Scientific Name(s): Blighia sapida, K. Konig
Common Name(s): Ackee, Akee, Aki, Arbol de seso, Arbre a’ fricasser, Fruto de huevo, Merey del diablo, Pan y quesito, Pero roja, Ris de veau, Seso vegetal, Soapberry, Yeux de crabe
The ackee is a major food in Jamaica. In South America, the fruit has been used to treat colds, fever, and diseases as varied as edema and epilepsy, although there are no clinical trials to support these uses.
The ripe fruits are edible, however, the unripe fruits are toxic due to hypoglycins A and B.
The unripened ackee fruit is toxic, causing severe hypoglycemia often accompanied by convulsions and death.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.
Hypoglycemia caused by ackee may be masked in patients on beta-blockers because these suppress epinephrine-mediated warning signs of imminent hypoglycemia; monitor patients with diabetes.
Symptoms of ackee poisoning include cholestatic jaundice, vomiting, hypoglycemia, convulsions, coma, and potentially death. Six to 48 hours may elapse between ingestion of the unripened fruit and the onset of symptoms.
Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica and is widely found throughout the West Indies and has been naturalized to parts of Central America, Florida, and Hawaii. This tall, leafy tree grows to approximately 12 meters and produces fruit 2 times/year, between January and March, and June and August. Its oval, compound leaves have 5 pair of leaflets, the longest of which is approximately 15 centimeters at the tip. The plant produces small, greenish-white flowers. The red fruit pods split open at maturity, exposing 3 shiny, black seeds embedded in a white, waxy aril. Barceloux 2009 , Lampe 1985 , USDA 2016
The ackee tree was imported to Jamaica from West Africa in the late 1700s and is often grown as an ornamental. Duke 1985 Although the unripened walnut-like seeds are toxic, the ripe fruits are used in traditional island cooking. Lampe 1985 The ackee is a major food in Jamaica and is noted for its high protein and fat content. Ashurst 1971 Fresh ackee berries are available in season in markets and canned fruit is available throughout the year. Poisonings have long been associated with the use of the ackee, and published reports of Jamaican intoxications date back to 1904. MMWR 1992 In South America, the fruit is used to treat colds, fever, and diseases as varied as edema and epilepsy. Duke 1985
In the past, large-scale poisonings appeared to be limited to the island of Jamaica where they reached epidemic proportions during the winter months under the name of “Jamaican vomiting sickness.” Lampe 1985
Hypoglycins are potent hypoglycemic compounds found particularly in the seeds and flesh of the unripe fruit. The most toxic is the cyclopropyl amino acid hypoglycin A and its metabolite methylenecyclopropylacetic acid, found in the aril and the seeds of the unripe ackee fruit. Gaillard 2011 , Golden 2002 The unripe ackee fruit contains hypoglycin A at concentrations significantly higher than those in ripe ackee fruit. Gaillard 2011 , Golden 2002 In addition, other hypoglycemic compounds, including hypoglycin B and other cyclopropanoid amino acids, are found in the seed. CNS active carboxycyclopropylglycines found in the unripened fruit are reported to be potent group II metabotrophic glutamate receptor agonists. Natalini 2000
Uses and Pharmacology
The ackee is a major food in Jamaica. In South America, the fruit has been used to treat colds, fever, and diseases as varied as edema and epilepsy.
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