Aristotelia chilensis, also known as maqui berry or Chilean wineberry, is a fruit-bearing shrub native to South America, particularly in Chile and Argentina. It is popular among locals as a source of food, natural food coloring and medicine. The maqui tree is also widely grown as an ornamental in gardens and is said to have potential as a pioneer for re-establishing native woodland.
According to a study published in the journal Phytochemical Analysis, maqui berries are rich in anthocyanins, which give the fruits their dark purple color. Anthocyanins are plant pigments that possess many remarkable biological properties, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-cancer activities.
In a recent study, researchers at NOVA Southeastern University in Florida discussed the potential of Chilean maqui berry for use as a nutritional supplement that can help treat hyperinsulinemia and related diseases. Hyperinsulinemia, or higher-than-normal insulin levels, is often caused by insulin resistance, which is said to be the precursor to diabetes. Chronic hyperinsulinemia also promotes cancer growth by allowing insulin to exert its oncogenic effects, which include enhancing growth factor-dependent cell proliferation, among others.
The researchers discussed how Chilean maqui berry can help with insulin resistance and reduce cancer risk in an article published in the journal Food Science and Human Wellness.
The medicinal benefits of Chilean maqui berry
Researchers have long considered nutritional supplementation to be a possible alternative or adjunct treatment to conventional therapies for common ailments and diseases. According to recent studies, maqui berries can reduce postprandial insulin levels by as much as 50 percent and are just as effective as metformin at increasing insulin sensitivity and stabilizing blood glucose levels.
Maqui berries’ mechanism of action involves inhibiting sodium-dependent glucose transporters in the small intestine and slowing the rate of entry of glucose in the bloodstream. Thanks to these actions, maqui berries can effectively reduce the likelihood of blood sugar spikes and prevent the corresponding rise in insulin levels that follows.
At the same time, maqui berries contribute to cancer prevention since chronically high blood glucose levels — besides chronic hyperinsulinemia — are also linked to the development of cancer. In fact, numerous studies have shown that diabetics and prediabetics have an elevated risk of developing cancerous growths.
Based on the findings of previous studies, the researchers believe that consistent supplementation with Chilean maqui berries could indirectly reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases that are promoted by hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hyperinsulinemia.
Traditional uses of maqui berries and leaves
Traditional healers in South America use maqui berries to treat a variety of illnesses. For instance, a refreshing drink made with maqui berries is great for reducing fever. Maqui berries can also be toasted, ground and added to hot water to make a remedy for serious cases of diarrhea, dysentery and cholera.
Besides its fruits, the leaves of the maqui tree also have several medicinal uses. Gargling an infusion made from maqui leaves is said to be effective at relieving throat complaints and tonsil inflammation. When ingested, this infusion can also help treat intestinal tumors. You can even apply it to burns to soothe and help them heal.
Meanwhile, a poultice made from maqui leaves can be used to reduce fever. The juice of maqui leaves can help treat ulcers and throat diseases. When dried and turned into powder, maqui leaves can also be used to make an ointment that promotes wound healing.
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