Graviola trees, one of the little known victims of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year, are starting to recover in the Virgin Islands.
Both hurricanes raked the Caribbean during the 2017 hurricane season as they tracked west and then eventually northward. They decimated the Virgin Islands, flattening both manmade infrastructure and natural elements on the island, including trees.
“The hurricanes destroyed a lot of the graviola trees that grow here in the islands, but they are coming back.” said Kary Gould, owner of the website Freshgraviola.com.
The trees, which grow wild in the Virgin Islands, are notable because their fruit and leaves have long been used in natural medicine applications. Generations of Caribbean islanders and South American natives, who live in the tropical zones where the trees grow, consume graviola leaves as tea and eat the pulp of the graviola fruit (which is also called soursop and Brazilian pawpaw) or use it to make Viamin C loaded smoothies.
Gould’s company hand harvests graviola leaves from wild trees, air dries them, and ships them to the U.S. and internationally. Many of his customers consume graviola tea, a natural food that may aid in a strategy to fight cancer.
Besides earning a reputation among indigenous populations as a natural health tool, medical lab research has also shown that graviola extracts can be used against cancer, while leaving healthy cells unaffected. A 1997 lab research study conducted by researchers at Purdue University showed that graviola extracts can kill tumor cells.