Camu camu (Mycaria dubia) is a bush that grows in black water rivers, especially in those abandoned courses called "cochas", ecosystems of great social and economic importance for the Amazonian jungle of Peru. The fruit contains powerful phytochemicals with health benefits, including the amino acids serine, valine, and leucine, and more Vitamin C than any other known plant in the world. The camu-camu fruit is approximately 2 centimeters in diameter and has a purplish red skin with a yellow pulp. Camu camu fruit contains 30 to 60 times more Vitamin C than an orange. It has astringent, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, emollient and nutritional properties, and also contains important levels of beta carotene, calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, riboflavin and thiamin.
The camu camu fruit has a surprising range of medicinal effects. In joint studies with IIAP, Sandoval (2000) of Albany University has demonstrated that camu camu flesh has a great antioxidant power, and it inhibits the radical DPPH (1,1-diphenil-2-picrilhydrazil), surpassing that of ascorbic acid and trolox (water soluble analog of vitamin C).
Some of the extraordinary medicinal properties of this Amazon rain forest fruit are described by Gary Null, Ph.D., a nationally known nutritionist and researcher. In discussing the holistic treatment of depression he lists 19 plants containing chemical compounds with antidepressant properties. In order of potency, Camu camu is listed second in effectiveness. Some have been able to gradually wean themselves off of their anti-depression prescription medication (such as Zoloft and Prozac) under medical supervision and substitute camu camu powder with no relapse into depression. Although the amount taken varies for different people, some have taken, on an empty stomach, 1/2 teaspoon of camu camu powder in a glass of water four times daily. Others have taken one tsp. either once or twice daily. One alternative health care provider in New York City has had twenty patients on Zoloft and Prozac gradually wean themselves off these medications while taking camu camu and they have succeeded in avoiding depression. Good results have also been noted for patients who are anxious, talkative, and those with panic attacks.
Camu camu has been part of an effective protocol for a 14 year old boy who was hospitalized for 15 months at the age of eight for suicidal depression. This boy also has learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.). His psychiatrists put him on 40 mg. of Prozac, 100 mg. of Ritalin, as well as Clomadine and Imiprimine, which he remained on for years, keeping him in a barely functional, drugged state. Working with an alternative medical professional, his mother withdrew him gradually from these drugs and began a protocol which included Ginkgo Biloba, high amounts of Vitamin C and B vitamins. In the last few months she has added two teaspoons of camu camu (divided dose on empty stomach with water) and one capsule a day (500 mg.) of maca to his protocol. She reports that since adding these two herbs her son's immune function has improved - he gets sick less often, his mood is better - "it has smoothed him out" - and the combination of these two herbs has increased his ability to focus.
Camu camu is at the top of Null's list of plants with medicinal effectiveness against the herpes virus. All forms of the herpes virus lie dormant at the base of the spine and become active when the immune system is stressed beyond its ability to respond effectively against pathogens. Common stressors include emotional upsets, other illnesses, prescription drugs, insufficient rest, poor diet, menstrual periods, vaginal yeast infections, and too much sunlight on the skin. Genital herpes is usually transmitted sexually. The principal anti-viral pharmaceutical medicine is acyclovir, which has unpleasant and even toxic side effects. The herpes virus takes a number of different forms and is widespread today as a public health problem in the United States. More than 50% of the U.S. population gets cold sores, which is the result of the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1). The Epstein-Barr virus is a common form of the herpes virus which may linger in the body for years, raising the total viral load that the body must combat. Yet another form of the herpes virus is genital herpes which is caused by the herpes simplex virus 2. In total, more than 80% of the U.S. population suffers from some kind of herpes infection. Null lists 19 plants which contain anti-herpetic phyto-chemicals. Camu camu is listed as the most potent.
In Brazil, camu camu is being promoted as a product that untangles and strengthens hair, and protects it from external damage, adding to its shine and vitality. Camu camu is being used in a new line of cosmetics specially recommended for damaged and dull hair that includes shampoos, conditioners, hair masques and hair renewal that add body and shine to hair.