A reader recently asked me this in a chat:
What are the proven medicinal benefits of Acerola berry?
I’ve written previously about the health benefits of acerola here, but here’s a more detailed answer about the proven medicinal benefits of Acerola, or lack thereof.
Proven Nutrients, Unproven Health Benefits
The truth is that there is next to nothing to suggest that Acerola is especially adept at treating a particular symptom or ailment. It’s well established that the berry is extremely good for you, but there’s no link between Acerola and condition X the way there is between Milk thistle and liver health or ginkgo biloba and memory enhancement. (Maybe).
The berry has only been used commercially for about 10-15 years and based on its nutrient profile there’s a good reason to believe it could do some remarkable things for your body, but it’s all heresay at the moment.
What Is Known About Acerola
Acerola is an amazonian berry that is fairly similar to acai, but for some reason doesn’t get the same amount of publicity. Not sure why. It might be a more powerful antioxidant, has a very high phenolic content and is one of the most potent sources of vitamin C on the planet. Young acerola can be almost 8% vitamin C by weight, which is almost 40x as much as an orange!
Some of the phenolic compounds found in Acerola include proanthocyanidin, (?)-epigallocatechin gallate, and (?)-epicatechin. These compounds are similar to compounds found in other purple foods, berries, and green tea, all of which have shown to have unique healing properties.
So it’s very reasonable to expect acerola to promote healing…….but you just can’t say for what, besides the generic claims like it might help your body improve its immune system, scavenge free radicals, etc.
The Difference Between Vitamin C and Acerola
When thinking about the potential health benefits of Acerola it’s important to differentiate between those that come from compounds that are unique to Acerola and those that come from its high vitamin C content.
The vitamin C in Acerola is absorbed very well, but the health benefits of ascorbic acid don’t differ from one food or the other and it’s not a scarce nutrient. When’s the last time you heard of someone suffering from scurvy?
Vitamin C is also cheap, and there’s really no need to spend extra money getting your vitamin C from Acerola as opposed to anywhere else in your diet.
Should You Buy An Acerola Supplement?
If you’re thinking about buying an Acerola supplement you have two choices. You can either buy vitamin C that’s been derived from Acerola cherry or you can buy Acerola powder that’s simply a condensed form of the fruit.
The vitamin C from Acerola can come in either a powder or pill form and is usually slightly more expensive than typical vitamin C tablets. There is no harm in taking more vitamin C than you need, but the vitamin C in Acerola is no different than the kind you would find in any other food.
Buying acerola powder will allow you to digest the polyphenols and antioxidants which are unique to Acerola, but it’s not cheap. The berry only grows in latin america and one pound of acerola powder will typically run more than $30.
What To Look For In Acerola Powder, Where To Buy
The nutrients in Acerola are very fragile. The phenolic and vitamin C concentration in Acerola is typically highest when the fruit is immature and has a green appearance. Many of the more interesting foodstuffs in this fruit are heat sensitive and degrade easily, so you’ll want to buy acerola that’s spray dried and harvested during peak season.
For this reason I’d recommend Mountain Rose Herbs to someone looking to buy fresh acerola powder. They pay close attention to their suppliers and their acerola isn’t heat treated.
Here are the prices for different serving sizes:
4 oz: $10.25
8 oz: $17.75
16 oz: $31
Another option is to purchase a greens powder or other superfood concoction that has acerola in it. The dosages will be much smaller but it’ll make acerola a much more affordable part of your daily diet. The ingredient isn’t especially unique in greens formulas and can be found in Amazing Grass, Dr. Schulze’s formula, and Incredible Greens, among others.