Soursop

Soursop leaves have an important place in traditional medicine and the Caribbean, Central and South America, although different from the uses Sloane recorded. A tea of the leaves is used to soothe nerves and high blood pressure brought on by them. Itís also taken for flu and fevers and a host of digestive problems.

Fresh leaves give a good nightís sleep. In the Antilles, they are put into a pillowslip or strewn on the bed, or drunk in tea before bed. Mashed leaves are used to soothe inflammations and heal sores and wounds. And, interestingly, rubbing the head with leaves and water is said to sober up a drunk.

The leathery green fruit of the soursop can be found in markets across the tropics. It has a delicious white creamy pulp with a slight smell of pineapple, and lots of black seeds. Scooped from the rind, the flesh can be eaten fresh, or pulped and turned into icecream. Its creamy juice makes a refreshing drink mixed with sugar and water or milk.

A fermented, cider-like drink is also sometimes made, and unripe, sour fruits can be eaten as vegetables.

An infusion of leaves, some pounded seeds or seed oil, are all said to kill head lice and bedbugs, as well as being a good general pesticide. The bark, seeds and roots have been used as fish poison.

The fruit is typically oval or heart-shaped and can weight up to 6.8 kilogrammes. Itís covered with a leathery, inedible bitter skin with stubby, soft, pliable spines. Their tips break off easily when the fruit is fully ripe. The pulp inside may contain 30-200 smooth black-brown seeds, which are slightly toxic.

Chemicals in the leaves, seeds and stem have been shown to kill certain cancer cells, while leaving healthy dividing cells alone. There are also claims of antiviral properties.