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Paw Paw (Asimina triloba)


paw paw

The paw paw is found in may parts of N. America and on a number of islands in the Caribbean and south Pacific regions (where it may have been taken by man). It is a large shrub or small tree, growing to about 25 feet and bearing clusters of edible, ovoid soft fruits about the size of a grapefruit, which unfortunately spoil rather quickly. It belongs to a group of plants called the Annonaceae, which includes a number of paw paw species, and Graviola - a plant with possible anti-cancer activity.

As for Graviola, paw paw contains compounds called acetogenins, which have been found to be active against insect pests and which may also have anti-tumour activity. Some proponents of its use suggest that extracts may be more potentially useful against cancer cells than graviola.

The mechanism of this anti-cancer activity appears to be primarily due to suppression of ATPproduction in the mitochondia of cells. Because tumour cells are considerably more active than normal cells, they tend to take up most of the available acetogenins in the bloodstream along with glucose (their fuel), and this then interferes with ATP production, starving them of energy.

Acetogenins also seem to prevent the formation of fresh blood vessels around cancerous cells, and also interfere with replication of the cells, both of which further inhibit tumour growth.

There is also evidence that indicates that these compounds may actually enhance certain chemotherapy regimes by reducing the body’s ability to remove drugs from cells - a process that requires the presence of plentiful ATP.

Paw paw has no significant toxicity, but extracts may damage the gut flora if taken for any length of time, and could also deplete energy levels through the partial suppression of ATP production.

More research is needed, but as extracts are relatively inexpensive, and potential side-effects are minor, it may be considered for use alongside other therapies for cancer. Typical dosage is one capsule taken four times per day with food.


The content of the active acetogenins in any extract will vary according to the species or subspecies of paw paw, location of the originating plants and the time of year the fruits are harvested. For this reason, only assayed (standardised) extracts should be considered.

See also Graviola




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