Everyone's favorite doctor recently praised camu camu on his blog, writing that " A little berry from South America might just be our missing fountain of youth." That's big acclaim for the tiny camu camu berry! What is it about camu camu that has the good doctor swooning? This Amazonian berry packs the highest record of natural vitamin C known on the planet, plus a host of other vitamins, mineral, and beneficial phytonutrients.
Camu Camu for Beautiful Skin
As the highest known source of vitamin C on the planet, camu camu is going to be a powerful friend for your skin. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is key in the production of collagen. Collagen is a protein that aids in the growth of cells and blood vessels, and gives skin its firmness and strength. Around the age of 25, collagen production begins to decrease, leading to the wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin that we associate with aging. Vitamin C also helps create scar tissue and ligaments, and plays a role in the skin's ability to repair itself. Lastly, vitamin C is a known antioxidant that can slow the rate of free-radical damage that can damage collagen and cause skin dryness and wrinkles.
Fifty-three different phenolic compounds have been detected in camu camu, including ellagic acid and proanthocyanidins. Ellagic acid has been studied for its effect on cancer for years, with early published research first appearing in the 1970s and 1980s. According to the American Cancer Society, "Research in cell cultures and laboratory animals has found that ellagic acid may slow the growth of some tumors caused by certain carcinogens... It has been found to cause cell death in cancer cells in the laboratory."
Potent Anti-Inflammatory Properties
In one study, 20 male smoking volunteers were assigned to take either camu camu juice or vitamin c tablets daily for 7 days. The amount of vitamin c in the camu camu juice was equal to the vitamin C in the tablets. After 7 days, the camu camu group showed significant decreases in oxidative stress and inflammatory markers, compared to the vitamin C group which showed no change. The conclusion of this study was that camu camu may have powerful antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties compared to vitamin C tablets containing the equivalent vitamin C content.
Anti-Obesity and Anti-Diabetic Action
In another study, the antiobesity action of camu camu was studied on rats with diet-induced obesity. In this study, obese rats were given camu camu pulp for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the animals that received camu camu reduced their weights of fat, glucose, total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL ("bad" cholesterol), and insulin blood levels, while increasing HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels, compared to a control group that received no camu camu. The result of the study showed that camu camu pulp was able to improve the biochemical profile of obesity in rats, suggesting that this fruit can be further used as a functional food ingredient in control of chronic diseases linked to obesity.
The ellagic acid found in camu camu has also been found to slow the rate of glucose (sugar) entry into the bloodstream following a meal.
More Benefits of Camu Camu
Gary Null is a Ph.D., and author of the Clinician's Handbook of Natural Healing. In this book, Dr. Null lists 19 plants which contain anti-herpetic phytochemicals, and camu camu tops that list. He also places camu camu in the number two spot on his list of natural remedies for depression.
Camu camu is a source of valine, leucine, and serine: amino acids needed in the body. Valine is used to prevent muscle breakdown, and is needed for nervous system and cognitive function, leucine is needed for bone tissue growth and the production of growth hormones, and serine is a digestive enzyme that helps to break down protein.
How to Use Camu Camu
Camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) is a low growing shrub that is found in the Amazonian rainforest, so you will not likely find it from a local farmers market. Most people find camu camu that has been freeze-dried and powdered, and incorporate it into smoothies or stir it into yogurts. Camu camu has a tart and tangy flavor that will mix well with other citrus fruits and berries in your favorite superfood smoothies. In Peru, camu camu is a popular flavor of drinks and ice creams. Try adding camu camu powder to freshly squeezed lemon juice, water, and berries, and sweeten with Stevia for a refreshingly tart camu camu berry lemonade.
There have been no reported side effects of camu camu use at this time, but be aware that there is a recommended daily amount of vitamin C that is considered safe to take. The safe upper limits of vitamin C for adults is 2,000 mg a day, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Taking too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps, and can be damaging to people who suffer from hemochromatosis. Vitamin C may also interact with cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. If you are considering using camu camu, vitamin C, or any other supplement for medical reasons, it is advised that you speak to your medical practitioner first.
Melissa Zimmerman, Live Superfoods