Friday, December 8News That Matters

What is Miracle Fruit and Why it is Becoming Popular in the Philippines

Just type “miracle fruit” in Google search and you will be presented with different types of extracts in water plastic bottles being sold online, claiming to cure many diseases and whatnot. Don’t buy until you read this article.

If you are outside the Philippines like in Australia, Japan, North America, or Europe, when you search for “miracle fruit” on Google, you will get the real miracle fruit or the Synsepalum dulcificum. This fruit or miracle berry is the real miracle fruit known around the world and is the subject of many types of research and studies ever since. 

It is a shrub that grows 1.8–4.5 m (5.9–14.8 ft) in height and has dense foliage. Its leaves are 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in) long, 2.0–3.7 cm (0.79–1.46 in) wide, and glabrous below. They are clustered at the ends of the branchlets. The flowers are white. It carries red, 2 cm (0.79 in) long fruits. Each fruit contains one seed.

If you are in the Philippines, however, when you search for “miracle fruit” on Google, you will get a different fruit – the Crescentia cujete. This is totally different from what the world knew, and at least one research has been made so far. Its extract is widely sold online and claims to lower blood sugar and blood pressure among others. The origin of why Filipinos called this fruit a “miracle fruit” is unknown and this is the reason why you should continue reading.

The real miracle fruit is totally different from what Filipinos called miracle fruit and this is why before consuming something, we must be very careful.

Miracle fruit according to studies

1. Miracle fruit/berry (Synsepalum dulcificum) has been developed as a sweetness enhancer. Furthermore, some studies have been performed using miracle fruit to improve food palatability for cancer patients who have been treated with chemotherapy and to improve insulin resistance that is induced by fructose-rich chow in rats. 

In addition to the unique potential of miracle fruit to transform sour food taste into a sweet taste, the anthocyanin and flavonoid compounds of miracle fruit have gained attention because of their use as healthy colorants and flavorants for functional food applications.

Although the health benefit of the fruit is promising, it has some limitations of usage in food because of its inability of modifying purely salty or bitter taste and its denaturing ability by heat and high or low pH conditions. More studies are needed to overcome the fruit’s limitations and make possible practical use of the fruit.

The real miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum)

2. Miracle fruit or calabash tree (Crescentia cujete). The various parts of Cresecentia cujete have some important biological activities. In folklore, medicine leaves are used to treat hematomas, tumors, and hypertension. Fruit decoction is used to treat diarrhea, stomachaches, cold, bronchitis, cough, asthma, and urethritis.

The present study was designed to explore the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial potential of C. cujete leaves and stem bark. Anti-inflammatory activity was evaluated by in vitro human red blood cell (HRBC) membrane stabilization method and antibacterial activity by disc diffusion method.

miracle fruit
The Philippine fruit (Crescentia cujete)

According to the above information from the National Library of Medicine (NIH), it is clear that the original magic fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) was based on a study, while the Filipino version of this fruit, is based on folklore.  

The reason why I am pointing out this big difference is that many people attribute the study on Synsepalum dulcificum to Crescentia cujete, which could result in danger.

With limited studies, there is no mention that Filipino magic fruit can lower blood sugar levels, but because people are making extracts through decoction and selling them online, people are buying without a solid basis of medicinal use.

I tasted it myself and the flavor seems fine but I would not take a risk consuming a fruit that is stranger to me in big and sustained quantities. Another big concern is the seed of the calabash fruit. It has been reported the fruit’s seed contains a toxic compound called tetracyclic triterpenoid cucurbitacin, which can trigger stomach ulcers. Pregnant women must also avoid consuming it as the fruit was once used to induce labor.

Why it is becoming popular in the Philippines despite the lack of research and study? Because we Filipinos prefer to believe what our neighbors say than do some research online. 

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