Camu-camu is a low-growing shrub found throughout the Amazon rainforest, mainly in swampy or flooded areas. It grows to a height of about 6-8 feet. It has large, feathery leaves and produces round, light orange to red green colored fruits about the size of lemons, which are high in Vitamin C. Usually, camu-camu fruit is wild-harvested in the rainforest in canoes because the fruits mature at high water or flooding seasons in the Amazon.
HERBAL MEDICINE USES
Camu-camu has never been documented as a traditional herbal remedy for any condition in the Amazon region. In fact, it was not widely eaten as a fruit by the indigenous people, due to its sour, acidic taste. In recent years, the fruits have become popular in Iquitos, Peru, where they are made into drinks and ice creams.
Camu-camu fruit has the highest recorded amount of natural vitamin C known. Oranges provide 500-4,000 ppm vitamin C; acerola has tested in the range of 16,000 to 172,000 ppm. Camu-camu provides up to 500,000 ppm, or about 2 grams of vitamin C per 100 grams of fruit. In comparison to oranges, camu-camu provides thirty times more vitamin C, ten times more iron, three times more niacin, twice as much riboflavin, and 50% more phosphorus. Camu-camu is also a significant source of potassium, providing 711 mg per kg of fruit. It also has a full complement of minerals and amino acids that can aid in the absorption of vitamin C. Alpha-pinene and d-limonene -- compounds known as terpenes -- predominate as the volatile compounds in this fruit.
As with any vitamin C-rich fruit, however, the time between harvesting and consumption is crucial; the fruit may lose up to a quarter of its vitamin C content in less than a month (even if frozen). Even with this loss, camu-camu still has a dramatic edge over its next challenger, acerola, for vitamin C content.
In addition to the chemicals mentioned above, camu-camu contains beta-carotene, calcium, leucine, protein, serine, thiamin, and valine.
BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES AND CLINICAL RESEARCH
There has been no research conducted or published on any medicinal or therapeutic properties of camu-camu. However, there are a few herbal supplement companies in the United States marketing camu-camu extracts in powders and pills and alluding to claims of its benefits-from curing viral infections and colds/flu and cold sores and autoimmune disorders to even weight loss. There is some research suggesting high dosages of vitamin C offer a benefit for various illnesses and conditions, yet even some of those studies are controversial. And, remember, this research is on vitamin C, not on camu-camu specifically.
Camu-camu is a great source of natural vitamin C. In addition, it comes with many other naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that may well help with the absorption and efficient uptake of vitamin C. This is thought to be superior to just taking an ascorbic acid tablet alone.
CURRENT PRACTICAL USES
Some of the extraordinary medicinal properties of this Amazon rain forest fruit are described by Gary Null, Ph.D., a nationally known nutritionist and researcher. In discussing the holistic treatment of depression he lists 19 plants containing chemical compounds with antidepressant properties. In order of potency, Camu camu is listed second in effectiveness. Some have been able to gradually wean themselves off of their anti-depression prescription medication (such as Zoloft and Prozac) under medical supervision and substitute camu camu powder with no relapse into depression. Although the amount taken varies for different people, some have taken, on an empty stomach, 1/2 teaspoon of camu camu powder in a glass of water four times daily. Others have taken one tsp. either once or twice daily. One alternative health care provider in New York City has had twenty patients on Zoloft and Prozac gradually wean themselves off these medications while taking camu camu and they have succeeded in avoiding depression. Good results have also been noted for patients who are anxious, talkative, and those with panic attacks.
The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information is intended for education and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease.