Have you ever heard of camu camu? It isn’t well known yet, but it’s thought to be the ‘rising’ superfood.
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Camu Camu, also known as Myrciaria dubia, is a nutrient-dense fruit indigenous to the Amazon Rainforest. The camu camu plant mainly grows in swamps, flood plains, and next to rivers in the western and central regions of the Amazon Basin. Because of the difficulty harvesting this fruit (typically done on canoes), it wasn’t until the 1990s that camu camu became widely exported.
Camu Camu are globular shaped fruits that populate on low-growing shrub trees. The fruits range in color from light orange to purple-red, have yellow pulp, and are about the size of lemon. The fruit is rarely consumed (except by natives) in its natural state due to its high acidity and tart taste.
Camu Camu is known for being a rich source of many bioactive compounds, such as vitamin C, carotenoids, phenolic compounds, and various minerals.
Camu camu is one of the richest sources of vitamin C on the planet. Researchers have found that a fully matured (red stage) camu camu fruit contains about 2010 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams. Amazingly, the vitamin C content in the slightly less ripe (green stage) is 2280 mg per 100 grams. To compare, a glass of orange juice only contains 50mg Vitamin C per 100 grams and the highly regarded acerola berry contains 1,678 mg vitamin C per 100 grams. In other words, in 1 tsp of camu-camu powder, you get around 1180% of the RDA for vitamin C!
Carotenoids are the pigments plants produce to make their rich colors! But, they are also very important to plant health and have numerous health benefits when consumed. Mainly, their antioxidant properties. There are around 355 mg of carotenoids found in camu camu—lutein making up the majority along with beta-caroetene and zeaxanthin.
Camu camu provides a steady amount of all minerals. However, copper and manganese top this list. Per 100 grams, camu camu contains 2.1 mg of manganese (which is 106% of your daily value), and 0.2 mg of copper (about 10% your DV).
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, polyphenols “are abundant micronutrients in our diet, and evidence for their role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases is emerging.” Camu Camu is rich in flavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins, stilbenes, and lignans.
Health or Hype—What Does the Science Say?
As mentioned, the superfood label has become a bit of a marketing scheme in recent years. Camu camu may not be a well-known superfruit, but it does have some claims attached. The question is, can any of these claims actually be backed up? Let’s take a look at whether these claims are true or just a bunch of hype!
Immune boosting: Camu camu is highly marketed as an immune boosting fruit. This is due to its high vitamin C content. There are no specific studies showing that camu camu is immune boosting, but there are many that verify vitamin C is immune boosting. Vitamin C has been shown to boost white blood cell production to ward off pathogens and enhance the action of phagocytes and t-cells—making vitamin C both antibacterial and antiviral. High doses of vitamin C, such as found in camu camu, may be particularly effective in warding off lingering viruses such as Epstein barr and Herpes.
Anti-inflammatory: A few studies have showed some promising results using camu camu as an anti-inflammatory agent. In one study, camu camu was tested against vitamin C tablets in male smokers. The participants either drank 70 ml of 100% camu camu juice (equivalent to 1050 mg vitamin C) or took 1050 mg worth of vitamin C tablets, each for 7 days. After 7 days, the group consuming the camu camu juice had significantly decreased levels of oxidative stress markers and inflammatory makers (CRP, IL-6, IL-8), while there was no change seen in the vitamin C tablet group.
In another study, the anti-inflammatory property of camu camu seeds were tested. In this study, compared to dexamethasone (an oral steroid), methanolic extract from camu camu seeds significantly suppressed the formation of edema in mice. From these results, the researchers concluded that camu camu seed extract is a potentially useful functional food for prevention of immune-related diseases.
Weight loss: In a study involving obese rats, camu camu pulp showed promising antiobesity action. A control group was compared with rats that were fed 25 mL per day of camu-camu pulp. The rats receiving the camu camu reduced their weights of fat in white adipose tissues and experienced lower glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels compared to the control group. The camu camu treated rats also saw an increase in HDL cholesterol. This study has not been evaluated on humans, but this study suggests camu camu may be help control chronic diseases linked to obesity.
Liver protector: Vitamin C has been known to help protect the liver. Studies have show than vitamin C treatment for liver disease has been shown to reduce hepatic markers of oxidative stress. Beyond the vitamin C benefits, studies found camu camu has additional liver protective qualities. This study found that camu camu contains 1-methylmalate, a compound that significantly suppressed liver injury.
Antidepressant: Vitamin C deficiency has often been linked to increased depression. This is most likely due to the fact that vitamin C is needed to produce serotonin (studies show vitamin C is a cofactor required for the conversion of tryptophan to 5-hydroxytryptophan in serotonin production). So, if your depression is due to low levels of serotonin, high levels of vitamin C (such as found in camu camu) may provide therapeutic results.
Other: Basically, the majority of the benefits camu camu is claimed to have is due to the vitamin C content. Other claims associated with camu camu include: anti-aging (both eyes and skin), anti-cancer, regular menstrual cycles, and increased energy. Numerous studies have evaluated these claims and have shown positive results. Since camu camu is the highest food source of vitamin C, it may be a great natural option to try for to these claims.
- The suggested upper limit of vitamin C consumption is 2,000 mg/day (RDA is 65 to 90 mg/day). Because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, excess amounts will be excreted, not accumulated. Therefore, taking too much vitamin C is unlikely to harm you, but it may lead to some unpleasant side effects, such as: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and kidney stones. So, if you start to experience these symptoms, cut back a little on your vitamin C intake.
- Some researchers suggest that high doses of vitamin C can interfere (“blunt the effectiveness”) with chemotherapy. Although, a few studies have shown that high dose IV vitamin C is safe and well tolerated in cancer patients when combined with chemotherapeutic agents. I’d suggest doing research and talking with your physician if you are in this situation.
How to Store
Quality camu camu powder will have a shelf life of at least two years. However, the vitamin C content may begin to decline after about one year of storage. It is best consumed within one year. It is recommended to keep your powder at room temperature or cooler and store in a dry place. Avoid exposure to heat and direct sunlight.
Forms of Camu Camu
When buying camu camu, be sure it is raw, organic, and from the Amazon rainforest, not from china. You can buy camu camu in various forms, but it is seldom found in its original form (berries) except in the Amazon Rainforest.
Camu Camu is most often found in powder form, but can also be bought as capsules or as juice.
Look for high-quality raw, organic camu camu powder sourced from the Amazon, like this one.
The most cost efficient way to take camu camu in pill form is to buy empty vegetable capsules and fill them with the powder. If you aren’t up for that, these capsules by Madre Nature are also raw, organic, and sourced from Peru! Oh, and no fillers!
Camu camu juice is hard to find pure. It is typically found as a blend with other superfoods/berries (that are usually reconstituted) and often contain preservatives. If you want strictly camu camu, you can easily make your own by adding the powder to water, coconut water, or another liquid.
How to Use
Camu camu is most often added to smoothies to give them a nutrient boost. The fruit has a very tart taste, but is slightly less tart in powder form. However, some state the taste, even in powder form, is pretty powerful. I’d suggest starting in small increments until you get used to the flavor! Some people also choose to sprinkle the powder on top of oatmeal or yogurt as you would with other berries.
Camu camu juice (or powder) can also be used to make various sweets! Fruity drinks, ice creams, slushies, cheesecakes, and even cakes! Oh, and mixed with fresh or frozen fruit and coconut water, you can make some wonderful popsicles!
Since camu camu is packed with vitamin C, it is starting to become a popular ingredient in many lotions and skin care products. Make yourself a reviving facemask with yogurt and camu camu or add a bit of camu camu to your moisturizers!
So, is Camu Camu a Superfood?
The overwhelming evidence suggests: YES. Camu camu is an amazing food based source of vitamin C. In fact, a whole lot of vitamin C in a tiny package. Plus, camu camu has other amazing components that are often overlooked. And, the truth is, camu camu is fairly new to the market and all of its amazing benefits have not even been discovered yet! If you’re in need of some vitamin C, I’d move camu camu to the top of your list!
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.