Euterpe oleracea (Acai)

Article by: Hareepriyaw Munipalli

About: The plant Euterpe oleracea Martius is commonly called as Acai. It belongs to the family Palmae of the subdivision Monocotyledons.

Habitat: Acai mostly grows in the open forests of the Amazon River floodplain. The floodplain soils are considered to be rich in nutrients as they are periodically flooded. It appears to be growing well in the good drainage waters rather than in standing waters. This plant grows in places of altitude lesser than 500meters and thrives at its best in the optimum temperature of 26 degrees C. In higher parts of the flood plain of Amazon basin, Acai is spread as nearly 9720 trees in one hectare. Even in dry soils, the density of Acai reaches around 4000 to 7000 trees per one hectare.

Appearance: Acai plant is a slender, clustered and unarmed palm tree. It usually grows 12 to 18 cm tall with the diameter of 10 to 15 cm. The roots of this plant were found to be extending 5m from the ground downward. The pinnate leaves are arranged in 8 to 14 in number in a single crown with leaf sheaths. Leaves are petiolate and possess regularly arranged leaflets. Inflorescence is seen growing from below the leaves and it is pedunculate. Cream colored male and female flowers are seen in the inflorescence, which appears in about 6 to 8 times in a year. Hence, flowering and fruiting happening almost all through the year.

Fruit: Acai fruits are produced as 4 to 8 bunches per year by a single adult trunk. The pulp of a mature fruit consists of 38 to 59 % of water. The fresh weight of the fruit comprises of 7 to 13 percent of fats, 2.5 to 3 % of proteins, one to 25 percent of sugars, 18 % of fibers, 0.03 to 0.17percent of calcium, and 0.05 to 0.26 % of phosphorus. This fruit also consists of iron oxides and sulfur oxides. Acai fruit pulp is also known to be consisting of thiamine and beta carotene.

Image courtesy of Eli Duke

Benefits of Acai:

Acai berry fruits contribute to a healthy, natural diet as they are rich in anti-oxidants. They stimulate natural healing process in the body by stopping the development of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

A compound called ellagic acid present in the Acai berries prevents carcinogens like nitrosamines from binding to the DNA and causing cancer. Consuming these berries regularly can prevent us from cancer.

Acai berries consist of anti-oxidants like tannins that are known for their anti-inflammatory activity. Treating inflammation can help preventing chronic illnesses. Acai berries are a rich source of antioxidants like proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins. Proanthocyanidins in this fruit are found to be effective in regulating the production of proteins like elastin and collagen. These two proteins help in keeping the skin free of wrinkles and keep it young.

The tribes of Amazon prepare decoction from acai berry seeds and use it for treating fever, stomach ulcer, malaria, intestinal parasites, diarrhea and liver problems.

Acai berries consist of omega-3, omega-9 and omega-6 fatty acids in oleic and linoleic acids. About 74percent of the fat content in these fruits come from the above-mentioned unsaturated fats. These mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids help in reducing LDL cholesterol and enhance the HDL cholesterol levels that contributes to healthy arteries and a healthy heart. This fruit should not be consumed in excess as it also consists of palmitic acid in moderate quantities.

Acai berries consist of about 30percent of fat which can be used for extracting acai berry oil that is highly beneficial and efficient in skin moisturizing. Acai berry oil is used as an ingredient in many of the body products such as body lotions and nail replenishing oils.

Acai is also found to be a source of photosterols like B-sitosterol, campesterol, and sigmasterol. The maintenance of healthy heart and healthy digestive functioning is managed by the photosterols very well.

About the author: Hareepriyaw Munipalli – graduate in Plant Biotechnology

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