Avocado leaves contain essential oil (with estragole, caryophyllene and eugenol), flavonoids (afzelin, cynaroside, luteolin, quercetin), tannins and procyanidins.
The avocado fruit is considered one the most nutritious of all fruits and very high in calories (220 kcal per 100 g). The fruit contains a fatty oil based on linoleic acid, linolenic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and other fatty acids, both saturated and unsaturated.
Furthermore, it contains phenols (caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, p-coumaric acid), alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, folic acid, pantothenic acid, fructose, glucose, sucrose, fibers, amino acids and small amounts of coenzyme Q10. The avocado pulp contains more protein than any other fruit.
The fruit is loaded with vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, C, D, and E (tocopherols, tocotrienols) and minerals such as calcium, sodium, potassium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, copper, manganese and magnesium.
Avocado oil containing 20-35% saturated fatty acids (palmitic acid, myristic acid, and stearic acid), 70 to 85% monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic and palmitoleic acids) and 10-15% polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic acids).
In addition, it contains 5-8% glycerin, lecithin, beta-carotene, and vitamin D. If the content of saturated fatty acids exceeds 20%, the oil will harden when refrigerated.
The oil has a long shelf life, around 2-5 years, provided that it is kept in a fairly cool and dark place in an airtight container.
Application of the Leaves, Bark and Seeds of Avocado
The indigenous people of Central America have grown avocados since time immemorial.
There it has been regarded for centuries as an aphrodisiac, which might explain the name “avocado”, an Aztec word for testicle, but that could also be due to the shape of the fruit.
In areas where avocado is found growing in the wild, the fruits and other parts of the tree have been used as herbal medicine for a very long time.
A tea made from the leaves has been used to treat diarrhea, bloating and flatulence. It is also thought to be beneficial as a remedy for coughs and gout by removing uric acid from the body. The tea is also used to cleanse the liver and reduce high blood pressure.
Herbal teas of avocado leaves have been known to accelerate menstruation, which in turn can cause abortion and explains the traditional use of it in Mexico to treat menstrual disorders and as a contraceptive agent.
Laboratory experiments have shown that extracts of avocado leaves effectively inhibit herpes simplex virus type I and II, which causes cold sores (I) and genital herpes (II).
The avocado seed has antibacterial and antifungal properties and has been used against diarrhea and dysentery. The fruit peel is sometimes used as a treatment for intestinal worms, and the pulp is considered to have sex stimulating properties (aphrodisiac).
Few medicinal applications of the leaves, bark, and seed have been scientifically studied by using human subjects, but the blood pressure lowering, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects of the leaf extracts have been documented by using animal models.
A Remedy for High Cholesterol
Although the avocado fruit is mostly used as food, it does have medicinal uses as well. It has been shown to have cholesterol lowering effect which seems a little paradoxical as it is so high in fat.
In one small scientific study, 16 males aged 27 to 72 years, were given different amounts of avocado (½ to 1½ fruits per day). Half of them showed a considerable reduction in cholesterol and none of the participants experienced an increase.
In 1992, a similar but much larger study was conducted in Mexico. In the overall diet, the participants were given, 30% of the total calories came from fat, where 75% of the total fat came from avocados. After two weeks, a significant decrease in cholesterol levels was noted, especially in the LDL (the “bad” cholesterol). The level of triglycerides (fats circulating in the blood) had also decreased.
Based on these studies, a diet that includes avocados might not be such a bad idea for people suffering from high cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides.
Atherosclerosis, Angina Pectoris and Alzheimer’s Disease
The fruit contains alpha-carotenes, which have antioxidant properties and may protect against oxidation of the “dangerous” LDL-cholesterol, and thereby reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.
Eating plenty of avocados could therefore be a good dietary advice to prevent atherosclerosis, hypertension and coronary heart disease.
in addition, the iron present in the fruit is rather easily absorbed so those suffering from iron deficiency, anemia or who just need some extra iron like menstruating and pregnant women might consider including avocados in their diet.
Consuming avocados could also be beneficial for people with angina pectoris due to atherosclerosis.
In a US study involving more than 11,000 people concluded that those with the highest values of alpha-carotene in their blood had a significantly lower risk of angina compared to those with the lowest levels.