History Of The Acai Berry

Of course you know that the Acai palm tree (açaí) is a 6-24 meter tall, fruiting palm that grows in Amazonia, mostly in the wetlands of Brazil.

It was named by the native people there as “içá-çai”, which roughly translated is: “the fruit that cries”.

It’s an unusual name, but it has a story. An Acai-obsessed Brazilian told this one to me.

(You’ll have to judge yourself how factual it is.)

Many moons ago there was an Amazon Indian girl named “Iaca,” whose father was the tribe’s chief. His tribe had outgrown the local food supply and there was no longer enough food for everyone.

The chief decreed that all newborn babies must be killed until food supplies are sustainable again. (Pretty drastic, I know.) When Iaca, his own daughter had a child herself, the chief had his one grandbaby killed in order to not appear two-faced.

Iaca naturally wasn’t too happy, mourning her baby’s death alone in her hut for days.

Then she heard a baby crying outdoors, and followed the sound into the Jungle. After a little while she came across a very tall palm tree, covered in purple fruit.

Seeing all the food that could have saved her daughter was too much for Iaca, so some say she died right there against the trunk of the tree.

The next morning the other tribesmen found the new tree and Iaca’s body. The tree’s fruit satisfied their hunger and renewed their energy, making them stronger than ever before. The chief lifted his harsh ruling and declared that the fruit would be named for his daughter, and named it Acai, because acai is “Iaca” spelled backwards.

So with plenty of food for all, the tribe grew and is still there eating Acai berries three meals a day to this day.

One very interesting thing to note about that story is that very few of the native Indian tribes from before Columbus had survived in South America… Most were wiped out, not by conquistadors, but by European germs.

But not those who lived on the Acai berry. Their numbers never dwindled!

In modern times, Acai has been eaten daily for decades by people across Brazil.

A cold bowl of Acai is usually eaten in the morning for breakfast. (I eat one of these myself each morning… Yum!)

In the 1950’s, local doctors began to notice the health benefits of Acai.

In the 1980’s, refrigerated trucks were able to get the first frozen berries from the rainforest to Rio, where it has flourished as a very popular smoothie, ice-cream, and even cocktail ingredient ever since. They eat it many times a day down there and almost always eat it with dinner when they stay out late to party all night.

Only recently, since late 2000, have a few small start-up companies attempted to bring it to the United States and other countries. One of the first companies was Sambazon, and they are to this day the largest supplier of Acai berry pulp outside of Brazil.

Since it started showing up in supermarkets across the country, new medical studies have popped up and researchers are founding out about all of the exciting health benefits of Acai on a daily basis.

Dr. Andrew Schuass was the first to perform an ORAC analysis on the Acai Berry, and since has inspired many, many other doctors and scientists to run their own tests.

To date, none have ever failed to be amazed.