How would you deal with pain, say from a headache? Chances are you would reach for an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen to get fast relief. Now, this relief may be immediate but it comes at a price. Popping such medicines to manage your everyday pains and aches and even your chronic ones can have long-term negative effects on your body.
Generally, pain and swelling are the signs of inflammation – which is how your immune system naturally responds to wounds, infections or any tissue damage; and no injury, big or small, would ever heal without it.
You want inflammation when you want healing or to fight back bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. In short, it is good and it is important. Yet you don’t want inflammation to take root in your body. It should disappear the moment your body is done dealing with harmful triggers and when healing is achieved. And that is when chronic inflammation sets in. It is believed to be the root cause of many diseases – including arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and asthma. It is also associated with the onset of cancer.
The word you may want to pay attention to is ‘chronic’ because short term or acute inflammation is a normal part of healing, repair and renewal mechanisms in the body. We have discussed both acute and chronic inflammation in one of our previous articles, Inflammation: Is it Good or Bad?
Conventional methods to treat inflammation
Much of the conventional methods to manage inflammation and pain involve using harsh anti-inflammatory drugs – linked with adverse side effects if used over prolonged periods. For example, NSAIDs are used to treat arthritis (inflammation of one or more joints) and statins are prescribed to lower raised cholesterol levels (cause primarily by inflammation in the arteries). Chronic inflammation of the airways that can trigger asthma and associated symptoms is usually treated with steroids.
In many cases, anti-inflammatory medicines are often the best strategy and are potentially lifesaving; for example, to prevent heart attack or to manage acute asthma attacks for immediate relief. But the problem is the cavalier attitude both patients and doctors have towards use of such medications. Result? You end up interfering with the body’s natural healing and self-repair mechanism. In addition, you are putting a toxic load on liver, kidneys and the gut – leading to liver toxicity, kidney damage, ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. Along the way, it also impairs the body’s natural detoxification process – putting further strain on your immune system and triggering more inflammation.
Can you do anything to treat inflammation naturally? Scientists have investigated how certain components in foods might help reduce inflammation. That brings us to the miraculous yet lesser known Graviola.
What is Graviola?
Graviola is a rainforest tree usually grown in tropical forests across Southeast Asia, Africa, Central America and South America. It is known by different names in different languages; for example, it is called Soursop in English, Guanábana in Spanish and Lakshman phal in Hindi. It also goes by the name Brazilian Paw Paw and in Australia it is known as Custard Apple.
Nearly all parts of Graviola tree – including the delicious fruit, leaves, bark, roots and seeds – offer amazing health benefits. Native people are known to use Graviola to prevent and manage a wide spectrum of diseases such as fever, insomnia, bacterial and viral infections, arthritis, diabetes and wound healing. People use it in many interesting ways. It can be eaten as a fruit, or as tea by boiling the leaves and as crushed seeds to apply externally. Graviola can also be used as a supplement.
Graviola is a strong anti-inflammatory
Graviola is loaded with a variety of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and bio-active compounds. This fantastic constitution lends the fruit as well as other parts of the tree incredible healing, pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
Graviola is rich in acetogenins – natural compounds that deserve a special mention. Acetogenins are unique phytochemicals that gives Graviola an edge in destroying cancer cells. More importantly, Graviola is known to selectively isolate and destroy cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells alone. These powerful compounds can even target drug-resistant cancer cells, according to the emerging research in this field. It is the acetogenins that gives Graviola its anti-inflammatory, pain relieving and anti-oxidant characteristics.
A 2010 study published in the "International Journal of Molecular Sciences  suggested that Graviola leaves may significantly help in alleviating pain and swelling. It concluded that leaves of Graviola shows “anti-inflammatory activities, suggesting a potential for therapeutic purposes.”
The bio-active compounds in Graviola also help to strengthen the immune system. This 2016 research article published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine clearly reports that “bioactive properties of Graviola indicate its potential as a health-promoting ingredient to boost the immune system.” 
Rheumatism and arthritis pain: A study published in Planta Medica showed that Graviola has remarkable anti-arthritic activities “that may be mediated by suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines.” 
Graviola tea, made from the leaves, is known to provide relief in inflammation that usually results in mild to excruciating pain and swelling in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Graviola oil has been used externally to manage neuralgia, rheumatism and arthritis pain.
Sinus inflammation: Inflammation in sinuses can cause mucus to build up in the respiratory tract, blocking these hollow cavities present around the nasal passages. Blocked sinuses often lead to frustrating and uncomfortable symptoms such as nasal congestion, persistent cough, headaches; and dull to severe pain in upper jaws, either side of the nose and even between your eyes. Graviola tea can help the excessive mucus to drain away from the airways, which helps a lot in alleviating associated symptoms.
Wound healing and relieving pain: Graviola leaves are widely used in folk medicine to treat skin diseases and abscesses. Now modern research also shows that Graviola leaves can help speed up the wound healing process and reduce typical signs of inflammation such as redness, pain and swelling around the damaged tissue. 
- Orlando Vieira de Sousa, Glauciemar Del-Vechio Vieira, José de Jesus R. G. de Pinho, Célia Hitomi Yamamoto, and Maria Silvana Alves. Antinociceptive and Anti-Inflammatory Activities of the Ethanol Extract of Annona muricata L. Leaves in Animal Models. International journal of molecular sciences. 2010; 11(5): 2067–2078.
- Goon-Tae Kim et al. Immunomodulatory Efficacy of Standardized Annona muricata (Graviola) Leaf Extract via Activation of Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Pathways in RAW 264.7 Macrophages. Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 2905127
- Chan P., Ah R., Mh K. Anti-arthritic activities of Annona muricata L. Leaves extract on complete freund’s adjuvant (CFA)-induced arthritis in rats. Planta Medica. 2010;76:P166. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1264464.
- Moghadamtousi SZ, Rouhollahi E, Hajrezaie M, Karimian H, Abdulla MA, Kadir HA. Annona muricata leaves accelerate wound healing in rats via involvement of Hsp70 and antioxidant defence. International journal of surgery (London, England). 2015 Jun;18:110-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2015.03.026.