Camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) is a beautiful, fruit-bearing plant native to the flooded areas of the Amazon rainforests. This is a superfruit you should know about! The round, plum-sized fruits contain more vitamin C than oranges and lemons, supporting your immune system. Yet it offers plenty of other health benefits! Camu camu and its powerful polyphenols also promote healthy aging and longevity, heart health, and weight loss.
Besides having one of the highest vitamin C content of any fruit on the planet, camu camu has an incredible nutrient profile. High in flavonoids, anthocyanins, and polyphenols, from quercetin to betulinic acid, you can’t go wrong with this fruit.
So just what is camu camu, where does it come from, and just how does it help in these health-boosting ways? Read on for more details.
A Tropical Fruit with a Funny Name
Sometimes called rumberry, camu camu grows in the wild in the Amazon rainforests, mainly Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil. This low-growing shrub thrives in swamps or along the banks of lakes and streams — places where the plant’s roots and lower trunk remain submerged.
A member of the myrtle family (Myrtaceae), camu camu is related to guava, allspice, clove, and rose apple. Very tart and sour in its raw state, Native people living in the Amazon harvest the fruits from canoes. Only recently have people started to cultivate camu camu to sell to global markets.
In his book Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice, Ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin once wrote that a forest stand of camu camu is worth “twice the amount to be gained from cutting down the forest and replacing it with cattle.” He believed local cultivation of camu camu holds promise for supporting local economies in the Amazon.
It’s important to buy camu camu from an organic cultivated source, as overharvesting in the wild is becoming a concern.
What Makes Camu Camu A Superfood?
Camu camu has a wonderful array of nutrients that provide health benefits beyond mere nutrition. The berry pulp, seeds, and skin are loaded with antioxidants that protect the body from the cell-damaging effects of free radicals. This has earned it a place alongside other functional foods — ones that provide benefit beyond nutrition.
Below are some details of why you want to add camu camu to your day!
Provides a Potent Dose of Vitamin C
Camu camu’s nutritional composition is second to none. For starters, the fruit has a ton of vitamin C — also known as L-ascorbic acid. Along with acerola cherry, another tropical fruit, camu camu falls among the most vitamin C-rich foods on the planet. Every 100 grams of fresh weight camu camu contains 1882 to 2280 mg of plant-based vitamin C, depending on the stage of maturity.
Has Strong Antioxidant Power
Vitamin C itself is itself a powerful antioxidant, but camu camu contains several other natural phytochemicals that add to its free radical scavenging abilities. It contains polyphenols, flavonoids, and more!
Polyphenols: Tannins, Stilbenes, Lignans
Camu camu also has some of the highest phenolic content of any fruit. Most people get their polyphenols from chocolate, coffee, and wine, with fruits coming in fourth and vegetables last. Change that up!
One polyphenol found in camu camu is a compound also found in rosemary, rosmarinic acid. It is similar to caffeic acid and acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body. Camu camu also has ellagic acid, another potent polyphenol known to promote a normal response to inflammation. Other beneficial polyphenols in camu camu include tannins, stilbenes, and lignans. But flavonoids are the largest category of polyphenols — they’re so abundant, they get their own description below.
Flavonoids: Anthocyanins, Quercetin & More
Flavonoids have numerous benefits, such as shielding the nervous system and heart from damage and promoting a normal response to inflammation. A major flavonoid in camu camu is its anthocyanins, which you may have heard of. These are usually pigments found in fruit and vegetables.
The main anthocyanins in camu camu are glucosides, quercetin, and kaempferol. Quercetin is something of a popular nutrient these days that promotes a normal response to inflammation. You can also find quercetin in olive oil, grapes, citrus fruits, and berries.
Loaded With Minerals
In addition to being a rich source of vitamin C and antioxidants, camu camu has substantial amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as trace minerals such as zinc, manganese, and copper.
6 Health Benefits of Camu Camu
Like other superfoods, camu camu is a nutrient-dense food with many benefits. Below are the top four health benefits this tart fruit provides.
1. Boosts the Immune System
One of the things that makes camu camu so nutritious is its vitamin C content. As mentioned, it contains more vitamin C than any other known fruit on earth. And vitamin C provides protection against everything from seasonal sniffles to disease development.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Your body doesn’t store it in tissues if you consume more than the daily requirement. Make sure you get enough!
2. Reduces Redness & Swelling
Camu camu has a remarkable ability to ease systemic redness and swelling in the body.[1, 3] This ability was shown both for juice and seed extract. This was true for swelling — called edema — on the body by inhibiting nitric oxide production from white blood cells.
Experts identified betulinic acid as one of the main micronutrients in camu camu responsible for this effect — as well as vitamin C.
3. Promotes Healthy Aging
Your body continually balances exposure to free radicals in the environment (and those produced within the body) with the antioxidant capacity of nutrients in the foods you consume. Free radicals form, then antioxidants counteract the free radicals, keeping you healthy. Yet as you get older — or if you experience illness — your body may produce fewer natural antioxidants. Thus, there’s a need for additional supplementation to keep up and help protect against disease, skin aging, and more.
Camu camu appears to protect cells against harm to DNA in cells. And of course, it counters free radicals. In a nutshell, camu camu has anti-aging properties due to its high antioxidant nature, from vitamin C, phenols, and anthocyanins.[1, 3] As its many antioxidants and phytonutrients counteract the free radicals they encounter, your body is naturally stronger and healthier.
4. May Support Weight Loss
Camu camu may even support a healthy weight and body mass index (BMI).[6, 7] In studies, camu camu promoted normal levels of white adipose tissue.[1, 6] Consuming the fruit promoted normal levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), otherwise known as “good” cholesterol. It also promoted normal total cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, and insulin levels.[1, 6]
When these important compounds in the body are in balance, your body can excrete what isn’t needed, as opposed to holding onto them — which leads to obesity and heart disease, among other things.
5. Promotes Healthy Skin
Vitamin C is not just an antioxidant that boosts immune health. It plays an essential role in making collagen and healing wounds. Collagen is a protein that supports the elasticity of skin, muscles, and connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, and joints.
Since camu camu has such high levels of vitamin C, it supports healthy collagen production and skin health.
6. Supports a Healthy Heart
A healthy heart goes hand in hand with many of the other features already discussed. When you have balanced, healthy cholesterol levels, your heart and entire cardiovascular system stay healthy. Camu camu promotes normal levels of total and good (HDL) cholesterol.
By promoting normal levels of blood glucose, camu camu also supports heart health. High blood sugar is often associated with the development of diabetes, and keeping blood sugar and insulin in check is an integral part of keeping your overall metabolic system healthy, which includes your heart.
Best Ways to Take Camu Camu
According to a Spanish study, camu camu is used as a juice and to flavor ice creams. The Japanese use the camu berries commercially, adding it to both food and cosmetics. Very few people actually eat camu camu raw — and most of those who do live in the Amazon where the plant grows. Most people consume the fruit in juice, puree, or pulp form.
Lisa Q., a certified raw foods educator, enjoys the variety camu camu adds to her smoothies, plant-based sorbets, and other raw vegan dishes. “It has a subtle tartness that adds an interesting twist to dishes,” she says. “Even when you enjoy eating the same dish all the time, it’s fun to switch things up.”
Below are the main ways to consume camu camu.
Most people consume the fruit in juice, puree, or pulp form. However, the powder can also be added to a variety of foods.
Camu camu powders make a great option for people who want the benefits on the go or do not care for the taste.
Points to Remember
Camu camu is a superfood with more vitamin C than any other fruit on earth. It also contains antioxidants such as polyphenols, anthocyanins, and flavonoids that promote healthy responses to aging, weight, skin and heart health, and of course, the immune system!
Indigenous people living in the Amazon, where camu camu grows native, eat the whole fruit in its natural state. Today, it’s cultivated on organic farms and you can purchase it in raw powder form, liquid extract, or in capsules. Some cosmetic brands now include camu camu in topical serums and other skin products to promote a youthful appearance.
Because of its high vitamin C content, it’s a great choice to get enough of that essential nutrient. Consider Plant-Based Vitamin C, which is sourced from organic camu camu, Kakadu plum, acerola cherry, and other fruits.
- Langley PC, et al. Antioxidant and associated capacities of camu camu (Myrciaria dubia): a systematic review. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Jan 1; 21(1): 8-14.
- Robinson DF. Traditional knowledge and biological product derivative patents: benefit-sharing and patent issues relating to camu camu, Kakadu plum, and acai plant extracts. Traditional Knowledge Bulletin – Topical Issues Series. April 2010.
- Inoue T, et al. Tropical fruit camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia) has anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. J Cardiol. 2008 Oct;52(2):127-132.
- Aktera MS, et al. Nutritional compositions and health promoting phytochemicals of camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia) fruit: a review. Food Res Int. 2011;44 (7): 1728-1732.
- Vitamin C: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. The Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. Updated 27 Feb 2020. Accessed 29 June 2020.
- Nascimento O, et al. Effects of supplementation with camu camu (Myrciaria dubus HBK McVaugh) fruit in a rat model of diet-induced obesity. An Acad Bras Cienc. 2013 Mar;85(1):355-363.
- Olivense do Carmo HM, et al. Dietary supplementation with camu-camu versus sleeve gastrectomy in Wistar rats weight control. Rev. Col. Bras. Cir. 2019;46(4).