Açai is a nutritious tropical berry from the Amazon Forest, which is increasingly used for a wide range of applications in food, cosmetics, health products, and even in medicine.
The fruit originates from the Amazon Forest, and is now used on a large scale in energy drinks vitamins, food ingredients, and even in toothpaste. The name ‘açai’ comes from the Indian Tupi word ïwasa’i, which means “the fruit that weeps “.
The name açai is linked to an interesting legend. Once upon a time lived a woman named IACA, daughter of an indian chief. Their tribe suffered famine, and the chief decided to kill all newborns to have fewer mouths to feed. IACA became pregnant; her child was slain according to the rules. IACA returned daily to the place where her child was buried. On the grave a palm tree was growing. One day, when the palm had grown to a mature tree, IACA saw her child. She hugged her, but in fact she was embracing the palm tree. She died immediately. IACA was found dead, and the hungry Indians started to eat the fruits of this palm tree. Thereafter they never suffered famine again. As a tribute to his daughter, the chief named the palm tree after her, the name in reverse order: AÇAI.
Açai berries grow on açai palm trees. The scientific name for this palm tree is Euterpe oleracea. The palm trees of the Euterpe genus are quite common in Central and South America, from Belize to Peru. The palm thrives best in wetland areas, including swamps and along river banks. Another palm Euterpe species that is widely known is the Juçara Palm (Euterpe edulis), known for palmite, the soft, white core that is used in salads. The core of the açai palm trees is used in salads. The wood of the açai palm tree is durable, does not rot easily, and is therefore popular as construction material. The seeds of the açai berries are utilized as feed supplement, and as compost.
Açai palm trees grow rapidly, and may reach a height of fifteen to thirty meters. The global demand for açai in the recent years grew explosively as a result of various recent bulletins about the nutritional and health effects of the açai berries. Through the centuries the original indians in the Amazonas and Pará states appreciate the nutritional value of the fruits, for some Indian tribes the berries count for almost the half of their daily diet. The fruit is purple of color, almost black and has the shape of a grape. The açai berries grow in large bunches high in the palm. Each bunch may contain no less than nine hundred berries. The berries consist for a large part of the vast core and only about ten percent of pulp and peel. The berries can be harvested twice a year.
In Brazil, açai berries are mainly used in the food industry. A popular energy bomb is the ‘creme de açai’. Frozen açai pulp is mixed with milk, cereals, and banana (if desired) to a creamy but icy substance. The açai cream is then decorated with cereals and banana slices. One may order a cup of açai cream in many so-called ‘lanchonetes’ (fast food bars) for about one euro. In addition to açai cream, one may find açai soda, energy bars with açai, and even toothpaste with açai flavor.
In Brazil, the berries are traditionally roasted and grounded. The powder was effective to combat fever. Berries also are used to produce oil as a remedy for tuberculosis. Açai is also used for blood clotting and cleansing, and against jaundice, anemia, parasites, diarrhea, diabetes, ulcers, and liver disease. Since they are rich in antioxidants (anthocyanins and flavinoids), it is now assumed that the açai berries carry a positive impact on cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, bacterial infections, cholesterol, urinary tract infections and slowing the aging process. Among many Brazilians açai is also very popular as an aphrodisiac and libido-stimulant.
Outside Brazil, açai pulp extract is increasingly used in food and products that can be applied internally as well as externally. One may think of applications in cosmetic products. Açai as a strong absorbent can be used as retarder of the dermal aging process, softens the skin and may also be beneficial after prolonged exposure of the skin to the sun. Açai also seems to have a positive effect on the health of hair. Recently, products with açai are being offered that promote weight loss. In the United States, a real hype has been created, since media star Oprah Winfrey paid attention to açai products in her TV show. Many websites and companies offer açai products in great numbers at exorbitant prices.
Curiously enough, very little is known about the effects of açai. A simple search in the Entrez database, which contains the links to almost all available scientific publications, bearing the word “acai” gave only 55 entries. Of these 55 are approximately 40 concerning the fruit. With the search term Euterpe oleracea, the scientific name for açai, showed 20 articles. The earliest article dates from 2004, only five years ago. An interesting article demonstrating that açai seems to have growth inhibitory effect on leukemia cells. The expectation is that in the near future more will be known about the beneficial effects of açai. For now, the consumer may continue to enjoy the special taste of this energetic fruit.
chemical composition of açai fruit (Embrapa)
scientific article about the effects of açai upon leukemia cells
article about the nutritive effects of açai, in Oprah Winfrey’s web site
CCN-article about the açai hype, as a weight reduction method..
|Açai – Seus malefícios e benefícios
||Os Beneficios do Açaí,e no que são usados e como são feitos em nosso pais
|Receita de Saúde: Açaí na tigela
||How to make açai bowl brazilian style!
|Açaí with the Kayapo in Brazil
||Colheita de açaí – Amazônia
|Palmito de Açai – Depoimentos
||Açai – Documentário
|“Açaí” – Djavan, en vivo
||Institucional – Açaí Frooty
|Aumenta venda de polpa de Açaí
||Açaí – Super Anti-Oxidante
|Os Super Poderes do Açai
||As propriedades do açaí
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom