If you’ve ever heard someone refer to a soursop or custard apple in reference to tea, you might be wondering what kind of fruit they’re talking about. This tangy herbal tea has been used for centuries in South American for its medicinal benefits.
Soursop tea is a medicinal tea that is made from the leaves of the soursop plant. Soursop fruit is eaten for its sweet mango-like fruit and juice, but it’s also consumed for its health benefits as part of herbal tea blends and tisanes. Soursop has many benefits including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Soursop might not be as common as some other herbal teas, but it still has health advantages to offer. Read on to learn more about soursop tea and the reasons it is used as a form of herbal medicine.
What Is Soursop?
Soursop, the fruit of the plant Annona muricata, grows in tropical regions of the Americas (Central and South America) as well as the Caribbean. Soursop is also known as graviola tree or custard apple.
This green prickly fruit has a unique flavor that is a combination of strawberry and pineapple with sour notes of citrus. This bright flavor is in contrast to the fruit’s creamy texture, which is similar to a banana.
In the areas of the world where it grows, the delicious fruit of this plant is cultivated for its use in desserts, ice cream, candies, and juices. The leaves of the soursop are used medicinally as a supplement in herbal tea blends.
Other Names for Soursop
Soursop also goes by the following names:
- Custard apple
- Brazilian paw paw
- Annona muricata (scientific name)
What Does Soursop Tea Taste Like?
Tea drinkers who expect soursop tea to taste like the tree’s fruit are bound for disappointment. Soursop tea (also called graviola tea) which is traditionally made with the leaves of the soursop fruit tree rather than its fruit, has a more musky and mellow flavor than the fruit.
Many tea drinkers compare the taste of soursop tea to a sweetened black tea.
Before trying any herbal medicine, always get sound medical advice from your healthcare provider.
Health Benefits of Soursop Tea
Many people enjoy the flavor of soursop tea, but the main reason that people drink it is for medicinal purposes. In recent years, there have been more scholarly works and research studies published on herbal remedies like soursop.
In some Caribbean countries, graviola is widely used as a supplement to treat many health conditions.
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, animal studies have shown promise for soursop’s anticancer properties, but more human studies need to be performed before the soursop leaf extracts can be used in traditional medicine. That said, here are a few of the notable health benefits of soursop tea:
- Wound care: Soursop tea can help accelerate the healing of minor cuts, burns, and bruises. The tea is taken orally as well as used in a poultice for this purpose. Soursop extracts contain antibacterial compounds which help in wound healing.
- Pain relief: Soursop tea can be ingested to alleviate pain. Soursop leaves contain both antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a good choice for relieving the pain associated with exercise and menstrual cramps.
- Cancer prevention: Soursop leaves contain antioxidants that help eliminate free radicals which can cause cancer cells in the body. These annonaceous acetogenins show promise for preventing a variety of degenerative diseases, such as cancer, stroke, and heart disease.
- Weight loss: Soursop tea and fruit is sometimes consumed as part of a weight loss program since its high fiber content can help reduce appetite and prevent overeating.
- Skin conditions: In the traditional sense and in herbal medicine, soursop has been used to fight parasitic infections and other skin infections.
Even though soursop tea has some documented health benefits, there are important drawbacks to regular use of this tea too.
Health Risks of Soursop Tea
Soursop tea should not be ingested regularly or in large doses because long-term use has been shown to cause neurological issues that resemble Parkinson’s disease. These symptoms include tremors, movement disorders, and blurred vision.
The reason behind these symptoms is thought to be properties in soursop tea that block the natural absorption of potassium.
Like any herbal tea, people who drink soursop tea may be at risk of an allergic reaction if they’ve never been exposed to the plant before.
If you show any signs of adverse effects after ingesting soursop tea such as itching, hives, swelling, numbness of the face and mouth, or difficulty breathing, cease use of the soursop tea immediately and consult a physician.
How to Make Soursop Tea
Soursop tea can be made from either the fresh or dried leaves of soursop plants. To prepare soursop leaves for tea, perform the following steps from Zen Health:
- Wash the soursop leaves. Wash 3-4 cups of whole soursop leaves to remove any dust or debris.
- Boil the tea. Boil the soursop leaves in three cups of water for 15-20 minutes.
- Steep the tea. After the tea has boiled, allow the soursop leaves to steep in the tea for an additional ten to fifteen minutes.
- Serve the tea. Sweeten the soursop tea with either sugar or honey and serve hot.
While tea can usually be steeped for longer periods to make it stronger, this isn’t recommended for soursop tea. The compounds in soursop can be toxic in larger doses, so it’s better to go weaker versus stronger when it comes to the strength of your soursop tea.
Can You Drink Soursop Tea Every Day?
Since soursop is toxic to the kidneys and liver in large doses, it is not a good idea to drink too much soursop tea every day.
No more than one cup of soursop tea should be ingested. If you intend to consume soursop tea regularly, getting regular blood work to confirm healthy liver and kidney function is advised.
Does Soursop Tea Make You Sleepy?
If soursop tea is brewed and steeped until the tea liquor is strong, the tea can have a calming effect that may make you sleepy. In the Caribbean, soursop tea is commonly consumed as a sleep aid due to its function as a natural sedative.
When Is the Best Time to Drink Soursop Tea?
The best time to drink soursop tea is either first thing in the morning or right before bed. If you’re drinking soursop tea as a weight loss aid, drinking it first thing in the morning can give the tea time to work on your body’s metabolism all day long.
If you’re drinking soursop tea as a sleep aid, it’s obviously a better idea to drink it around an hour before you settle down for bed.
Can You Add Soursop Fruit to Soursop Tea?
Adding soursop fruit to soursop tea can act as a natural sweetener and improve the flavor of soursop leaf tea if you don’t enjoy the taste. Soursop leaves can also be mixed in with other types of tea such as herbal tea, matcha, or black tea.
Does Soursop Tea Have Caffeine?
Because soursop tea is an herbal tisane and not made from the Camellia sinesis plant, it is not a true tea (like black or green tea) and does not contain caffeine.
Soursop Tea Can Be Useful in Moderation
Even though practitioners of herbal medicine often recommend soursop tea as an alternative treatment for types of cancer, it is not for everyone. Soursop tea can cause some uncomfortable and dangerous side effects if it is taken too often or in large amounts.
Again, always speak to your medical practitioner before starting an herbal remedy.