Myrciaria dubia, commonly known as Camu Camu, Camucamu, Cacari, and Camocamo, is a small (approx. 3-5 m tall) bushy river side tree from the Amazon Rainforest vegetation in Peru and Brazil, which bears a red/purple cherry like fruit. Its small flowers have waxy white petals and sweet smelling aroma. It has bushy feathery foliage. The evergreen, opposite leaves are lanceolate to elliptic. Individual leaves are 3 - 20 cm in length and 1 - 2 cm wide. Camu-camu offers astringent, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, anti-viral, emollient and nutritive properties and contains natural beta-carotene, calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, protein, riboflavin, thiamin and the amino acids valine, leucine and serine. This makes Camu-camu invaluable for metabolic processes, including the formation of white blood cells, maintaining a healthy immune system, and support for the brain, lymph glands, heart and lungs.
It is a close relative of the Jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora) and the Guavaberry or Rumberry (Myrciaria floribunda).
Camu Camu is used mainly for its edible fruits. The tree occurs in locally dense populations (1000/ha) or even monospecific stands in Amazonian flood plains and riparian vegetation. The plant is extremely tolerant of flooding, withstanding 4 to 5 months with the roots and even much of the aerial parts submerged in water. The species propagates through botanical seeds. In cultivation, the tree begins bearing fruits after attaining 2 cm in stem girth (three years after emergence of the seedling). Harvests are seasonal and occur once per year, in synchrony with the annual cycle of precipitation. Plants flower at the end of the dry season and fruit at the peak of the rainy season. Observations with both wild and cultivated plants suggest that trees can remain productive for several decades.
Wild trees have been found to yield 12 kg of fruit on average. At suggested planting densities of 600-1100 trees/ha, about 12 t fruit can be derived in cultivation from one hectare. However, with improved horticultural techniques, such as the use of clonal elite material, pruning and fertilization, much higher yields could be achieved.
The current range of Camu Camu comprises the Amazonian lowlands of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. The distribution of Camu Camu extends from the center of Para state, Brazil, along the mid and upper Amazon River to the eastern part of Peru; in the north it appears in the Casiquiare and the upper and middle Orinoco River. In Brazil it is found in Rondonia along the Macangana and Urupa Rivers and in Amazonas, in the municipalities of Manaus and Manacapuru and along the Javari, Madeira and Negro Rivers.
Long used by native peoples, wild Camu Camu is harvested directly into canoes. The fruit has only recently come into large-scale cultivation and sale to the world market with Japan being the major buyer. It is relatively easy to cultivate. It survives best in hot, damp tropical climates but will grow in the subtropics, surviving temperatures down to just above freezing. It requires copious water and withstands flooding. Trees begin to bear fruit after about 4 to 6 years.
Documentation of traditional Camu Camu uses is scarce. It is unlikely that in traditional Amazonian societies Camu Camu has ever been nutritionally relevant. The fruit is extremely acidic, and the flavour can only be appreciated in recipes requiring a blender, dilution in milk/water and the addition of sugar.
Camu Camu has an extraordinarily high Vitamin C content and is the most important property of the Camu Camu fruit, which has been exploited consistently in positioning Camu Camu on international markets. Vitamin C content declines as full maturity is reached, and there is a trade-off between Vit C and flavour expression. As a myrtaceous fruit, Camu Camu most likely provides other nutritional benefits , but these are less understood and communicated to consumers.
Camu Camu has also a unique aroma and fruit pigmentation. A reddish pigment in the leathery skin (probably anthocyanins) imparts an attractive and unique pink color on juices extracted from Camu Camu. The aroma is subtle, but is not as captivating as in more popular fruits. Camu Camu is more recently also used in ice creams, sweets, etc.
Processed powder from the fruit pulp is beginning to be sold in the west as a health food in loose powder or capsule form. In addition to the high Vitamin C content it contains the amino acids valine, leucine and serine.
It is also rich in flavonoids. The antioxidant capacities of phenolic compounds present in camu camu fruit were screened during ripening. Ascorbic acid decreased, and anthocyanin, flavonol and flavanol contents increased during ripening. A total of 30 different phenolic compounds can be detected. The presence of catechin, delphinidin 3-glucoside, cyanidin 3-glucoside, ellagic acid and rutin was elucidated. Acid hydrolysis revealed the presence mainly of gallic and ellagic acids, suggesting that camu camu fruit possesses important quantities of hydrolysed tannins (gallo- and/or ellagitannins). These results confirm that camu camu fruit is a promising source of antioxidant phenolics.
Camu Camu appears to provide nutritional support for the brain to optimize its own mood-balancing chemistry.
People experiencing Camu-camu have stopped using large dosages of synthetic vitamin C because they find that just 1 to 2 grams daily of natural vitamin C sources such as Camu-camu is superior in strengthening the immune system, energizing and mood-lifting effects. One to two grams of Camu-camu, once or twice daily, can clear up most cases of bleeding gums and provide remarkable energy-boosting effects. It has the additional benefit of being non-irritating to sensitive stomachs and bladders.
Wide Range of Health Benefits
The Camu-camu fruit has a surprising range of medicinal effects as measured both by traditional use and by the variety of phytochemical compounds which have demonstrated therapeutic effects. Dr. James Duke, retired chief botanist for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and author of many botanical books, including the popular Green Pharmacy, lists some of these effects in his Ethnobotanical website, based on amounts of various phytochemicals which Camu-camu contains. On Dr. Duke's website, in a comparative study of hundreds of botanical agents, ranked in order of effectiveness for various health conditions, Camu-camu was ranked as follows:anti-viral - No. 6; gingivitis-periodontal disease - No. 1; antioxidant - No. 4; glaucoma - No. 1; asthma - No. 1; hepatitis - No. 1; atherosclerosis - No. 1; infertility - No. 1; cataracts - No. 1; migraine-cluster headaches - No. 1; colds - No. 1; osteoarthritis - No. 1; depression - No. 2; painkiller - No. 1; edema - No. 1 Parkinson's disease - No. 1
This is only a partial listing. For a complete list, see Dr. James Duke's Ethnobotanical database. There is a disclaimer on his website which warns that the information he provides is not meant to claim that any herb can diagnose, prevent or treat any disease condition.
Constraints to the expansion of current use
Price. At FOB prices in Peru soaring to USD 3500 per ton of single-strength juice, Camu Camu is 4-5 times more expensive than comparable fruit pulps and even concentrates. The high price of Camu Camu is a consequence of the difficult logistics involved in production for off-site consumption. The fruits are locally collected, processed and frozen, then shipped to Lima, and exported via ocean freight. The high price of Camu Camu obviously limits demand.
As a source of Vitamin C Camu Camu is several orders of magnitude more expensive than pure synthetic Vitamin C. Obviously, marketeers emphasize that Camu Camu contains natural Vitamin C capitalizing on the recent study (Nov 2008) which shows its superior action over synthetic vitamin C in the area of Heart Health. [*]
Competition from natural sources of Vitamin C. Concentrates and extracts of rose hips, acerola (a Malpighiaceous fruit) are less expensive per unit of Vitamin C, probably because of economies of scale.
Irregularity of quality and timing of raw material supplies from wild populations. Prices paid to fruit collectors on the Rio Napo in Peru in Jan 2006 soared to one USD/kg fresh fruit because of drought-induced low harvests. Local markets are still able to pay such prices for limited quantities, but local processors and exporters have been put out of business, at least until prices relax to make the purchase of raw material affordable again. Exporters insure themselves against irregular raw material supplies by maintaining large stocks of frozen finished produce, but this further adds to cost.
Food safety legislation in export markets. As a food product Camu Camu has probably not been available in the EU prior 1997 and may therefore be subject to the Novel Food Regulation (NFR), which requires very stringent food safety requirements to be met before a product is granted access to the communitys market. The scientific documentation as to the toxicity, nutritional composition and potential allergenic hazards required by NFR is currently not available. The NFR has discouraged investment in export-oriented supply chains and has emerged as a serious constraint to many NUS products .
Currently, the over-harvesting of wild Camu Camu threatens to make it an endangered species. Efforts are underway to encourage the commercial growing of Camu Camu in the Amazon River Basin.
Camu Camu is a species with promising potential, but unknown in target markets. A concerted effort is needed to advertise Camu Camu products, and to make the species more competitive vis-a-vis its substitutes.
Because of its endemic nature and possibly narrow ecological adaptation providing a certain degree of protection against competitors, Camu Camu merits prioritization by regional governments and allocation of resources for further development.
Progress toward more competitive cropping of Camu Camu in plantations (as opposed to wild collecting), however, might compromise benefits to rural people now deriving benefits from collecting fruits from the wild.
Hermann M. 2004. The amendment of the EU Novel Food Regulation: Opportunity for recognizing the special status of exotic traditional foods. IPGRI, Discussion paper.?????????
Camu.html Conservation issues with pictures of the tree, fruits and harvest method.
Tropical Plant Database
Myrciaria dubia List of Chemicals (Dr. Duke's Database)
For extensive information on how food safety inspired EU legislation has emerged as a market access barrier for Camu Camu and other underutilized plant species, see http://www.underutilized-species.org/eu.asp
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Myrciaria dubia