Euterpe oleracea

Açaí

Euterpe oleracea

Açaí

Açaí is the fruit of a palm tree native to riparian zones of the tropics of south and central America. Belonging to the Arecaceae family, Açaí is related to the other Palm Family members such as Coconut, Dates, and Saw Palmetto. Açaí’s Latin name, Euterpe oleracea, is related to the daughter of Zeus, Euterpe, who was known for ‘ministering delight’ and for being one of the muses residing atop Mt. Olympus, and related to the plant’s aesthetic growth habit. The species name, oleracea, is related to its edibility, and cabbage, kale, and broccoli also share the ‘oleracea’ species name. Interestingly, the widespread desirability of Açaí berries is a relatively modern phenomena, as it was more traditionally cultivated as an ornamental and was of interest for its potential in the palm heart industry. Açaí palm was of significance for the native people who inhabited the same region where Açaí grows. The tender heart of the tree can be eaten, the leaves used as fiber and building material, a tea of the roots can be drunk to support the blood and liver, and the seeds could be roasted and made into beverage to support the immune response. The young leaves would be placed on babies to keep them healthy and protect from evil influences. The berry was consumed to support immune health, energy, libido, and glycemic balance. A felled Açaí palm tree was also used to attract the Rhynchophorus palmarum beetle, whose edible larvae is rich in protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.

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Traditional Health Benefits of Açaí

Immune Support

What is Açaí Used for?

In the modern western world, the deep purple berries of the Açaí palm are known as a health-promoting superfood rich in free radical scavengers, or antioxidants. The antioxidant capacity of Açaí is thought to be largely delivered through compounds called polyphenols. Anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol, are purple pigmented compounds that are found in dark berries such bilberries, elderberries, and açaí. Açaí berries have been found to have an appreciable amount of anthocyanins, higher than other superfruits like acerola, camu-camu, goji, jambul, and maqui. The consumption of antioxidant rich food is associated with numerous health benefits. In a study done on healthy adults, blood plasma concentrations of anthocyanins were shown to increase 2.3 – 3 fold following consumption of açaí fruit preparation compared to placebo (apple sauce). This increase in plasma concentrations indicates the bioavailability of anthocyanins and their ability to interact with various tissues and organs due to their systemic circulation. In another study done on healthy, overweight men, açaí consumption along with a high-fat morning meal was shown to improve the vascular function by flow-mediated dilatation (FMD), indicating that açaí consumption may support a healthy cardiovascular system. Compounds in açaí other than anthocyanins have also been studied. In an analysis on the bioactivity of flavonoids from açaí berries, the compound velutin was shown to modulate the actions of NF-kB, a type of immune cell, which may support a healthy inflammatory response. A dye prepared from açaí berries is also being investigated as a non-toxic alternative to indocyanine green (ICG), which is utilized to stain thin membranes during optical procedures.

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Active Constituents of Açaí

Flavonoids, Polyphenols (most notably anthocyanins), and phenolic acids such caffeic and ferulic acid

Parts Used

Fruit

Additional Resources

1. Integrated Taxonomic Information System. “Euterpe Oleracea Mart. Taxonomic Serial No.: 50672220.” ITIS Standard Report, 2010, www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN. 2. Engels, Gayle. Herb Profile: Açaí Euterpe oleracea. 2010. HerbalGram Issue #86, page 1. 3. “EUTERPE.” EUTERPE - Greek Goddess Muse of Lyric Poetry, www.theoi.com/Ouranios/MousaEuterpe.html. 4. Duke, J.A & Vasquez. R. Amazonian Ethnobotanical Dictionary. 1994. CRC Press. 5. Towle, A. The Ethnobotany of Pre-Columbian Peru. 1961. Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. New York, NY. 6. Garzón, G. A., Narváez-Cuenca, C.-E., Vincken, J.-P., & Gruppen, H. (2017). Polyphenolic composition and antioxidant activity of açai ( Euterpe oleracea Mart.) from Colombia. Food Chemistry, 217, 364–372. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.08.107 7. Carvalho, Ana Vânia, et al. “Chemical Composition and Antioxidant Capacity of Açaí (Euterpe Oleracea) Genotypes and Commercial Pulps.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, vol. 97, no. 5, 2016, pp. 1467–1474., doi:10.1002/jsfa.7886. 8. Alqurashi, Randah M et al. “Consumption of a flavonoid-rich açai meal is associated with acute improvements in vascular function and a reduction in total oxidative status in healthy overweight men.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 104,5 (2016): 1227-1235. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.128728 9. Caiado, Rafael R et al. “A new dye based on anthocyanins from the acai fruit (Euterpe oleracea) for chromovitrectomy in humans: clinical trial results.” Graefe's archive for clinical and experimental ophthalmology = Albrecht von Graefes Archiv fur klinische und experimentelle Ophthalmologie vol. 257,3 (2019): 517-528. doi:10.1007/s00417-018-04204-y 10. Mertens-Talcott, Susanne U et al. “Pharmacokinetics of anthocyanins and antioxidant effects after the consumption of anthocyanin-rich acai juice and pulp (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) in human healthy volunteers.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 56,17 (2008): 7796-802. 11. Kang, Jie, et al. “Flavonoids from Acai (Euterpe Oleracea Mart.) Pulp and Their Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activities.” Food Chemistry, vol. 128, no. 1, 2011, pp. 152–157., doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2011.03.011. 12. Chang, Sui Kiat, et al. “Superfruits: Phytochemicals, Antioxidant Efficacies, and Health Effects – A Comprehensive Review.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, vol. 59, no. 10, 2018, pp. 1580–1604., doi:10.1080/10408398.2017.1422111.

Important Precautions

If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

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