8 Healing Benefits of Maqui Berry Superfruit
Continuing research is exposing that a superfruit indigenous to Chile and surrounding South American countries produces a wealth of positive effects upon our health. And it contains a bioactive chemical that no other food contains at these levels.
In this article
What is Maqui berry?
The Maqui berry – or Aristotelia chilensis – primarily grows among the rainforests of Chile and Argentina, and is typically harvested from the wild. The berries grow from a tree that can reach 20 feet tall. It will yield flowers in the spring that will bud into berries in the South American late summer months (January to March).
The tiny red and purple berries are deliciously sweet and sour – and compare to the flavor of blackberries or raspberries.
And like these two berries – along with other high anthocyanin superfruits such as cherries, blueberries, Acai, blackcurrants and others – Maqui produces some super effects upon our body’s health.
Anthocyanins are dark (typically blue, purple or red) plant pigments that contain significant antioxidant potency. They also help absorb certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light, giving them the ability to reduce the damaging effects of radiation. For this reason, the berry helps support vision.
Maqui reduces eye fatigue and dry eyes
Tokyo researchers tested 74 people1 who had dry eyes and fatigue from working at computer terminals all day. The researchers gave half the group 60 milligrams (orally) of a standardized maqui berry extact (MaquiBright) each day. The other half of the group received a placebo.
Eye dryness and eye fatigue were tested using the Schirmer’s test, the tear breakup time test, the pupillary response and the flicker response test. The tests were also given after playing a video game to test the response time using a video terminal. They gave these tests before and after the treatment period.
After four weeks of supplementation, the researchers found that those who received the supplement had significantly reduced eye dryness and less eye fatigue. It also increased lacrimal fluid in the eyes according to Schirmer’s testing.
Maqui reduces inflammation
Researchers from Chile’s University of Life (Bio)2 tested Maqui berry fractions and extracts on living cells in the laboratory. They found that the berry extracts suppressed lipopolysaccharide (LPS). It also inhibited the expression of COX-2 enzyme process – the inflammation and pain pathway.
The researchers also found the compounds in this plant medicine provided antioxidant activity that inhibited other inflammatory enzyme processes in the body.
A 2015 study7 from the University of Chile also found that the berry fruit significantly halted inflammation. It was found to inhibit the expression of TNF-alpha and boosted IL-10. These illustrate it’s ability to slow the inflammation process.
“Thus, the phenolics (anthocyanins, flavonoids, and organic acids) as the fractions and mixtures may provide a potential therapeutic approach for inflammation associated disorders and therefore might be used as antagonizing agents to ameliorate the effects of oxidative stress.”
Maqui and heart health
One of the primary benefits of Maqui berries is their ability to improve cardiovascular health.
A consortium of Italian and Chilean universities conducted a 2015 study3 with 42 human volunteers between the ages of 45 and 65. They were split up into two groups. For a month, one group was given a Maqui extract three times a day (standardized to 162 milligrams of anthocyanins). The other group was given a placebo.
The subjects were tested before, after, and then 40 days after the treatment period ended. The researchers found that the Maqui berry group had significantly lower levels of oxidative low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
Oxidative LDL – also abbreviated as Ox-LDL – has been notably linked to atherosclerosis – the hardening of the arteries. And it has been linked to heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases.
The researchers also tested for something called F2-isoprostanes. These are produced when fats are oxidized. They are thus considered markers of oxidation stress in adults. When fats are oxidized, they become lethal free radicals, and this is when they damage our arteries and tissues – causing degeneration.
Researchers from the University of Arizona4 confirmed this effect of maqui on our blood vessel health as they summarized a decade’s worth of clinical research on maqui’s primary anthocyanin, delphinidin:
“Furthermore, delphinidins increase endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression and decreases expression of vaso-constrictory endothelin-1. Delphinidins inhibit the expression of cell adhesion molecules ICAM and VCAM, thus counteracting vascular inflammatory situations. Furthermore, delphinidins decrease platelet activity and may contribute to thrombosis prevention. Research on delphinidins showed improved endothelial function with elevated endothelial NO generation, lowered platelet aggregability and anti-inflammatory vascular effects.”
In other words, these special molecules within maqui help relax and heal the walls of our blood vessels (our vascular system). They protect our blood vessels against inflammation – and the damage that results. They also reduce inflamed platelets, which decreases the risk of stroke and heart attacks from thrombosis.
Maqui and lung health
In a 2015 study, researchers from the University of Chile5 tested the effects of Maqui for smokers. Smoking, of course, damages the lungs.
Can maqui improve lung health even for smokers?
The researchers studied 15 smokers who did not have signs of lung disease (yet). They were given 2 grams of Maqui extract twice a day for 14 days.
The researchers compared the before and after results with eight non-smokers.
The researchers analyzed the breathing of the subjects. The two prominent markers they tested for was hydrogen peroxide and IL-6 (interleukin-6, a cytokine). High levels of hydrogen peroxide and low levels of IL-6 predict a significant risk of lung disease and lung cancer.
The researchers found that before the two-weeks of maqui supplementation, the smokers had significantly higher levels of hydrogen peroxide in their breath than the non-smokers. The smokers also had lower IL-6 levels than the non-smokers before the treatment with maqui began.
After the smokers took the maqui supplement for two weeks (the non-smokers did not) the smokers’ breath were tested again. The researchers found the smokers had levels of both hydrogen peroxide and IL-6 that closely matched the levels of the non-smokers. They had lower hydrogen peroxide levels and increased IL-6 levels in their breath.
In other words, the maqui helped bring the smokers’ health closer in line with the non-smokers.
While no one is saying that maqui will eliminate the effects of smoking, this illustrates the strength of maqui’s anthocyanins.
Obesity and Diabetes
In a 2014 study, researchers from the University of Southern Chile6 gave ten volunteers a maqui extract called Delphinol® (standardised to 25% delphinidins and 35% total anthocyanins) or a placebo. They tested their post-meal blood glucose and insulin levels after a rice meal.
The researchers found that the maqui extract significantly controlled blood glucose and insulin levels after the meal. This was compared to levels without the maqui.
Obesity is significantly related to uncontrolled blood sugar. Researchers from the University of Chile’s medical school studied macrophages among fat cells. They found that maqui fruit extracts help inhibit inflammation among fat cells – which made it:
“a potential therapeutic tool against comorbidities associated with obesity development.”
Maqui and ultraviolet radiation protection for the skin and eyes
Research on maqui and other anthocyanin-containing foods have been showing they help protect our skin cells from the damaging effects of too much ultraviolet radiation.
These anthocyanins help protect our cells by not only neutralizing the free radicals that are formed when the skin is bombarded with too much sun or other light radiation. These color pigments also help absorb parts of the wavelengths, reducing their negative effects.
Researchers from Japan’s Gifu Pharmaceutical University9 found this in a laboratory study of maqui and its two major anthocyanins. They tested photoreceptor cells – which are most sensitive to light radiation. They found that the maqui extract significantly inhibited the process called P38 light phosphorylation. This is partly what takes place in the process of skin damage. The researchers stated:
“These findings indicate that maqui extract and its anthocyanidins suppress the light-induced photoreceptor cell death by inhibiting ROS production, suggesting that the inhibition of phosphorylated-p38 may be involved in the underlying mechanism.”
University of Arizona researchers also pointed out that the ability of maqui’s delphinidins to protect the skin may also slow skin aging:
“Delphinidins may counteract skin-aging due to inhibition of UV-induced expression of matrix metalloproteinase in fibroblasts.”
Matrix metalloproteinase is part of an inflammatory process that is provoked with ultraviolet radiation. It has been linked with degenerative and a number of cancers.
Maqui and free radical reduction
Maqui’s anthocyanin levels make it a powerhouse for antioxidant potency. This gives it the ability to reduce damage to tissues and organs caused by free radicals.
A 2006 study from the University of Chile12 found that the antioxidant potency of maqui berry was rated at 12.3 millimoles (mmol) Fe/100g. In relative comparison:
blackberry – 3.5 millimoles Fe/100g
strawberry – 3.1 millimoles Fe/100g
carrot and peppers – 1.91 millimoles Fe/100g
raspberry – 1.6 millimoles Fe/100g
mulberry – 1.7 millimoles Fe/100g
kiwi – 0.5 millimoles Fe/100g
lemon – 0.3 millimoles Fe/100g
According to research at Tufts University, Maqui berries contain more antioxidant value than Acai berries. Their research found that Maqui pulp has an ORAC value of 27,600 micromoles (μmol), compared to Acai’s value of 16,700 micromoles – both measured at 100 grams of the fruit pulp.
These and other tests have concluded that Maqui has the highest antioxidant values of any known food – with anywhere from between 4 and 30 times greater than other heavy-hitters such as Acai, Goji, Pomegranate, Noni and Mangosteen.
Here are a few (total) ORAC values of prominent fruits according to the USDA Database14 – using standard ORAC methodology at micromoles per 100 grams of fruit:
Goji – 3290 micromoles
Kiwi – 862 micromoles
Strawberries – 4,302 micromoles
Blackberries – 5,905 micromoles
Blueberries (wild) – 9,621 micromoles
Cherries – 3,747 micromoles
Chokeberriy – 16,062 micromoles
Cranberry – 9,090 micromoles
Elderberries – 14,697 micromoles
Mangosteen – 2,510 micromoles
Noni – 800 micromoles
Remember, Maqui berry fruit tested out at 27,600 micromole ORAC value.
Anti-oxidant compounds in Maqui berry
Another Chilean study showed that fresh maqui contains on average 138 milligrams of anthocyanins per 100 grams and dried berries contain 212 milligrams anthocyanins per 100 grams. This is greater anthocyanin content compared to any other fruit.
There are at least eight different anthocyanin pigments – glucosides – within Maqui. These include two types – delphinidin and cyanidin. Of these two, delphinidin is the most prominent, and the delphinidin-sambubioside-glucoside makes up as much as a third of its total anthocyanin content.
While the berries contain the most of these special pigments, the leaves also contain some. Studies have shown the leaves contain anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving abilities.
This ability allows the plant to help protect itself against the ravishes of the sun and other invaders in a hot tropical environment.
That is a primary reason why the Maqui fruit is so healthy for us. The tree produces these amazing anthocyanin pigments within its berries in order to help protect the tree and its coming offspring – as the fruit helps protect the seeds within.
Maqui berries are so far the best source of nature’s delphinidins, along with other polyphenols and other nutrients.
1. Yamashita SI, Suzuki N, Yamamoto K, Iio SI, Yamada T. Effects of MaquiBright(®) on improving eye dryness and fatigue in humans: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018 Nov 22;9(3):172-178. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcme.2018.11.001.
2. Cespedes CL, Pavon N, Dominguez M, Alarcon J, Balbontin C, Kubo I, El-Hafidi M, Avila JG. The chilean superfruit black-berry Aristotelia chilensis (Elaeocarpaceae), Maqui as mediator in inflammation-associated disorders. Food Chem Toxicol. 2017 Oct;108(Pt B):438-450. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2016.12.036.
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5. Vergara D, Ávila D, Escobar E, Carrasco-Pozo C, Sánchez A, Gotteland M. The intake of maqui (Aristotelia chilensis) berry extract normalizes H2O2 and IL-6 concentrations in exhaled breath condensate from healthy smokers – an explorative study. Nutr J. 2015 Mar 19;14:27. doi: 10.1186/s12937-015-0008-1.
6. Hidalgo J, Flores C, Hidalgo MA, Perez M, Yañez A, Quiñones L, Caceres DD, Burgos RA. Delphinol® standardized maqui berry extract reduces postprandial blood glucose increase in individuals with impaired glucose regulation by novel mechanism of sodium glucose cotransporter inhibition. Panminerva Med. 2014 Jun;56(2 Suppl 3):1-7.
7. Reyes-Farias M, Vasquez K, Ovalle-Marin A, Fuentes F, Parra C, Quitral V, Jimenez P, Garcia-Diaz DF. Chilean native fruit extracts inhibit inflammation linked to the pathogenic interaction between adipocytes and macrophages. J Med Food. 2015 May;18(5):601-8. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2014.0031.
8. Watson RR, Schönlau F. Nutraceutical and antioxidant effects of a delphinidin-rich maqui berry extract Delphinol®: a review. Minerva Cardioangiol. 2015 Apr;63(2 Suppl 1):1-12.
9. Tanaka J, Kadekaru T, Ogawa K, Hitoe S, Shimoda H, Hara H. Maqui berry (Aristotelia Chileans) and the constituent delphinidin glycoside inhibit photoreceptor cell death induced by visible light. Food Chem. 2013 Aug 15;139(1-4):129-37. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.01.036.
10. Rojo LE, Ribnicky D, Logendra S, Poulev A, Rojas-Silva P, Kuhn P, Dorn R, Grace MH, Lila MA, Raskin I. In Vitro and in Vivo Anti-Diabetic Effects of Anthocyanins from Maqui Berry (Aristotelia chilensis). Food Chem. 2012 Mar 15;131(2):387-396.
11. Muñoz O, Christen P, Cretton S, Backhouse N, Torres V, Correa O, Costa E, Miranda H, Delporte C. Chemical study and anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antioxidant activities of the leaves of Aristotelia chilensis (Mol.) Stuntz, Elaeocarpaceae. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2011 Jun;63(6):849-59. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.2011.01280.x.
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13. Szajdek A, Borowska EJ. Bioactive compounds and health-promoting properties of berry fruits: a review. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2008 Dec;63(4):147-56.
14. USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 May 2010.