Camu Camu is a sour berry, rich in vitamin C, that grows in swampy marshlands throughout the Amazon rainforest. While the berry itself isn't eaten as a food or used in cooking, it can be dried and made into a powder which is the basis for a number of nutritional supplements. A limited number of studies suggest that camu camu may have antioxidant properties, although this hasn't been proven.
What Is Camu Camu?
Camu camu berries are the fruit of the shrub Myrciaria dubia, which grows in the rainforests of Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador. The berries start out pale yellow and gradually darken to red and dark purple as they ripen. Their vitamin C content diminishes with ripeness.
From 2 to 3 percent of the weight of camu camu berries is vitamin C, making it the second-richest source of vitamin C in any fruit or vegetable. Indigenous Amazonians are said to use the berries to make a drink, sweetened with sugar, but the berry is too sour and acidic for any other culinary uses.
A pair of small-scale studies of camu camu's antioxidant properties, one with 20 participants and another with 12, had mixed results. The first study, conducted in 2008, suggested that camu camu might have antioxidant properties, but the second one, in 2012, did not. There have been no other studies on humans, and no clinical trials.
Still, the fact that it contains high amounts of vitamin C is undisputed, and vitamin C is an essential nutrient, a known antioxidant, and important to the immune system. Even though the berries themselves aren't eaten, nutritional labels on the powdered supplements indicate that 1 teaspoon of the powder (around 5 grams) provides 682 mg of vitamin C, or 760 percent of the recommended daily intake.
How to Use Camu Camu
Camu camu is generally available in the form of a powder, which is made by drying and grinding the berries. To use it, you would most likely add it to a smoothie or shake, sprinkle it over foods like yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, or granola, or stir it into water, seltzer, or tea.
Additionally, juice products containing camu camu are available. These unsweetened juices aren't pure camu camu juice but are diluted with water and other fruit juices. Typically, these are used by adding a small amount, around one ounce, to a smoothie or seltzer, as opposed to drinking it straight.
What Does It Taste Like?
Like the fruit that it comes from, camu camu powder has a tart, sour flavor. Additionally, since it isn't soluble in water, it can have a gritty consistency.
Camu Camu Recipes
One of the most common ways to use camu camu powder is in smoothies. Here are a few smoothie recipes you could try adding camu camu to.
Where to Buy Camu Camu
Camu camu powder, and the aforementioned juice products that contain camu camu, can be found at health food stores and nutritional stores, as well as from online merchants that specialize in dietary and nutritional supplements.
Store camu camu powder in a dry airtight container and use by the expiration date listed on the specific product you purchase. Most products suggest that refrigeration is not necessary, but there is no research to indicate one way or the other.
Nutrition and Benefits
As discussed earlier, camu camu powder is a potent source of vitamin C. It's unknown whether the vitamin C in camu camu is absorbed by the body more efficiently than the vitamin C in a multivitamin. However, it is known that the body only absorbs up to 180 mg or so of vitamin C per day, and that taking more than that provides diminishing returns.
Moreover, it's worth noting that excessive intake of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, can lead to the creation of more free radicals in your body, thereby worsening the condition you were hoping to help by using antioxidants in the first place.
Still, just like there is little evidence of tangible benefits from camu camu, there is likewise little evidence that consuming it will do you any harm.
Langley PC, Pergolizzi JV, Taylor R, Ridgway C. Antioxidant and associated capacities of camu camu (myrciaria dubia): a systematic review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2015;21(1):8-14. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0130
Inoue T, Komoda H, Uchida T, Node K. Tropical fruit camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia) has anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Journal of Cardiology. 2008;52(2):127-132. doi:10.1016/j.jjcc.2008.06.004
Ellinger S, Gordon A, Kürten M, et al. Bolus consumption of a specifically designed fruit juice rich in anthocyanins and ascorbic acid did not influence markers of antioxidative defense in healthy humans. J Agric Food Chem. 2012;60(45):11292-11300. doi:10.1021/jf300719t
Camu camu powder. Fooddata central, United States Department of Agriculture
Vitamin C Fact Sheet. NIH. National Institutes of Health.
Rahal A, Kumar A, Singh V, et al. Oxidative stress, prooxidants, and antioxidants: the interplay. BioMed Research International. 2014;2014:1-19. doi:10.1155/2014/761264