The connection between acerola and vitamin C is simple: The cherry-like fruits of the acerola bush are among the best natural sources of vitamin C on earth. Most nutritionists are well aware of the connection between acerola and vitamin C. Acerola cherries, which are also known as West Indian cherries or Barbados cherries, contain 35 times more vitamin C than an orange. The only fruit with a higher vitamin C content than an acerola is the camu-camu.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient for humans and other animals. Without adequate vitamin C, the human body cannot produce collagen, which is a component of connective tissue and an important factor in wound healing. Long-term vitamin C deficiency results in scurvy, which manifests itself in many unpleasant ways, such as swollen, spongy gums, bleeding from the mucous membranes, depression and overall lethargy. Untreated, scurvy will ultimately result in death.
Acerola and vitamin C also provide a potent antioxidant that limits the damage and oxidative stress caused by free radicals within the body. Research has been conducted to investigate whether the antioxidant effect of vitamin C might prevent or assist in treatment of certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Intravenous vitamin C cancer treatment has used megadoses of ascorbic acid that is administered intravenously as a supplement to traditional chemotherapy.
Unlike many other animals, humans cannot synthesize ascorbic acid within the body and must receive their vitamin C through their diet. Some nutrition experts recommend a daily intake of 90 milligrams of vitamin C for adult health. Other independent researchers have determined that the levels of vitamin intake should be much higher — some experts recommend 400 milligrams per day, and some people have taken as much as 4,000 milligrams per day.
The best sources for natural vitamin C are fresh fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruits, tomatoes and peppers all boast substantial vitamin C content. None of these approach the vitamin C content found in acerola.
Vitamin C content in foods is measured in milligrams of vitamin C per gram of food. A single acerola cherry averages 1,600 milligrams of vitamin C per gram. An orange contains about 50 milligrams of vitamin C per gram.
The acerola shrub is grown and cultivated throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean Islands. Acerola is also grown in Southeast Asia, notably Vietnam, but the Asian variety of acerola has a lower vitamin C content. Acerola cherry tends to be a bit sour. Less mature, green fruits contain more vitamin C than older, riper, red fruits, but the older fruits are sweeter.
Vitamin C is the most-used dietary supplement in the world. Though other foods contain adequate amounts of vitamin C, acerola and vitamin C are inextricably linked as part of a healthy diet. Acerola is available in its fresh form as a fruit or or fruit juice. In some locations, Acerola is found as a jam. Acerola and vitamin C are commonly available in health food stores as dietary supplements, such as juice additives and capsules.