Originally published October 2 2012
The true history of camu camu, nature's most potent source of natural Vitamin C
by Willow Tohi
(NaturalNews) A nutritiously dense superfruit from the Amazon rainforest, camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) is the most potent botanical source of Vitamin C in the world. With 30 to 50 times more vitamin C than an orange, ounce for ounce, this purple cherry-sized fruit has a sour taste, which is why the people of Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia where it grows, usually make it in to jams, jellies, drinks, and sweet treats such as ice cream or candy.
Local common names for camu camu include, "rumberry," "guavaberry," "cacari," or "camu camu" in Brazil or Peru, "guayabo" in Colombia, and "guayabato" in Venezuela, though some of these may actually be different species. Grown from a tropical lowland tree that likes water, it is found in the western and central regions of the Amazon Basin, next to rivers and oxbow lakes, or in swamps and flood plains. It has small, white, sweet-smelling flowers and bushy foliage.
In addition to the high amount of vitamin C, camu camu has amino acids, beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and phosphorous as well as flavonoids and hydrolyzed tannins. It also has fiber and protein, giving it a wide variety of health benefits. (http://camucamu.org/)
History of camu camuThe berries of the camu camu tree have been used by Amazonian Indians for hundreds of years. A highly nutritious food source rich in phytochemicals, it is also easily transportable. Traditional uses, besides food, include use as a pain reliever, treatment for infection, and to promote long life. Poultices were also made from the bark of the tree to treat rheumatism or as a topical treatment for wounds. (http://food-nutrition.knoji.com)
Rainforest peoples make camu camu into a hair tonic also, using it to repair split ends and restore shine, strength, vitality, and silky texture. (http://camucamu.org/)
In the 1950s, the Ministry of Public Health of Peru conducted the first nutritional analysis of the native fruit, discovering its amazing vitamin C content. Almost overnight, camu camu became an indispensable fruit internationally. (http://www.family-content.com/health/herbs/camu-camu)
Still, due to the difficult nature of harvesting from canoes during the wet season, it was the 1990s before it was widely exported as a viable commercial agro-forestry crop. In the last few decades, many camu camu trees have been planted as part of a reforestation program by the Peruvian government, with the idea that increasing the export market, conserving forest, and providing income for local peoples would be a win-win situation. (http://food-nutrition.knoji.com)
They also hope to keep it off the endangered species list, which is being caused by over-harvesting of wild camu camu. There are still some issues with this plan coming to fruition, such as the local people getting loans to get set up and effects on the different environmental areas. For example, camu camu is an important food source for the wildlife too, including the fish, and there is concern over pests and plant disease.
Modern uses of camu camuIn Japan, camu camu has become very popular. It is used as a component for multivitamins, energy drinks, sports drinks, and candies. Most countries outside the Amazon Basin use a dried powder made from the dehydrated juice of the fruit. The powder must not be heated or stored for more than a year to maintain its vitamin C potency. (http://www.family-content.com/health/herbs/camu-camu)
South Americans have used camu camu successfully in treating Herpes Simplex, Shingles, and Eppstein-Barr viruses (http://camucamu.org/). The high vitamin C content helps to counteract the stress that causes flare-ups, and helps to reduce them quickly. It has no known side-effects or contraindications and can be used safely in combination with antidepressants and other prescriptions. (http://www.wholeworldbotanicals.com/herbal_camucamu.html)
The phytonutrients of camu camu promote health and fight disease by building the immune system. Biological actions include the following properties: anti-inflammatory, astringent, antidepressant, and anti-viral. Some studies suggest it may relieve infertility in men, promote fertility in women, and relieve chronic diseases such as Crohn's and Parkinson's. Camu camu's high amount of phytochemicals also indicates it can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and neutralize free radicals. (http://food-nutrition.knoji.com)
Most of the documented benefits of camu camu center around its high vitamin C content. Camu camu itself has not been widely studied, but those that are studying it are finding that its beneficial health properties extend far beyond just those of its vitamin C content. (http://camucamu.org/) As with most nutrient-dense plants, there is much scientists don't yet understand about not only the chemical constituents, but also their synergistic relationship, and how they work to fight disease and promote human health. Studies are ongoing.
Only recently available in the United States, you can find camu camu as an affordable supplement in some health food stores or online. It is often found in powder form to add to smoothies or a bottle of water.
Camu camu is a superfood. Superfoods, by definition, improve health and help you resist disease. The disease prevention benefits and high density nutrition of camu camu makes it a supplement worth adding to your diet. Be sure to research the brand and its source. You want camu camu berries from the Amazon rainforest, not from China, less than a year old.
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