Title

Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.)- a phytochemical and pharmacological assessment of the species' health claims

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Heinrich, M, Dhanji, T & Casselman, I 2011, 'Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.): a phytochemical and pharmacological assessment of the species' health claims', Phytochemistry Letters, vol. 4, 1, pp. 10-21.

The publisher's version of this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.phytol.2010.11.005

Abstract

The palm Euterpeoleracea Martius (açai) has been acclaimed to have a wide range of health-promoting and therapeutic benefits due to its reportedly high levels of antioxidants. Açai has a history of use as amedicinal plant and as a staple food in many parts of Brazil. Traditionally, it has been used to treat fevers, skin complications, digestive disorders and parasitic infections. Açai has also been of great economic importance in Brazil. In recent years, açai berry has been advertised widely, for example, via the Internet. This is based to a relatively high content of polyphenols, which in turn has been linked to a range of reported (mostly in vitro) antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and cardioprotective properties.

This review highlights the scientific knowledge about its phytochemistry and pharmacology (and its limitations). In vitro and in vivo studies have been assessed in order to determine the therapeutic potential ofaçai. Since there have been very limited studies the results are mostly inconclusive. Açai demonstrates promising potential with regard to antiproliferative activity and cardioprotection but further studies are required. Claims about alleged health benefits can generally only be substantiated to a very limited degree.

Strategies need to be developed in order to prioritise lesser studied ‘novel’ herbal, medicines or nutraceuticals generally distributed/popularised via the Internet and to assess the benefits and risks of such products which also allows for the evaluation of the claims made.