin
  • P-hydroxybenzoic acid
  • Vanillic acid
  • Ferulic acid
  • Stearic acid

The berry is rich in antioxidants (10+ times that of grapes), which prevents cell deterioration, and with the fad of holding back the natural process of aging in the West, antioxidants are considered a pro-youth nutrient. Acai berries are richer in protein than an egg, which makes a nice healthy alternative for vegans being rich in dietary fibers.  An extract of the peeled berry was found to prevent dysuria in the case of enlarged prostrate by taking 2 tablets (at 80mg each) a day for 1 month.  A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry by Del Pozo-Insfran demonstrated that the polyphenols in Acai caused cell-death of human leukemia cells.

Anthocyanin, meaning blue plants is responsible for the blue, red, and purple colors in plants. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidant flavanoids , which help protect cell deterioration as a result of oxidated relates stress or free radicals, which is argued speeds up the aging process.  However, how much anthocyanin is present in the freeze dried pulp remains unconfirmed as anthocyanin is highly unstable, degrades easily in the presence of heat/humidity, and when in the presence of enzymes of other chemicals. This process of degradation changes the color and the taste even when refrigerated for 12 hours.

However, when it comes to weight loss, there are few research studies that can testify to that!

  • Alterative
  • Astringent
  • Antibacterial
  • Antiflammatory
  • Antifungal
  • Anti-mutagenic
  • Antioxidant
  • Cytophylactic
  • Nutrient

The therapeutic qualities include the following: (see It All Makes Good Scents for definitions)

  • Antibiotic
  • Antipyretic
  • Antisudorific
  • Cordial
  • Essential Oil
  • Febrifuge
  • Haemostatic
  • Tonic

As a cytophylactic, fresh Acai berries stimulates skin cell growth, and is used  in seborrheic dermatitis, acne, wrinkles, dandruff, skin irritation eczema, burns, and fungal infections. Among the indigenous Warao and Arawak of Guyana, the sap from the stem of Euterpe oleracea is used as haemostatic, to stop bleeding when a person is injured deep in the forest, and an extract from the seed is used as a vasodilator. In Brazil the oil of the berry is used to treat diarrhea, malaria, diabetes, hepatitis, jaundice  hair loss, hemorrhages, liver and kidney disease, and menstrual pain. When eaten fresh, the berries lowers bad cholesterol, and increases bad cholesterol. It is a tonic to the immune system, the heart, controls prostate enlargement, helps to fight infection, and helps to fight schistosmosis. As an antibiotic, the berry has been found to be effective against the hospital infection staphylococcus aureus.

Nutritional Content

Acai berries are considered to be highly nutritious being highly concentrated in antioxidants and flavanoids.

  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Dietary fiber
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Omega 6 (Linoleic acid)
  • Omega 9
  • Niacin
  • Riboflavin
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B¹
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Coenzyme Q10

Recipes

In South and Central America, the leaves have been used to thatch roofs, make brooms, baskets, mats, and hats, while the tree trunk has been used to build homes. Acai berries have been a staple food of the indigenous Brazilian diet whereby the oil from the ripe acai berry is used to stay diarrhea in the young. The shredded peel of the berry has been used to make a rinse for skin ulcers. As a desert, the berries have been served with ice cream in Brazil, mixed with granola, and with tapioca. Being a versatile fruit, salt or sugar/honey can be added to make it savory or sweet.

In Peru, the seeds of the berry are grounded and toasted as a food with a practical twist for the purpose of fevers. Boiled into a decoction, the root is used for malaria, hepatitis, jaundice, hair loss, liver and kidney diseases, menstrual and muscular pains.

Along the banks of the Amazon River, the juice from the berries provide a refreshing fruit juice, by softening the skin, and squeezing the berries until the purple juice is extracted, whereas in Brazil the ripe berries are soaked in water to render the juice. In the Amazon, only the roots are considered medicinal in the form of a decoction of which, 1 – 2 cups are taken daily.

In balance He gave us everything we needed, but as for what we want!

Sources:

“Acai.” http://www.drugs.com/npp/acai.html

“Acai.” http://www.phytochemicals.info/plants/acai.php

“Acai Palm.” http://www.paradiseearth.com/Plant%20Articles/Acai%20Palm.html

King, S. R. “The Source of Our Cures: A New Pharmaceutical Company Wants to Provide Reciprocal Benefits and Recognize the Value of Indigenous.”http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/none/source-our-cures-new-pharmaceutical-company-wants-prov

“Organic Health Report – Acai Supplement Benefits for Health and Longevity.” http://www.health-report.co.uk/acai.htm

Schauss, A. G, et al. “Phytochemical and Nutrient Composition of the Freeze-Dried Amazonian Palm Berry, Euterpem oleraceae Mart (Acai).” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2006, 54 (22), pp 8598–8603 DOI: 10.1021/jf060976g. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf060976g

Taylor, L. “Acai,” http://www.rain-tree.com/acai.htm

Sosnowska, J et al. “American Palm Ethnomedicine: A Meta Analysis.” Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2009, 5:43 doi:10.1186/1746-4269-5-43 http://www.ethnobiomed.com/content/5/1/43

Series:

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Lemons

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Garlic

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Oranges

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Almonds

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Shea Butter

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Strawberries (Fragaria vesca)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Dates (Phoenix dactylifera)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Pumpkin (Cucurbita Pepo)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Figs (Ficus Carica)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Pomegranate (Punica Granatum)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis)

Disappearing Bees and Our Food Chain

Disappearing Bees and Our Food Chain

 

From AVAAZ

 

Silently, billions of bees are dying off and our entire food chain is in danger. Bees don’t just make honey, they are a giant, humble workforce, pollinating 90% of the plants we grow.

Multiple scientific studies blame one group of toxic pesticides for their rapid demise, and bee populations have soared in four European countries that have banned these chemicals. But powerful chemical companies are lobbying hard to keep selling this poison. Our best chance to save bees now is to push the US and EU to join the ban — their action is critical and will have a ripple effect on the rest of the world.

We have no time to lose — the debate is raging about what to do. This is not just about saving bumble bees, this is about survival. Let’s build a giant global buzz calling for the EU and US to outlaw these killer chemicals and save our bees and our food.

Bees are vital to life on earth — every year pollinating plants and crops with an estimated $40bn value, over one third of the food supply in many countries. Without immediate action to save bees we could end up with no fruit, no vegetables, no nuts, no oils and no cotton.

Recent years have seen a steep and disturbing global decline in bee populations — some bee species are now extinct and others are at just 4% of their previous numbers. Scientists have been scrambling for answers. Some studies claim the decline may be due to a combination of factors including disease, habitat loss and toxic chemicals. But new leading independent research has produced strong evidence blaming neonicotinoid pesticides. France, Italy, Slovenia and even Germany, where the main manufacturer Bayer is based, have banned one of these bee killers. But, Bayer continues to export its poison across the world

This issue is now coming to the boil as major new studies have confirmed the scale of this problem. If we can get European and US decision-makers to take action, others will follow. It won’t be easy. A leaked document shows that the US Environmental Protection Agency knew about the pesticide’s dangers, but ignored them. The document says Bayer’s “highly toxic” product is a “major risk concern to non target insects [honey bees]”.

We need to make our voices heard to counter Bayer’s very strong influence on policy makers and scientists in both the US and the EU where they fund the studies and sit on policy bodies. The real experts — the beekeepers and farmers — want these deadly pesticides prohibited until and unless we have solid, independent studies that show they are safe. Let’s support them now. Sign the petition below, then forward this email:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/save_the_bees/?vl

We can no longer leave our delicate food chain in the hands of research run by the chemical companies and the regulators that are in their pockets. Banning this pesticide will move us closer to a world safe for ourselves and the other species we care about and depend on.

With hope,

Alex, Alice, Iain, David and all at Avaaz

April 2012

We may not know yet why dolphins around the world are dying off on mass, but cummulative studies are now evidencing the cause of the drastic drop in the global bee population.  One of the latest studies have proven that the cause is neonicotinoid insecticides. The effect is the loss of navigation, so they get lost, and a collective 85% reduction in queen bee production.

MORE INFORMATION

Bee decline could be down to chemical cocktail interfering with brains
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/22/chemicals-bees-decline-major-study?INTCMP=SRCH

Bee briefing
http://www.soilassociation.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=RXLEm9WXrHk%3D&tabid=439

Huff, E. “Confirmed: Common Pesticide Crashing Honeybee Populations Around the World.”  http://www.naturalnews.com/035518_honey_bees_pesticides_science.html

$15 Billion Bee Murder Mystery Deepens
http://www.businessinsider.com/colony-collapse-disorder-still-unsolved-lead-researcher-had-connections-to-bayer-2010-10

“Nicotine Bees” Population Restored With Neonicotinoids Ban
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/05/nicotine-bees-population-restored-with-neonicotinoids-ban.php

EPA memo reveals concern that pesticide causes bee deaths
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/green/detail?entry_id=79910

Beekeepers want government to pull pesticide
http://www.palmbeachpost.com/money/beekeepers-want-government-to-pull-pesticide-1107701.html

British Beekeepers’ Association to stop endorsing bee-killing pesticides http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/nov/16/beekeepers-end-pesticide-endorsement?INTCMP=SRCH

Pesticide industry involvement in EU risk assessment puts survival of bees at stake
http://www.corporateeurope.org/agribusiness/news/2010/11/16/pesticide-industry-future-bees

Related Topics:

Eating Away at Our Earth Pt2.

A Victory for Farmers, Consumers and Environment

GM Mosquitoes: Programming Nature

Behind the Food Price Crisis!

Finding a Global Balance

A Food Revolution!

Do You Like Pineapples?