Mazlan has a passion for health and fitness. He enjoys yoga, cycling, home workouts, and healthy food.
Health Benefits of Sweetsop
Sweetsop (annona squamosa), sometimes called sugar apple, custard apple, sitaphal or nona fruit tree is one of nature's supertrees. Most of the tree parts from its root to the fruits are used, either as a remedy for certain ailments or eaten as food. The plant is easy to grow and is one of the many plants in my herbal garden section as I used the leaves often for my eczema and for my chicken coop.
This article reviews all you need to know about the uses and health benefits of sweetsop, from the uses of its roots to the fruit itself.
- Sweetsop or Sugar Apple Trees
- Sugar Apple Fruit
- Benefits of Sweetsop from the Tree Parts
- Benefits of Sweetsop from its Vitamin Content
- Other Uses for Sugar Apple Tree and Fruit
- Sugar Apple or Sweetsop at a Glance
- Other Ways to Serve and Eat Sugar Apple or Sweetsop
- Buying and Storing Sugar Apple
- Plant Sugar Apple Tree
- Sugar Apple Nutrition per 100g
Sweetsop or Sugar Apple Trees
Sugar apple fruit trees are widely grown in the warmer subtropics part of China, Taiwan, Southern India, Queensland Australia, Hawaii and Vietnam and in the tropical countries of the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Tropical America. It is a small deciduous tree but can grow up to 20 ft (6 m) high. It thrives well in the low-lying area of many tropical countries as it prefers its hot and relatively dry climate.
It is easy to grow from seeds and from cuttings. It adapts well to several types of soil and can be a good landscape tree.
Sugar Apple Fruit
The fruit is shaped like a pinecone and almost similar to a hand grenade. The skin is rough with light green color. Some varieties come in red color, which looks more striking.
Sugar Apple Taste
The pulp is creamy white, tender and delicate, and tastes like custard. Sugar-apple fruit is usually eaten fresh or used as an ingredient for cakes, beverages, and shakes.
It has a high carbohydrate and protein content and is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus but is high in calories.
How to Eat Sugar Apple
The fruit must be ripe and soft before you can eat it either by scooping the pulp with a tablespoon or just pull the fruit segment one by one.
Sugar apple tastes better when served cold so keep it in the fridge for at least three hours before eating.
Benefits of Sweetsop from the Tree Parts
Based on the study by C. Wongs-Aree and S. Noichinda, and published in Woodhead Publishing Series, there are several benefits that you can gain from the tree.
The beneficial chemical compounds present in the plant are the reasons why you can use all parts of the sugar apple tree for treatment of certain ailments and these are:
Benefits of Sugar Apple Roots
The root contains tannins, polyphenols, flavonoids, alkaloids, camphor, and anonain, which are all essentials for the treatment of
- Mental depression.
- Constipation and
- Back pain.
Benefits of Sweetsop Leaves
The leaves have oil that is rich in sesquiterpenes and terpenes:
- Used in fragrances to give a woody spicy smell.
It is also bitter in taste and used to:
- Treat fever.
- Head lice.
- Intestinal worms.
- To lower blood uric acid levels.
Benefits of Sugar Apple Tree Barks
The bark contains borneol, camphor, and flavonoids, and act as:
- A good astringent.
- Tonic for diarrhea, wounds, and dysentery.
Benefits of Unripe Sugar Apple Fruits
The young unripe sweetsop fruit contains tannins and is used for:
- Treatment of indigestion and diarrhea.
Benefits of Sugar Apple Fruit Seeds
The seed contains acetogenins and is used to:
- Rid head lice, fleas, and insects.
Benefits of Sweetsop from its Vitamin Content
Based on nutritiondata's nutrition facts label for sugar-apples (sweetsop), the fruit is also rich in vitamins and minerals; known to help ailments such as:
The high Vitamin C content and the potent antioxidants will fight the free radicals to help prevent asthma.
High Blood Pressure
The rich potassium level will regulate your blood pressure by controlling the sodium in the body, hence keeping the blood pressure under control.
It is also rich in Vitamin B3 or niacin, an effective agent to increase the good cholesterol in the body.
Copper, the trace element that is crucial for thyroid hormone, is high in sugar apple to make it effective for thyroid control.
Sweetsop or Sugar Apple During Pregnancy
In pregnancy, low folate levels can result in premature babies and birth defects. It can also result in spinal cord defects and brain defects. Sugar apple has a good amount of folate, one of the B vitamins, which is good for pregnant women.
Sugar apple which is rich in copper will form hemoglobin in the body. This is essential for pregnant women.
Sweetsop in Other Countries
In India, sweetsop is known as sita fruit as it has too many seeds and is related to a Hindu goddess. In Thailand, it is known as noi-na as it looks like a hand-grenade. In China, it is Buddha’s head fruit.
Other Uses for Sugar Apple Tree and Fruit
Hair Tonic and Hair Lice
In India, sugar apple seeds are grounded and used as a hair lice tonic. Be careful not to get in the eye as it can cause blindness. Use it immediately as its effectiveness will not last long if kept for more than a few days. This grounded sugar apple seed can also be used against agricultural pests.
If you have ulcers, wash sweetsop's leaves and mill them into a powder. Add a bit of water and salt. Put this paste on your ulcer and bandage it properly. Change daily and do this for about 2-3 days.
Cat and Dog Flea
Crush the sweetsop's seed and/or leaves and boil for 5 minutes. Then strain the water and once it has cooled, use it to bathe the cat or dog.
For children with intestinal worms, this natural remedy actually works. Wash and boil about 15 pieces of sweetsop leaves with 5 cups of water. Continue boiling until you get about half of the original quantity. Strain the mixture and once cooled, drink three times daily. This will also work for adults suffering from intestinal worms.
Note: It is not recommended for pregnant women to drink this boiled sweetsop drink mixture.
Extract of sugar apple dried leaves can act as an insecticide for the prevention of mosquito breeding. In a similar manner, if you lay the leaves of a sugar apple tree on your chicken coop floor, this will prevent insects or lice from breeding.
As Smelling Salt
The crushed leaves can act in a similar way as smelling salt and are useful for someone with a fainting spell.
The Chinese use sugar apples as one of their offerings on shrines and altars. This happens during a festival like the Chinese New Year.
Sugar Apple or Sweetsop at a Glance
- Scientific name: Annona Squamosa
- Latin Name: Annona reticulata
- Family: Annonaceae family
- Origin: Believed to originate from the West Indies
- Other names: sweetsop, custard apple, bullock’s heart, nona fruits, sitaphal
- Varieties: There are ten different varieties with different size and shape but similar in flavor
- Tree: Height vary between 6.5ft - 20ft (3-6m)
- Fruit: Diameter about 2.5 inch- 4.0 inch (6-10cm) Weight 3.5oz - 5.3oz (100-150gm)
- Season: All year round
- Propagation: Budding, seeds or grafting
- Uses: Fruit is eaten fresh and as beverages. Leaves, seeds, tree bark and tree roots for medicinal purposes
Other Ways to Serve and Eat Sugar Apple or Sweetsop
Besides eating fresh, juicy slices of sugar apple, try the following ideas:
- Mix sugar apple with your breakfast cereal. For additional variety, add nuts and shredded coconut to the mixture.
- Cut into small chunks then with a toothpick, dip into melted chocolate. Once thoroughly coated, put them in the freezer for the chocolate to harden. Then serve.
- As filling to crepes by mixing one sugar apple pulp with 1/2 cup sugar, 2 large lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence. This is thoroughly mixed and cooks over a fire until you get a nice firm paste for the filling. As an option, you can add two tablespoons of brandy.
- As a Popsicle: Mix 3 cups seeded sugar apple with 3 tablespoons of lime, 1 tablespoon honey, 6 tablespoon sugar and 2 teaspoons chopped cilantro. Mix them in a blender then pour into a popsicle mold. Then insert a craft stick and freeze for at least 6 hours.
Buying and Storing Sugar Apple
How to Pick the Right Sugar Apple
Choose a sugar apple that is almost round with big scales and yellow grooves. It should have thick flesh and smooth skin. For the red sugar apple variety, it should have bright pink grooves. Sweetsop that has spots are caused by insecticides and if there are any ruptures, it can be over-ripe or damaged during harvest or handling.
Sugar apple is ripe if the skin feels soft when pressed gently.
If you have to keep them for later use, place them in a food container and store them in the fridge. It can last up to 5 days.
How to Plant Sugar Apple Tree
But if you prefer to buy the plant instead, then buy a grafted tree as it will be of a similar genetic identity to the parent plant, provided it is healthy and produces quality fruits.
Sugar apple trees love the sun so plant them in an area with direct sunlight for at least 8 hours. It must have well-drained soil and water them regularly.
Prune the tree only during the second year to promote its growth. It will bear fruits after the third year but if it does earlier, remove these fruits to allow all nutrients to go to good growth.
If you don't have a large garden, plant a sugar apple tree in a big pot instead (10-15 gallon-sized pot).
Sugar Apple Nutrition per 100g
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
34.7- 42.2 mg
Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Sources and References
- ScienceDirect: Postharvest Biology and Technology of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits - Benefits of Sugar Apple, Medicinal Uses, etc
- Nature.comScientificReport: Nutritional, phytochemical, and in vitro anticancer potential of sugar apple (Annona squamosa) fruits
- Hort.purdue.edu: Sugar Apple - Cultivation, food uses, medicinal uses, toxicity, etc.
- Wikipedia: Annona squamosa - Uses, chemical constituents, etc.
This article is for general health information only. Please consult your doctors for any medical related problems or before trying any alternative remedies.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2012 Mazlan A
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on June 27, 2017:
Hi, Simone. That's amazing and I think it's a great idea to share this tip on how to select the perfectly ripe sweetsop by writing a blog? What says you? And if you do, give me the link and I will post it here on this blog.
Simone on June 24, 2017:
Hi...I grew up in Jamaica and ate these fruits all my younger years. I was nicknamed "sweetsop bird" because I would know just which fruits were ripe and ready for the picking. My absolutely most favourite fruit! My siblings and cousins could not beat me to picking the perfectly ripe fruits. I would watch a tree daily if I knew its fruits were ripening. I am astonished however to learn that the seeds and entire tree has so may health benefits. Would have been useful to know this while living in Jamaica. Sooo wish I could have a tree here in Canada but its too cold to grow them. Memories.
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on April 03, 2017:
Hi Southth. You can refer to medicinal plants for dogs, cats etc at
Hope this helps.
Southth on March 30, 2017:
Is it really proven that sugar apple leaves are used to kill dog fleas? What is your source?
Southth on March 30, 2017:
Hi Mazlan! Is it really proven that sugar apple leaves are used to kill dog fleas? What is your source?
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on September 27, 2015:
Hi Zaini. I was at the Sungai Buloh nurseries last month and there were a few nurseries selling Sweetsop/Sugar Apple trees. Try and check them out. Thanks for dropping by and the compliments.
Zaini on September 26, 2015:
Wow, indeed great stuff. Fancy, though I love the fruit, somehow was unable to get to eating it. Apples, pears and oranges are more abundantly sold in our markets in Malaysia!!! Never heard of some of the uses you mentioned, especially as insects repellents. Any lead as to where I can buy a good reliable seedling here in Kuala Lumpur. Thumbs up to you. Good article.
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on August 03, 2015:
Hi Ilonagarden. In most cases, the reaction from someone who tried eating apple sugar fruit for their first time is, it is 'not a great fruit'. So, I am glad to know that you love it on your first bite! Thanks for dropping by and sharing your experience.
Freeproducts4you, I hope by the time I finish writing this reply, you have eaten the apple sugar fruit that grows close to where you live!
Ilona E from Ohio on July 06, 2015:
I ate these while visiting Brazil- they are delicious!
Ruwan from UK on April 05, 2015:
Even though I lived near lots of sugar apple trees, I never tried it. After reading your hub I think I better try it. Great hub.
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on November 23, 2014:
Hi Susan Recipes. It is not easy to find Sweetsop or Sugar Apple in the shop, but if you do, give it a try. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.
Susan from India on November 19, 2014:
Thanks for sharing so much information, I have not eaten this fruit.
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on May 17, 2014:
CyberShelley - That's right. Sugar apple tree is an amazing plant. I used the leaves as insecticide and have no more ants around the house now! Thanks for the visit and the votes.
Shelley Watson on May 16, 2014:
This is the most amazing plant, I have seen it before, but was not aware of its many uses. Fantastic hub, with wonderful information, Thank you! Up, interesting , beautiful and useful
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on January 31, 2014:
@Thanks Mel, if you live in California, I think you might find Sugar Apple fruit in the supermarket or Asian grocery stores
Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 31, 2014:
Sounds like a complete, all around tree. I've never heard of this particular plant before, and your article was certainly informative. Great hub!
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on October 09, 2013:
Hi Celiegirl, thanks for dropping by and commenting. I am glad it had given you new information on this amazing sweetsop or sugar apple fruit.
Celiegirl on October 09, 2013:
Thanks for all the new information and all that comes from the sugar apple.
Marta Dizon on October 07, 2013:
We are going on a cruise to the Bahamas this November. I read somewhere that the Bahamas has sugar apples. Does anybody know where to get them once in Nassau, Bahamas?
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on September 20, 2012:
@mizjo , good to see you back and thanks for sharing
mizjo from New York City, NY on September 17, 2012:
@teaches2345, the sugar apple does indeed grow in the lower southeast and southwest coasts of Florida.
mizjo from New York City, NY on September 17, 2012:
This fruit is very delicious when properly ripe. I could eat several at a go. With all the uses found for it, it is a fruit you should grow if you have a little plot of land with the right growing conditions. Interesting and useful hub, thanks.
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on September 09, 2012:
@Ed Tavares, yes you are right. It tastes better when it is fully ripe. Unripe fruit has higher tannin content that is why it tastes terrible!
@watergeek, same fruit is called by different names and it can be confusing. Thanks for commenting.
Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on August 30, 2012:
Jeez, I had no idea sugar apple could be used for so many things. I just remember loving that sweet taste. I also didn't know it was the same as sita fruit in India. This was very informative, greatstuff.
Ed Tavares on August 30, 2012:
The noi na is to soft wen is ripe,is no god wen in not ready is hard to heat and the flavor is nasty,try to heat the right way i'm 100% sure you will love it !
Dianna Mendez on August 22, 2012:
This is the first I have heard of this fruit tree. I am wondering it is grown in Florida as it would provide the tropical environment needed. It has so many benefits! Great post.
Leah Lefler from Western New York on August 22, 2012:
Wow, I have never heard of this tree before! We don't have those in Western NY - it is too cold to grow those here. I really want to try one!
Om Paramapoonya on August 22, 2012:
I've seen sugar apple trees in Thailand! We call them "noi na", I believe. I don't like the fruits that much because they're a little hard to eat and don't taste all that great. It was so interesting to learn that this plant offers so many health benefits, though. Thanks for the fascinating info :)