Why this article? I heard about this fruit at Thursday’s Solution Centre at the Holy Ghost Temple of the International Central Gospel Church(ICGC), Adenta-Fafraha.
In the course of the preaching, the Prophet compared the power of God to the sweetness of this fruit planted by his wife in their house. It drew my attention to this fruit in the good old days in the village.
Since my writings are based on inspiration, I decided to explore the scientific aspects of this fruit.
This fruit is known as Miracle berries and they are well known in Ghana. It has different names such as Asaa or Asawa (Akan); Taami (Ga) and Ledidi (Ewe).
The scientific name is Synsepalum dulcificum, a bright red berry about the size of a coffee bean (Hudson et al. 2018; Akinmoladun et al. 2020). The popularity of this berry goes beyond the shores of Ghana and can also be found in Congo, Nigeria, etc due to the sweetness of the taste and potential medicinal benefits (Hudson et al. 2018; Akinmoladun et al. 2020; Shi et al. 2016; de Cedrón et al. 2020; Jeremiah et al. 2015). I, herein examine the scientific benefits of this fruit planted by the Prophet in his house.
Why ‘miracle fruit?’
In the course of the studies, I found that the aforesaid fruit is also called the miracle plant, plant berry, and red berry. The common being miracle fruit. I found that the aforesaid fruit contains
miraculin, a type of glycoprotein, a protein with sugar molecules attached to amino acids (Hudson et al. 2018; Akinmoladun et al. 2020; de Cedrón et al. 2020; Tsabang et al. 2016).
In the course of the preachings, the Prophet said, the aforesaid fruit is sweet that even if you eat something bitter the aforesaid fruit can convert the bitterness into sweetness.
In the service, I was thinking about what could make this fruit act like that. In the course of my studies, I found that the active ingredient miraculin binds to taste receptors that are near the sweet receptor sites in your mouth, sweetening the taste of sour or acidic foods, such as vinegar, lemons, pickles, and mustard ((Hudson et al. 2018; Akinmoladun et al. 2020; Shi et al. 2016; de Cedrón et al. 2020; Jeremiah et al. 2015). The taste that changes last for about 30 minutes, or until they’re diluted by saliva ( Hudson et al. 2018; Shi et al. 2016).
Miracle fruit acting as dietary uses
Due to the ability to alter bitter or sour products into sweetness, this fruit is used by food manufacturers as an ingredient. A study by Hudson et al. (2018) found that it contains an orange-red hue that can be used as a food coloring agent for sugar solutions and carbonated beverages.
However, Akinmoladun et al.( 2020) explained that the fruit doesn’t further sweeten foods that are already sweet, such as chocolate, in addition to making predominantly sour foods sweeter, it improves the flavor of less sour foods like tomatoes and strawberries.
Two studies explained that miraculin’s ability to improve bitter flavours or foods makes it an ideal low-calorie replacement for sugar, and can be used in weight-management products (Shi et al. 2016; de Cedrón et al. 2020). In Ghana, it has been found that this fruit can sweeten sour foods and beverages, such as kenkey, Koko, and palm wine (Akinmoladun et al. 2020).
Miracle fruit in traditional medicine
Traditional healers use all parts of the miracle fruit plant especially the leaves in traditional medicine.
For instance, it has been established that in Benin, the leaves are used to treat diabetes, hyperthermia, and enuresis (bedwetting). In Nigeria, to manage diabetes, asthma, weight, treat cancer, and male infertility (Akinmoladun et al. 2020). In Tanzania and Malaysia, the leaves are used in postnatal care (Akinmoladun et al. 2020).
The root of the miracle fruit is used to treat tuberculosis and cough and increase sexual potency in Benin. Nigerians also use it to treat gonorrhea (Akinmoladun et al. 2020 ).
In Congo and Benin, the bark can be used to treat erectile dysfunction and alleviate symptoms of prostate diseases (Akinmoladun et al. 2020).
Health benefits of miracle fruit
Cedrón et al.(2020) conducted animal studies and found that the miracle fruit could reduce metabolic stress related to conditions like obesity, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.
Manage blood sugar levels
Some three studies in rats(Akinmoladun et al. 2020; Jeremiah et al. 2015; Shi et al. 2016) found
that both the leaves and fruit of the plant could increase insulin production and sensitivity, hence managing blood sugar management.
Also when rats were treated with miracle fruit plants they showed improved blood sugar management and immune response. In this study, rats with diabetes had greater improvements in blood sugar levels after they were given miracle fruit treatments as compared to the metformin they received, (Akinmoladun et al. 2020; Shi et al. 2016). Though, we are yet to see how the studies would do on humans.
Some two studies (Akinmoladun et al. 2020; Cedrón et al. 2020) found that miracle fruit plants are rich in flavonoids and terpenoids, and thus could have cancer-preventing properties.
These studies were done in vitro studies and found that the antioxidants in miracle fruit could decrease the spread of cancer cells, such as colorectal area.
The researchers also found that parts of the miracle fruit plant are rich in episyringaresinol, an antioxidant that slows the aging process and could avert skin cancer. We still waiting for human studies.
The researchers also found that chemotherapy patients experiencing changes in taste due to chemotherapy could be saved by eating this fruit to help them eat more.
Improve symptoms of gout
Two studies in the Lab and animals, (Akinmoladun et al. 2020; Shi et al. 2016) further explained that extracts of the miracle fruit plant could improve blood uric acid levels, which can cause gout when they’re too high. Therefore, it may serve as a potential treatment for gout. In the case of Shi et al. ( 2016), they found that miracle fruit could help improve blood uric acid levels more efficiently than allopurinol, a drug commonly prescribed to treat gout.
In the case of Shi et al.(2016) using mouse study compared the effects of miracle fruit extract with those of allopurinol. It was established that allopurinol shows some side effects, such as renal toxicity, but the miracle fruit extract did not.
The miracle fruit extract lowered blood uric acid levels without affecting organs, such as the liver and kidneys, and did not show any signs of toxicity. The researchers were shocked to see how this fruit was able to achieve such a feat as compared to pharmaceutical drugs and called for further research though human studies are needed.
A controlled study examines the anticonvulsant potential of miracle fruit and found that antioxidant-rich parts of the seed could protect against death and reduce recovery time after a seizure (Akinmoladun et al. 2020; Jeremiah et al. 2015). Research in humans is needed.
Safety and precautions
Two studies (Świa̧der et al. 2019; Cedron et al. 2020) explained that miraculin is recognized as a food additive by the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare and classified as a novel or new food in the European Union, and the United States is yet to approve.
Though the miracle fruit plant may reduce blood sugar levels, it should be used with caution in people at risk of experiencing low blood sugar levels, such as those with diabetes.
The bottom line
Studies in the lab and animals have found the many scientific benefits of this miracle fruit plant. It has been used in traditional medicine and food manufacturing companies. It can convert bitter or sour foods into sweet ones and help chemotherapy patients to even eat more. We need more research in humans, and individuals with diabetes should use miracle fruit plant products and supplements with caution, as they may reduce blood sugar levels.
NB:Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups. My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.
The author is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare and President of Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation. E-mail: [email protected]