(NaturalNews) Myciaria dubia, or camu camu, is a low growing bush native to the Amazon rainforest. It ranges in size from a bush to a tree, and produces small reddish purple fruit, a bit larger than a cherry or a grape, for decades. The fruit is tart due to the high content of vitamin C. That high vitamin C content is also responsible for its popularity and many of its health benefits.
Caum camu grows wild in the rain forest and ripens during the wet season. It is harvested by hand into a canoe, then taken to be processed. When freezer boats are used, it is flash frozen right on the boat. Processing includes thawing, peeling, liquefying, and spray drying, resulting in a pale pink powder. (http://www.wholeworldbotanicals.com/herbal_camucamu.html) The powder is easy to ship around the world as a supplement or to be included in candies, drinks, or smoothies.
Peruvian folk medicine says native Amazonians used camu camu for a variety of things including as a pain reliever and to fight infections, an infusion of the bark or stem for diabetes, and poultice from the bark for topical treatment of rheumatism or wounds. It was an easily transportable and available food source, but not always their first choice because of the tart, acidic taste, which is due to the high vitamin C. (http://food-nutrition.knoji.com)
Why scientists are interested in camu camu
Camu camu is a powerhouse of nutrients, including 30-50 times the vitamin C - the most of any botanical source in the world, 10 times the iron, three times the niacin, twice the riboflavin, and 50 percent more phosphorous as oranges and other citrus fruits. It also has beta-carotene, potassium, calcium, bioflavonoids, antioxidants, and amino acids (http://superfruits.com/index.php/camu-camu-superfrukter-99). This fruit has one of the highest concentrations of phytochemicals in the world. It is considered to be an antioxidant, astringent, emollient, and nutritive. It also has fiber and protein.
There are several important amino acids in camu camu, such as valine, leucine, and serine. The branch-chained amino acids valine and leucine are essential, meaning they must be obtained through diet. Serine is a proteinogenic amino acid, and important to metabolism as it is the precursor to several other amino acids, such as glycine, cysteine, and tryptophan. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serine)
Additional phytochemicals of note in camu camu include multiple flavonoids such as: anthocyanins, flavonols, flavanols, catechins, glucosides, rutin, and hydrolyzed tannins such as gallic acid and ellagic acid, as the color of the fruit would suggest. These polyphenols are important because their antioxidant and antiproliferative properties work on the cellular level to inhibit DNA from binding to carcinogens. They also help to prevent heart disease and other chronic and degenerative diseases. The chemoprotective effect is due to the prevention of oxidative stress. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrciaria_dubia)
Health benefits of camu camu
A powerful antioxidant, high amounts of vitamin C are thought to cure the flu and the common cold as well as fight or prevent other viruses and bacteria. It is essential for the immune system. Antioxidants prevent free radical damage to DNA, which helps prevent disease. Camu camu has multiple sources of natural vitamin C that work synergistically to protect the nervous system and help you reach peak mental ability. Eating foods known to nourish your brain can help prevent or even reverse plaque buildup associated with degenerative conditions like Alzheimer's and dementia. (http://www.naturalnews.com/Report_Camu_Camu_1.html)
Vitamin C is essential to human health, meaning that humans do not manufacture vitamin C on our own as many other species do; we must get it from dietary sources. Taking a full-spectrum vitamin C from natural plant sources such as camu camu also provides additional nutrients that improve the absorption of the C along with it, unlike synthetic sources, making it much more bio-available and effective. (http://www.wholeworldbotanicals.com/herbal_camucamu.html)
In addition to strengthening the immune system, camu camu is used to improve energy and mood. It is good for the gums, eyes, skin, hair, and nails. Camu camu supports a healthy liver and fights infertility in both men and women, and is thought to cure herpes. It benefits the brain by supporting serotonin levels to improve sleep, memory, and mood. It provides general support for overall brain chemistry, including inhibition of migraines. Camu camu supports a healthy nervous system and improves vision, guarding against cataracts and glaucoma. (http://www.naturalnews.com/Report_Camu_Camu_3.html) Some studies suggest it may be useful in relieving Parkinson's and Crohn's disease. (http://food-nutrition.knoji.com)
Camu camu is an anti-viral (fights cold and flu), anti-inflammatory (eases arthritis and other inflammatory diseases), an anti-atherosclerotic (prevents plaque buildup on arteries), powerful antioxidant (cellular protection), antiseptic (kills bacteria), anti-mutagenic (prevents cancer-causing genetic mutations), hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), anti-ulcerous, anti-gingivitic (fights gingivitis), anti-hepatitic (protects against liver disorders) and antidepressant. (http://www.naturalnews.com/Report_Camu_Camu_5.html)
Some U.S. companies have begun selling camu camu extract in powdered form as well in tablets. Their marketing focuses on the Vitamin C content, claiming it to be an effective treatment for viral infections such as herpes, cold, flu, autoimmune diseases, and weight loss. The studies that support these claims are vitamin C studies, not camu camu studies, though camu camu is a potent source of the vitamin, not only because of the high concentration, but because of its multiple sources and its mineral content, which increases its bioavailability and effectiveness.
There are no contraindications for adding camu camu to your diet. Excessive vitamin C is not toxic, but prolonged use of high amounts may cause gastrointestinal upset or diarrhea. Anyone advised not to take too much vitamin C should be cautious, such as those with kidney stones. For most of us, adding the superfood camu camu to our diet is a good idea.