Camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) is a small berry-bearing tree which grows on the riverbanks of Amazon rainforest - in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and some other countries.
This plant has recently made its way into other countries around the world and gained some well-deserved reputation of an excellent all-round tonic for body and mind.
Camu camu berries are exceptionally rich in vitamin C, which is 2g per 100g. Vitamin C gives camu camu its characteristic acidic taste. (Ref. 1) In stark contrast, camu camu has a 30 times higher concentration of vitamin C than oranges. (Ref. 6)
Vitamin C is a very important essential nutrient that is not produced inside our bodies and has to be taken with food. It is a strong anti-oxidant and a whole system cleanser and detoxifier. Taking a liberal dose of vitamin C in one go can deliver an instant boost of energy and may relieve tiredness.
If you have ever taken, say, an effervescent tablet with a high vitamin C content, you may have felt an immediate influx of energy and alertness. But let's see what a typical effervescent tablet contains:
Citric acid, ascorbic acid, acidity regulator (sodium hydrogen carbonate), bulking agent (sorbitol), polyethylene glycol, maltodextrin, sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame K), flavouring, colour (beetroot juice concentrate, riboflavin), acacia gum. ~ By a major supermarket (details publicly available).
At least two of these ingredients - aspartame and acesulfame - are known carcinogens. (Ref. 2 and 3)
Do you really want to pollute your body with these toxins and carcinogens? Or do you prefer to eat a whole plant with vitamin C in its natural food state?
In any case, alternative medicine profession claims that the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) dosage for vitamin C established by the US government at 75mg - 90mg per adult per day (ref. 4) is very low and inadequate and should be much higher than that.
From this point of view, taking superfoods rich in vitamin C sounds like a good way to supplement on this vital nutrient.
Of course, as a whole food, camu camu also offers a wide array of nutrients including valuable anthocyanins and other bioflavonoids. (Ref. 1) You can alternate camu camu with some other nutritious superfoods rich in vitamin C, ex. acai berries.
As a general point of reference, camu camu possesses anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. (Ref. 5)
Compounds Found in Camu Camu Berries
Many chronic medical conditions are caused by an overload of free radicals (or reactive oxygen species) in our systems.
Such an overload is referred to as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress happens when the body is unable to fight free radicals in an efficient manner, and causes inflammation and damage to cell membranes and DNA. This leads to a variety of medical conditions, ex. heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. (Ref. 7)
Antioxidants are chemicals that neutralize free radicals in the body.
Oxidative damage is usually balanced by internally-produced antioxidants. However, more often than not, these antioxidants are produced in insufficient amounts for the body to beat off disease. (Ref. 7) This happens for a number of reasons including an endless number of toxins and other pollutants present in our foods, water and air; processed, cooked or grilled foods that release additional toxins into the body; weakened immune system, and so on.
So, there is a clear need for additional *external* antioxidant protection - the best source for that is, no doubt, the foods that we eat.
Camu camu berries are certainly among the richest food sources of naturally-occurring antioxidants.
We know that:
"Colourful berries are a potentially rich source of many dietary phenolic antioxidants and are believed to play an important role in the prevention of many oxidative and inflammatory diseases. The anthocyanin pigments are responsible for many of the bright fruit and flower colours, and act as strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, with antimutagenic and cancer chemopreventative activities. Anthocyanins often account for much of the phenolic content of these fruits, but flavanols, procyanidins, phenolic acids, and ellagitannins may be the most predominant phenolics in some taxa. Polyphenolic compounds inhibit several oxidative and inflammatory enzymes, and have shown anti-allergenic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antitumor, and antihemorrhagic activities." (Ref. 7)
When scientists performed some chemical tests, at least the following antioxidants were identified in camu camu powder: cyanidin-3-glucoside, delphinidin-3-glucoside, ellagic acid, myricetin, quercetin, quercitrin, rutin. (Ref. 7)
Camu camu hasn't been studied thoroughly yet. We believe that the antioxidants mentioned above, plus potentially hundreds of other ones that haven't been discovered yet, may be the basis behind the health-boosting effects that are widely attributed to camu camu.
How to Take Camu Camu Berries
Camu camu berries are widely available in powdered form. You can add camu camu powder to drinks, smoothies, yogurts and anything else you like. You may want to experiment a little and mix camu camu with other powders, ex. lucuma powder and cacao powder.
Also, you can make your own camu camu capsules using a capsule machine and empty capsules, or buy ready-made capsules.
Camu camu powder is a safe food. However, people with some pre-existing conditions (ex. stomach ulcers) should consult their doctor before taking it.
Written by: Irina Bright
Original publication date: 2013
Republication date: 2020
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