Sweet Sop

Sweetsop is a very popular fruit found in markets all over the world. The rind is thick and knobbly, but inside the creamy flesh is juicy and sweet with a minty or custardy flavour. Itís sometimes called a custard apple, a name also given to the much larger fruit of a closely related species, Annona reticulata. It is always eaten fresh, never cooked, and may be added to icecream or milk to make a cool drink.

The hard shiny seeds are poisonous, and must not be chewed. A paste of the seed powder will apparently kill headlice, but must be kept away from the eyes as it is highly irritating and can even cause blindness.

In some countries, they pound and powder the seeds and dried fruits to make a fish poison or insecticide. In Mexico, the leaves are rubbed on floors, and put in henís nests, to repel lice. Oil from the seeds has also been used against agricultural pests.

The seed oil has been proposed as a substitute for peanut oil in the manufacture of soap: it is toxic, but can be detoxified by an alkali treatment and used for edible purposes. Oil from the leaves is occasionally used in perfumes, giving a woody spicy accent.

Sweetsop appears in many traditional remedies. Throughout tropical America, a tea of the leaves is drunk for menstrual problems, fever and as a general digestive tonic, a cold remedy or to clarify the urine. The leaf extract is also used in baths to soothe rheumatic pain.

The very astringent green fruit bark and roots are all used against diarrhoea. The root is a particularly powerful purge, used for dysentery and other ailments.

In lab texts, bark extract appears to be active against prostate cancer cells.

In India, the crushed leaves are sniffed to overcome hysteria and fainting spells and put on ulcers and wounds. A leaf decoction is taken for dysentery. The crushed ripe fruit, mixed with salt, is applied on tumours.