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Ackee (Blighia sapida)

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • Achee, ackee apple, akee, akee apple, ankye, arilli, Blighia sapida, Cupania sapida, Blighia sapida, hypoglycin A, hypoglycin B, ishin, Sapindaceae (soapberry family), vegetable brain, vegetable brains.

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • Ackee (Blighia sapida) is the national fruit of Jamaica and grows in clusters on evergreen trees. Hypoglycin A (the causative toxic substance in ackee) is contained in the aril, seeds and husks of ackee fruit at various stages of ripeness (1;2;3). The form in which the hypoglycin in ackee is administered could affect the toxicological properties it exhibits (4). Hypoglycin A is found both in the seeds and in the unripened fruit, while hypoglycin B is found only in the seeds (5).
  • The ingestion of unripe ackee for the purpose of medicinal or nutritional purposes can give rise to acute poisoning and neurotoxic symptoms like "Jamaican vomiting sickness" or toxic hypoglycemic syndrome (THS) (6). Adverse effects include hypotonia, vomiting, convulsions, coma and death (6;7;8;9;10;11;12;13). Deaths have occurred after unintentional poisoning with ackee (14), and most of these deaths have occurred in small children ranging from 2-6 years-old (9).
  • Various parts of the ackee tree have been used medicinally to expel parasites and to treat dysentery, ophthalmic conjunctivitis and headache. At this time, there are no high-quality human trials supporting the efficacy of ackee for any indication. All current studies have been performed in laboratory animals and most of the information available comes from these findings. Limited human case reports, mostly detailing the adverse effects in children, have been reported; however, to date there are no reliable, clinical, human trials. More research is needed to make a recommendation of the therapeutic benefits of ackee.

Dosing/Toxicology

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.