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Family Malpighiaceae
Malpighia emarginata DC.
Xi yin du ying tao

Scientific names Common names
Malpighia berteroana Spreng. Acerola (Tag., Span.)
Malpighia emarginata DC. Malpi (Tag.)
Malpighia lanceolata Griseb. Barbados cherry (Engl.)
Malpighia punicifolia var. lancifolia Florida sweet (Engl.)
Malpighia retusa Benth. Garden cherry (Engl.)
Malpighia umbellata Rose  
Malpighia urens var. lanceolata (Griseb.).  
Malpighia emarginata DC. is an accepted name. The Plant List

Other vernacular names
BRAZIL: Acerola, Cereja do-para.
CHINESE: Xi yin du ying tao.
CZECH: Malipigie lysa.
DANISH: Barbadoskirsebaer.
DUTCH: Geribde kers.
ESTONIAN: Sile malpiigia.
FRENCH: Acerolier, Cerisier, Cerise de St. Dominique.
GERMAN: Acerola-kirsche, Barbados-kirsche.
INDIA: Vallaria simeyaranelli.
PORTUGUESE: Cerejeira, Cereja do para.
SPANISH: Acerola, Cemeruco, Cereza, Cereza colorada, Cereza de la sabana, Grosella, Semeruco.

Acerola is a perennial shrub or small tree that grows to a height of 10 to 12 feet with a rounded canopy. Leaves are elliptic, oblong, obovate or narrowly oblanceolate, acute or cuneate at the base, obtuse or rounded at the apex, 2 to 7 centimeters long and 1 to 4 centimeters wide, with white, silky irritating hairs when young, hairless, glossy, and dark green when mature. Flowers are small and pink or lavender, in sessile or short-peduncled cymes, with spoon-shaped and fringed petals . Fruit is bright red, oblate to round, more or less 3-lobed, 1.25 to 2.5 centimeters wide, with a glossy skin and orange-colored, juicy, tart-tasting pulp. Seeds are three, rounded, each with 2 large- and 1 small-fluted wings. (2)

- Introduced.
- Grown as ornamental or hedge plant.
- Native to South America and Central America.
- Cultivated in the tropics and subtropics, including the Canary Islands, Ghana, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, India, Hawaii and Australia.

- Nutrient analysis of raw edible portion (per 100g) yielded: (Proximates) water 91.41 g, energy 32 kcal, protein 0.40 g, total lipid 0.30 g, carbohydrate by difference 7.69 g, total dietary fiber 1.1 g; (Minerals) calcium 12 mg, iron 0.30 mg, magnesium 18 mg, phosphorus 11 mg, potassium 146 mg, sodium 7 mg, zinc 0.10 mg; (Vitamins) vitamin C 1677.6 mg, thiamin 0.020 mg, riboflavin 0.060 mg, niacin 0.400 mg, vitamin B6 0.009 mg, folate DFE 14 µg, vitamin A/RAE 38 µg, vitamin 767 IU; (Lipids) total saturated FA 0.068 g, total monosaturated FA 0.082 g, total polyunsaturated FA 0.090 g, cholesterol 0. (3)
- FPLC-DAD/ESI-MS analysis of fruit yielded two anthocyanins (cyanidine 3-O-rhamnoside and pelargonidin 3-O-rhamnoside), three hydroxycinnamoyl derivatives (caffeoyl hexoside, dihydrocaffeoylquinic acid and coumaroyl hexoside) and 15 flavonols (mostly glycosylated forms of quercetin and kaempferol). (see study below) (18)
- Analysis of acerola fruit juice yielded vitamin C (1799.5 mg/100 g FW), total phenolic (188.4 mg GAE/100 g FW), anthocyanins (9.2 mg/100 g FW), flavonols (7.8 mg/100 g FW) contents. (see study below) (20)

- Studies have shown antitumor, radioprotective, skin whitening, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, antihyperlipidemic, insecticidal properties.

Parts used
Fruits, leaves.


- Fruits are edible.
- Fruit made into juices, pulps, vitamin C concentrate, and baby food. (21)
- No reported medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Fruits are used for liver ailments, diarrhea, dysentery, coughs and colds.
- Juice used as gargle for sore throat.

Tumor Specific Cytotoxic Activity:
Study of fractionated barbados cherry extracts showed concentration of higher cytotoxic activity in fractions A4 and A6 (acetone extract), and H3 and HE3 (hexane) extract. The four fractions showed higher cytotoxic activity against tumor cell lines such as human oral squamous cell carcinoma (HSC-2) and human submandibular gland carcinoma (HSG). The tumor specific cytotoxic activity and MDR reversal activity of barbados cherry may suggest potential application for cancer therapy. (4)
• Radioprotective / Fruit Juice: Study evaluated the radioprotective and cytotoxic activity of acute and chronic treatments with Barbados Cherry fruit juice against the mutagenic activity of therapeutic dose of 25 µCi of radioiodine for hyperthyroidism using bone marrow cells of Wistar rats treated in vivo by gavage. Results showed radioprotective activity attributed to the joint action of its antioxidant components. The BC exhibited no cytotoxic activity. (5)
• Suppression of UVB-Induced Skin Pigmentation / Juice: Study investigated the effects of acerola juice intake on the skin of UVB-irradiated SMP30/GNL KO mice. Results showed suppression of UVB-induced pigmentation by inhibiting melanogenesis-related genes. There was a significant decrease in the expression level of dopachrome tautomerase, an enzyme involved in melanin biosynthesis. (6)
• Protection Against Oxidative Damage from Cafeteria Diet /Juice: Study investigated the antioxidant effects of acerola juice in different stages of maturity (unripe, ripe, and industrial) and its main pharmacologically active components, vitamin C and rutin, given as food supplements to cafeteria diet-fed mice. Food supplementation with acerola juice helped reduce oxidative stress present under obesogenic conditions. (7)
• Drug Interactions: Moderate interactions: flluphenazine (may decrease how well Prolixin wells) and warfarin (may decrease the effect of coumadin). Minor interactions: Its high vitamin C content may increase the absorption of estrogen and increase its side effects. (8)
• Microbial Control / Inhibition of Quorum Sensing / Phenolic Compounds / Fruit: Study evaluated the total phenolic content and antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-quorum sensing activities of phenolic extract from the pulp. The total phenolic content of the fruit was 5848.74 ± 4.18 mg GAE/L. The phenolic extract inhibited all tested bacteria, with MIC ranging from 487.39 mg GAE/L to 1462.18 mg GAE/L. In sub-MIC concentrations, the phenolic extract did not interfere with bacterial growth but inhibited quorum sensing controlled phenotypes and biofilm formation in the bacteria. The ability to inhibit quorum sensing in bacteria can be further explored as a means to control bacterial activities in foods. (9)
• Antidiabetic / Hypolipidemic / Juice: Study evaluated the effects of M. emarginata juice on the glycemic and lipid profile of offspring of diabetic and nondiabetic Wistar rats. Offsprings of diabetic dams treated with acerola juice showed significantly decreased levels of glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and increased HDL-c. The use of acerola juice shows potential in the prevention of DM and dyslipidemia and its complications. (10)
• Volatile Flavor Components: Study for volatile components from acerola fruit identified 150 constituents from the aroma concentrate. Major constituents were furfural, hexadecanoic acid, 3-methyl-3-butenol, and limonene. Amount of esters, 3-methyl-3-butenol, and their various esters contribute to the unique flavor. (11)
• Analgesic / Anti-Inflammatory: Study evaluated in-vivo and in-vitro analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity of various extracts of M. emarginata leaves and fruits in experimental animal models. Results showed methanol extracts of leaves and fruits showed more potential analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity than petroleum ether and ethyl acetate extracts. (12)
• Antihyperglycemic / Polyphenols / Fruit: Study evaluated the antihyperglycemic effect of C-AP (crude acerola polyphenol) fraction. Results showed C-AP significantly suppressed plasma glucose after glucose and maltose administration to ICR mice, suggested a postprandial effect. Mechanism was attributed to both suppression of the intestinal glucose transport and inhibition of alpha-glucosidase. (13)
• Skin-Lightening Effect on UV-Induced Hyperpigmentation / Polyphenol / Fruit: Study investigated the effects of polyphenols from acerola on melanogenesis. A crude polyphenol extract (CPE) examined the skin-lightening effect on brownish guinea pigs subjected to controlled UVB irradiation. Results showed the CPE significantly lightened the UVB-irradiated skin pigmentation and reduced the content of melanin in B16 melanoma cells, suggesting the in-vivo skin lightening effect was due to suppression of melanin biosynthesis, which may be partly due to inhibition of tyrosinase activity in melanocytes. (14)
• Protective Effect in Inflammatory and Lipolysis Pathways / Fruit: Study evaluated the effects of unripe, ripe, and industrial acerola juice on relevant inflammatory and lipolysis proteins in adipose tissue of mice with cafeteria-induced obesity. Results showed acerola juice reduces low-grade inflammation and ameliorates obesity-associated defects in the lipolytic processes. (15)
• Insecticidal / Phenolic Compounds: Study evaluated the effect of acerola bagasse flour against fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda. The ABF extract contained several phenolic compounds including gallic acid, epigallocathechia gallate, catechin, p-coumaric acid, salicylic acid, and quercetin. The extract was toxic to S. frugiperda, prolonging the pre-pural stage and increasing mortality of caterpillars. (16)
• Silver Nanoparticles: Study reports on the green synthesis of silver nanoparticles mediated by acerola (M. emarginata) extract. (17)
• Antioxidative Damage in a Human Dermal Fibroblast Model / Fruit: Study evaluated acerola fruits for its protective effect against oxidative damage in an in-vitro human dermal fibroblast mode. Chemical analysis showed a high content of vitamin C, total polyphenols, ß-carotene and folates in acerola fruit. The acerola crude extract was able to protect against oxidative damage through decreasing apoptosis, intracellular ROS levels and lipid and protein damage, besides improving antioxidant enzyme activities and mitochondrial functions. (18)
• Anti-Inflammatory / Inhibition of COX-2 Activity / Leaves: Study evaluated the anti-inflammatory properties of acerola leaf. Fractionation of leaf extract yielded F1, F2, and F3. The fractions showed inhibition of COX-2 activity, with F2 exhibited the highest COX-2 inhibitory effect. Subfractions F2A, F2B, and F2C inhibited COX-2 activity. (19)
• Hepatoprotective / Ethanol-Induced Oxidative Stress / Juice: Study evaluated the antioxidant potential of acerola juice and its hepatoprotective potential against acute-ethanol induced stress in mice. There was high activity of superoxide dismutase (1053.6 UA/g DM) with total antioxidant activity of 137.5 mmol Trolox/g FW. Results showed the acerola juice prevented hepatic damage induced by ethanol, probably via enhancement of the antioxidant status. (see constituents above) (20)

- Wild-crafted.
- Herbal capsules and powder in the cybermarket.

© Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

February 2018

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Malpighia emarginata / Synonyms / The Plant List

Barbados cherry / Growables
Acerola / USDA Nutrient Database
Biological activity of barbados cherry (acerola fruits, fruit of Malpighia emarginata DC) extracts and fractions. / Motohashi N, Wakabayashi H, Kurihara T et al / Phytother Res, 2004 Mar;18(3):212-23.
Radioprotective effect of the Barbados Cherry (Malpighia glabra L.) against radiopharmaceutical Iodine-131 in Wistar rats in vivo / Elisângela Düsman, ==
Alessandra Paim BertiRosinete Gonçalves Mariucci, Nilson Benedito LopesLilian Tatiani Düsman Tonin and Veronica Elisa Pimenta Vicentini / BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine (ISCMR), 2014; 14:41 / https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-14-41
Acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC.) Juice Intake Suppresses UVB-Induced Skin Pigmentation in SMP30/GNL Knockout Hairless Mice / Yasunori Sato, Eriko Uchida, Hitoshi Aoki, Takayuki Hanamura, Kenichi Nagamine, Hisanori Kato, Takeshi Koizumi, Akihito Ishigami  / PLOS/one / https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0170438
Acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC.) juice intake protects against oxidative damage in mice fed by cafeteria diet / Daniela Dimer Leffa, Juliana da Silva, Fabficia Cardoso Petronillo, Mairis S Biellla, Abigail Lopes, Adrieli R Binatti, Francine Daumann, Patricia Fernanda Schuck, Vanessa Moraes Andrade / Food Research International, Vol 77, Part 3, Nov 2015 / https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2015.10.006
Acerola Interactions / WebMD
Microbial control and quorum sensing inhibition by phenolic compounds of acerola (Malpighia emarginata)
/ Oliveira BDA, Rodrigues AC, Bertoldi MC, Taylor JG, and Pinto UM / International Food Research Journal 24(5): 2228-2237 (Oct 2017)
Evaluation of Glycemic and Lipid Profile of Offspring of Diabetic Wistar Rats Treated with Malpighia emarginata Juice / Sandra M Barbalho, Debora C Damasceno, Ana Paula Machado Spada, Mireia Palhares, Karla Aparecida Martuchi, Marie Oshiiwa, Viviane Sazaki and Vanessa Sellis da Silva / Exp Diabetes Res. 2011; 2011 / doi:  10.1155/2011/173647
Volatile Flavor Constituents of Acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC.) Fruit / Jorge A Pino, Rolando Marbot / J. Agric. Food Chem., 2001, 49 (12), pp 5880–5882 / DOI10.1021/jf010270g
Evaluation of Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory (In vitro and In vivo) Activity of Petroleum Ether, Ethyl Acetate and Methanol Extracts of Malpighia emarginata (DC) / V Padmaja, A Srinivas Nayak and M Chinna Eshwaraiah / Global Journal of Pharmacology 11 (2): 21-27, 2017 / DOI: 10.5829/idosi.gjp.2017.21.27
Antihyperglycemic effect of polyphenols from Acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC.) fruit. / Hanamura T, Mayama C, Aoki H, Hirayama Y, Shimizu M / Bioscl Biotechnol Biochem, 2006 Aug;70(8):1813-20.
Skin-Lightening Effect of a Polyphenol Extract from Acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC.) Fruit on UV-Induced Pigmentation / Takayuki Hanamura, Eriko Uchida & Hitoshi Aoki / Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, Vol 72, Issue 12 (2008) / https://doi.org/10.1271/bbb.80421
Acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC.) juice intake protects against alterations to proteins involved in inflammatory and lipolysis pathways in the adipose tissue of obese mice fed a cafeteria diet / Fernando Milanez Dias, Daniela Dimer Leffa et al / Lipids in Health and Disease, 2014; 13:24 / https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-511X-13-24
Malpighia emarginata DC. bagasse acetone extract: Phenolic compounds and their effect on Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)  / Tamara R. Marques*, Aline A. Caetano, Dejane S. Alves, Vinicius de O. Ramos, Anderson A. Simão, Geraldo A. Carvalho, and Angelita D. Corrêa / Chilean J. Agric. Res. vol.76 no.1 Chillán mar. 2016 / http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0718-58392016000100008 
GREEN SYNTHESIS OF SILVER NANOPARTICLES MEDIATED BY ACEROLA (MALPIGHIA EMARGINATA D.C.) EXTRACT / Morselli, G.R.; Lugão, A.B.; Oliveira, M.J.A; Cotrim, M.B / 14° Congresso da Sociedade Latino Americana de Biomateriais, 20 a 24 de Agosto de 2017- Brasil
The protective effect of acerola (Malpighia emarginata) against oxidative damage in human dermal fibroblasts through the improvement of antioxidant enzyme activity and mitochondrial functionality / Jose M Alvarez-Suarez, Francesca Giampieri, Massimiliano Gasparrini et al / Journal of Food and Function (2017); 8: 3250-3258 / DOI: 10.1039/C7FO00859G
Anti-Inflammatory Properties and Identification of Putative Protein Targets of Phytochemicals Present in Mashua (Tropaeolum Tuberosum) Tuber and Acerola (Malpighia Emarginata) Leaf by DARTS Methodology / Schreckinger Minoli, Maria Elisa /  http : / /hdl .handle .net /1969 .1 /158035.
Effect of the pretreatment with acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC.) juice on ethanol-induced oxidative stress in mice -- Hepatoprotective potential of acerola juice. / Gomes Rochette, Neuza Felix; Freitas Mota, Erika; Sousa Nunes-Pinheiro, Diana Celia' Freitas Bezerra, Camila, Fernandex de Melo, Dirce et al / Free Radicals & Antioxidants, 2013 Supplement, Vol. 3, p S16-S21
Malpighia emarginata / Wikipedia

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