Camu camu is a shrub found in the swamp or flooded areas of the Amazon rainforest and could be the next superfood to hit the North American markets soon. The shrub bears large berries that can look like cherries. These berries turn out to be one of the top vitamin C foods, for they have more of this vitamin in them than any other food source on the planet, sometimes as much as 60 times more vitamin C than an orange! (1)
Camu Camu also comes equipped with a powerful concoction of amino acids like serine, leucine and valine, as well as phytochemicals and minerals that can help a range of maladies in the body. Camu camu has been used for everything from inflammation, gum health and herpes to eye health, mood and more. Animal studies have shown that camu camu has antioxidant and antigenotoxic affects. (2)
Acerola and acai are two superfoods known for their extremely high vitamin C content, but camu camu contains even more vitamin C. Camu camu is fairly new to to the global market, but it’s popularity worldwide is growing. Is it all a bunch of unwarranted hype or is this Amazonian berry truly as super as we think? Let’s see!
Camu Camu Nutrition Background
The camu camu berry comes from the camu camu shrub (Myrciaria dubia) that grows around nine to 14 feet tall. The small tree is in the myrtle (Myrtaceae) family. The shrub is related to the rumberry and guavaberry and produces a yellowish/red fruit that is excessively sour, which is why it is commonly ground into a powder and mixed into other things. The wild shrub can yield around 26 pounds of berries per year.
100 grams of camu camu contains (3):
- 0.4 grams protein
- 0.2 grams fat
- 2145 milligrams vitamin C (3575 percent DV)
- 2.1 milligrams manganese (106 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams copper (10 percent DV)
- 0.5 milligrams iron (3 percent DV)
- 12.4 milligrams magnesium (3 percent DV)
- 15.7 milligrams calcium (2 percent DV)
- 83.8 milligrams potassium (2 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligrams zinc (2 percent DV)
Camu camu also contains 355 micrograms of carotenoids. In camu camu fruits, lutein is the dominating carotenoid along with beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.
5 Health Benefits of Camu Camu
1. Boosts the Immune System
Camu camu has the highest level of vitamin C on the plant. It can have 60 times more vitamin C than an orange and 56 times more than a lemon! Vitamin C has been found to be a powerful immune system booster. Camu Camu helps feed the body the necessary nutrients it needs to properly detoxify and heal. The dense punch of vitamin C from camu camu can also block free radicals and other pathogens from entering the body, thus helping the immune system to run better overall. (4)
2. Improves Liver Health
The powerful cocktail of antioxidants and phytochemicals in camu camu can help fight against disease and malfunction of the liver. The high vitamin C content is especially central to camu camu’s ability to improve liver health. For individuals with liver diseases like cirrhosis the administration of vitamin C has shown positive outcomes. (5)
Research in 2010 showed that animals given camu camu showed significant signs of liver injury suppression. Specifically, an active compound called 1-methylmalate was isolated from camu-camu juice. This study concluded that the 1-methylmalate in camu camu is one of the reasons why it can aid liver health. (6)
3. Enhances Mood
Camu camu’s high levels of vitamin C can help your brain to produce more serotonin, which will enhance your mood — and it’s why camu camu can be a potential remedy for depression. In fact, people who have a deficiency in vitamin C often feel more depressed and lackadaisical. Vitamin C is a cofactor required for the conversion of tryptophan to 5-hydroxytryptophan in serotonin production. Vitamin C may, therefore, be therapeutic for patients with depression associated with low levels of serotonin. (7)
In a study at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, it was shown that many of the patients who had decreased levels of vitamin C reported signs of sluggishness and depression. When given doses of vitamin C, they all responded with rapid and clinically significant improvement in mood. (8)
4. Improves Gum & Heart Health
Camu camu’s powerful antioxidants and antiviral ability can help fight against gum diseases like gingivitis. Studies have shown that antioxidant-rich remedies help reduce free radicals, which are causative inflammatory factors in the progression of gingival and periodontal health problems. (9)
Some gum disease sufferers have seen amazing results from taking two teaspoons of camu camu per day. (10) Having healthy gums is also important since gum health is directly linked with heart health! (11)
Camu camu has been studied for its possible ability to help slow and improve the aging process. Camu camu’s powerful antioxidants like vitamin C has been shown to help with inflammation, particularly in the elderly or those approaching old age. The presence of inflammation can contribute to an accelerated aging process including increased oxidative stress within the body and an increased prevalence of chronic pain.
Camu camu can also have a positive affect on eye issues like macular degeneration, which becomes more common with an increase in age. Camu camu’s combination of vitamin C and other essential nutrients can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and visual acuity loss. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 55 in the Western world and the number of people with age-related macular degeneration is expected to triple by 2025. (12)
Inflammation is a major basepoint for many age-related diseases and issues such as Crohn’s, Alzheimer’s and arthritis. Camu Camu can be considered a new anti-inflammatory food which can help to reduce the inflammation that is at the heart of these serious and chronic health issues, many of which become more likely with age . (13)
How to Use Camu Camu
- Camu camu is usually ingested as a powder added to drinks or mixed with foods like oatmeal and yogurt. It can also be sprinkled on other types of cereals or foods.
- The berry itself is very tart, so powdered versions are popular as supplements to be mixed into drinks and oatmeal to help quell the sourness.
- In addition, you can find camu camu in pill form or as a juice similar to acerola cherry or acai berry. The powder is easiest to find at stores, while the juice is harder to get in person, but is available online.
- Some people also experiment with using the camu camu powder in skin masks because of the brightening effect of vitamin C.
- In recent years, camu camu is being used in ice creams, frozen yogurts, popsicles and other sweets not only for the tart taste, but for its coloring capabilities.
Camu Camu History & Interesting Facts
Camu camu has been used by native Amazonian Indians for generations, but it was not looked at as a food source because of its highly sour taste. The levels of vitamin C in the berry are contingent on the growing region in the Amazon and growing conditions like soil composition and humidity levels.
While there are many ways to get your vitamin C from whole foods, none pack the punch that camu camu does. Recently, camu camu had been found to contain anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are water soluble pigments that may appear red, purple or blue depending on the pH, and they can be used for natural food coloring. (13)
Because of the high levels of vitamin C, camu camu is very sour. For that reason, locals who use the berry for health purposes usually mix the camu camu berries with milk and sugar or sweeten them for use in jams and jellies.
Traditionally, camu camu harvesting occurred directly on the rivers, with locals pulling the berries from the shrubs directly onto their canoes. However, due to the rise in popularity in recent years, over harvesting has become an issue. Prior to the berry entering the global market, many locals in the Amazon used the berry for fish bait and the dead trees for firewood. There are now efforts underway to farm the trees in Brazil and Peru to make camu camu more sustainable.
Camu Camu Precautions
Camu camu is a natural berry and does not cause excessive side effects. However, it has not been studied extensively. Camu camu contains very high amounts of vitamin C, which when taken in large doses can potentially lead to digestive issues like upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, as well as certain kidney issues. Camu camu’s high vitamin C content can particularly affect negatively the digestive system to those people who are susceptible to ulcers.
Camu camu might interfere with some chemotherapy medications so always consult your doctor before taking camu camu if you are receiving treatment for any medical issues like cancer or if any other ongoing health concerns.
Camu Camu Takeaways
- The camu camu berry is extremely tart and can look like a large cherry when picked. It’s typically ground into a powder and mixed with sweeteners or liquids to mask the sour taste.
- Camu camu packs around 50 times more vitamin C, 10 times more iron and three times more niacin than an orange.
- Animal studies have shown that camu camu has antiviral, antioxidant and anti-genotoxic properties.
- Camu camu might help to improve your mood, boost your energy and support your nervous system.
- It is best to stay away from synthetic vitamin C, which is sometimes made from corn syrup from GMO corn.
- Camu camu naturally contains high amounts of vitamin C and this vitamin C can be readily absorbed by the body.
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