Guava is a perennial plant that grows in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Caribbean, Central and South America, and Africa. It belongs to the myrtle family (Myrtaceae) and grows up to 25 feet upon maturity. It has tough dark leaves, white flowers, and round or oval fruits. The nutritious rind of the fruit is green but turns yellow or maroon when ripe. Depending on the variety, the pulp is white, red, or pinkish. The small hard seeds are embedded at the pulp. The sizes of the fruit range from 4 to 12 cm depending again on the variety. The rind is usually eaten because it is considered more nutritious than the pulp. Guava fruit has lemon-like fragrance but less sharp. It is sweet or sour depending on the degree of ripeness.
The most common species of guava is Psidium guajava, commonly known as the Apple Guava. It is the most common type of guava in my beloved country, the Philippines. It is one of my favorite fruits as a child growing in the province. My cousins, siblings, and I used to pick guava in our backyards. Eating the fruit became exciting when we dipped it to vinegar or salt. We don’t like overripe guava because the taste is little bit weird.
We also use the guava leaves in different purposes. When we have a wound, we ground fresh guava leaves and put them to the wound to stop bleeding. The guava leaves will not only stop bleeding but will also hasten the healing of the wound. In the province, boys with fresh circumcision wounds prepare a decoction of guava leaves to wash their wounds. The decoction will prevent infection and hasten healing. The decoction is also used as remedy for fever. Our parents usually advised us to eat guava fruit to strengthen our teeth and gums. These are the medicinal uses of guava that I know. When I searched the internet for more health benefits of guava fruit and leaves, I’ve got additional information which I will share to you.
According to the US Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, 165 grams of guava fruit contains 133 g water, 8.9 g dietary fiber, 4.2 g protein, 23.6 g carbohydrates, 1.6 g fat, 377 mg Vitamin C, 250 I.U. Vitamin A, 81 mcg folic acid, 1.8 mg Vitamin B3, 0.1 mg Vitamin B2, 0.1 mg Vitamin B1, 688 mg potassium, 66 mg phosphorus, 33 mg calcium, 0.4 mg copper, and 0.4 mg iron. Guava also contains carotenoids, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals. I will try to provide the health benefits of each of these components of guava.
Water. We all know that water is a necessity for survival. Dehydration of the body causes death. The pulp of guava contains water.
Fiber. This coarse fibrous substance is largely composed of cellulose which human cannot digest but aids in digestion. Fibers like those found in guava and other fruits are considered to play a role in the prevention of many diseases in the digestive tract.
Carbohydrate. This is our primary source of energy.
Vitamin C. This water-soluble vitamin is an important antioxidant, a compound that inhibits the destructive effect of oxidizing agents like free radical, a highly reactive atom or group of atoms with unpaired electron. Free radicals are linked to various diseases like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, brain disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, premature aging, and cancer. Do you know that guava has four times Vitamin C than orange? Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, a disease with symptoms including spongy gums, loosening of the teeth, and bleeding into the skin and mucous membranes.
Flavonoids. These are phenolic compounds, mostly plant pigments that also act as antioxidants like Vitamin C.
Carotenoids. These are also plant pigments that work as antioxidants.
Vitamin A. This vitamin is important for the health of the skin, eyes, and organs. Deficiency with this vitamin leads to roughening of the skin and night blindness.
Folic acid. This is important for normal cell division. Pregnant women need folic acid supplement to ensure normal development of the baby. Folic acid deficiency is linked to several cases of miscarriage.
Proteins. These are needed for muscle growth.
Vitamin B1. This is needed in carbohydrate metabolism.
Vitamin B2. This vitamin is an important coenzyme in many biochemical processes.
Vitamin B3. The deficiency with this vitamin (a.k.a. niacin) causes pellagra, a disease marked by dermatitis, diarrhea, and disorder of the central nervous system.
Calcium. This element is essential for teeth and bone development.
Potassium. This is important in heart functions.
Iron. This is very important component of hemoglobin, protein in red blood cell that transports oxygen.
Other Health Benefits
Studies show that extract of guava leaves has been found effective in killing different strains of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli. These bacteria are known to cause diarrhea. Drinking decoction of guava leave may help stop diarrhea. In fact, decoction of guava leaves is traditionally used to treat diarrhea in different cultures.
The ability of guava leaf extract to lower blood glucose level has been observed in laboratory studies where diabetic mice were used.
Scientists observed that guava leaf extract is able to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in vitro.
Preliminary studies show that guava leaf extract has anti-inflammatory properties.
There are scientific findings on the ability of guava leaf extract to lower blood cholesterol levels in human subjects.
Decoction of guava leaf is traditionally used as remedy for cough.
Guava fruit and leaf decoction are excellent laxatives; they promote bowel movement in constipated individuals.