‘Mstafeli’ potential cancer cure

Traditional and alternative medicine experts from Tanzania have raised caution on the excitement being generated over the Internet on the use of the soupsop (mstafeli) or graviola fruit (Annona) in the treatment of cancer over chemotherapy pending scientific research.


An expert from the Institute of Traditional Medicine at the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences – Department of Medical Botany, Plant Breeding and Agronomy, Dr Joseph Otieno exclusively told the ‘Daily News on Saturday’ that it wasn’t the first time this issue of Annona vesus cancer had appeared online and wouldn’t be the last.

Graviola is a small, upright evergreen tree, 5–6 m high, with large, glossy, dark green leaves. It produces a large, heart-shaped, edible fruit that is 15–20 cm in diameter and green in colour, with white flesh inside.

Literature from a number of tribes worldwide cite that the fruit and fruit juice are taken for worms and parasites, to cool fevers, to increase mother’s milk after childbirth and as an astringent (drying agent) for diarrhoea and dysentery. “I and colleagues at the Institute of Traditional Medicine published a paper on unti larvi activity of the leaves.

Dr Esther Innocent of ITM has been working on the leaves of Annona spp broadly against mosquito larvi,” he revealed. Dr Otieno said that Dr Innocent’s generalisation is that the leaves are poisonous to some aquatic organisms and that this toxicity just corresponds to some unti-cancer plants reported so far. He stressed, however, that this can only be proven after scientific research and that if no one has done this, then the ITM, NIMR and others can engage in this seriously and immediately for the relief of many suffering from the widespreading episode.

The Acting Assistant Director, Traditional Medicine section in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Paulo Mhame said that evidence from different sources show that it is the leaves which are active and not the fruit as most people think of it. Dr Mhame said that he concurred with other experts that there was crucial need to do research on the plant and fruit but admitted to his dismay that the fact that the type of research was part of tradition medicine, many researchers tend not have interest.

“I can put my last shilling on the fact that no one in the country has attempted to do any research, my hopes and prayers lie with the Institute of Traditional Medicine and the National Institute of Medical Research,” he said.

A veteran cancer expert closely associated with the Ocean Road Cancer Institute who preferred not to be named, said that the reports floating online that soursop fruits are 1000 times effective than chemography were not true and not backed by scientific research.

The source said that all there was in the fruit was a lot of sugar and that nothing was known for its medicinal value and thus the dire need for research to be conducted to answer the many questions that surround this plant.

“The Internet has so much literature on this plant but the authors for some reason forget to say which type of cancer it treats taking into consideration that there are over 100 types,” the source cited. The expert said that over the years she had read and garnered a lot of interest in the fruit and plant but said that unless something can be extracted from the bark, leaves and fruits and tested in a lab and show findings, talk would remain talk.

The source said that the biggest problem surrounding traditional and alternative medicine and indigenous knowledge was the fact that people simply wanted to pass the knowledge to members of the family and others are too stingy to share with others. “Cancer treatment today relies heavily on the use of extracts from bark, leaves and fruits.

Tanzania and Africa as a whole have thousands of medicinal plants and are gifted with the right seasons and climates, let’s work together, share information for the benefit of mankind,” the expert voiced. According to a recent article entitled ‘Cancer cure: Soursop shows strong evidence in studies that appeared on the Collective Evolution website, graviola is not just a cancer treatment, it has also displayed anti-parasitic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic and cytotoxic properties.

The article cited that research done in over 20 laboratory tests by one of America’s largest drug manufacturers suggests that the tree compounds proved to be up to 10,000 times stronger in slowing the growth of cancer cells than Adriamycin, a commonly used chemotherapeutic drug. “What’s more, unlike chemotherapy, the compound extracted from the Graviola tree selectively hunts down and kills only cancer cells. It does not harm healthy cells,” the article read in part.

By MASEMBE TAMBWE, Tanzania Daily News

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