The pawpaw tree
is indigenous to several areas of North America (see map).
Some have theorized that it receives its name due to its similar
appearance to the papaya fruit; however, the two fruits are totally
unrelated. Pawpaw is of the scientific family Annonaceae,
which includes several unusual tropical fruits.
There are about eight different species of pawpaw; however it is the
species Asimina triloba that was used by Dr.
Jerry McLaughlin in his research, and it is only this species
that contains the special annonaceous acetogenins that
have been shown to so powerful in fighting insects, cancer
parasites, lice, and other attackers. The pawpaw is a cousin
to the fruit known as graviola, but research has proven that
although graviola has some similar natural chemical compounds, it is
not as desirable or as powerful as Asimina triloba for medical
use. Unfortunately, however, some opportunistic companies will
market graviola as an equal. It is not. (See
comments by Dr. McLaughlin on the difference between graviola and
trees themselves are not large as far as trees go. Some are
about the size of large shrubs, although many grow as high as 25
feet, and sometimes a little more. The fruit itself is about
the size of a large human fist--usually 3-6 inches long-- and is
considered by many to be very tasty. It is often compared to a
combination of some sort of banana, coconut, mango, and possibly
others. One reason that it is not available too often in retail
settings is that it spoils quickly after it is harvested.
However, those who are fortunate enough to find a ripe fruit on a
tree and eat it fresh are usually rewarded with a very pleasant
The fruit is also highly
nutritious--very rich in proteins, good fats, and complex
carbohydrates. It is normally ripe in the fall, usually in
September. The explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
were known to have survived on pawpaw for about a month during their
famous exploratory trip.
As a child, Jerry
McLaughlin ate the fruit and felt that there must be something
biologically active. As a Professor of Pharmacognosy at Purdue
University, he spent over 20 years studying this fruit. He
discovered the presence of a natural chemical in the tree called an
acetogenin. An acetogenin is a long-chained, fatty acid
substance with some very unique properties. Over 400 of these
compounds have been found in nature, many of them by researchers
working with Dr. McLaughlin at Purdue University. In other
parts of the world, researchers have been looking for acetogenins in
other fruits of the same family. However, the double-ringed
features of the powerful acetogenins in the Asimina triloba
have not been found to date in those other fruits.
the acetogenins that are so powerful are not as plentiful in the
fruit as in the twigs of the tree. Also, Dr. McLaughlin found
that the acetogenin levels peaked in the twigs during the month of
May. Just as important, he found the levels of acetogenins
vary even by location of the Asimina triloba
trees. Some groves produce higher levels than others. Thus,
if someone is considering using pawpaw as a treatment, it is not
only important to ensure that the product is from the Asimina
triloba species of pawpaw, but also that the product is
standardized--in other words, the manufacturer uses an
extraction process for the acetogenins and ensures that a guaranteed
set amount (standardized amount) of acetogenins is actually in the
product. At this point, only one manufacturer in the world has the
capability of accomplishing this, partially because Dr. McLaughlin
has licensed his patent and methodology to them.
Due to the unique
characteristics of the acetogenins, they have been used for several
different applications. Read more
about uses of pawpaw.
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