Your cart:
You have 0 item items in your cart
View cart
Total Price
Have a question? Click here to Ask a Chef


Common Name

Latin Name Family Country/Origin
Euterpe Arecaceae The Amazon

Acai berries have been used by natives of the Amazon Basin for thousands of years, yet remained unknown to the rest of the world until the 21st century. Acai berries are one of 2,000 to 3,000 plants used for medicinal purposes by native tribes of the Amazon. Tribe members would climb up the long, thin palm trees, pick the berries by hand and ingest them to strengthen their immune systems.

A legend surrounding the discovery of the acai berries tells the story of Iaca, the daughter of an Amazonian tribe's chief. As the chief's tribe grew larger and larger, food became more and more scarce. In an effort to mitigate the food shortage, the chief proclaimed that until the tribe found a new source of food, all newborn babies were to be killed.

When Iaca gave birth to a boy, the chief had him killed rather than risk being labeled a hypocrite. Iaca was so distraught she ran deep into the jungle where she found a tall, thin tree covered in berries. Iaca died at the mere sight of the large amount of fruit that would have saved her baby had she found it earlier. When the rest of the tribe found Iaca's body, they discovered the berries and the chief named them 'acai,' Iaca spelled backwards.

At first, the coveted acai berries were restricted to specific individuals within the Shuar tribe called uwishin, who would experiment with the jungle's many medicinal plants in order to discover how they affected the human body. The acai berries were found to boost energy, fight infection and protect against heart disease.

Today in South America, most particularly in Brazil, acai berries make up close to half of the daily food intake of certain tribes. Called "içá-çai", meaning 'fruits that cry,' acai berries are traditionally made into a healthful wine. Although not widely known in the Old World, there was mention of acai berries in Portuguese manuscripts dating back to the 1700's.

Resembling grapes, but a much deeper purple, acai berries hang from branches found near the very top of the palm. These trees can grow to reach heights of approximately 25 meters so harvesting them is not an easy task. After harvesting takes place, twice per year, the acai berries begin to rot fairly quickly. Due to their fragile nature and remote location, acai berries are rarely found fresh outside of local production areas. Elsewhere, the berries are available frozen, freeze-dried or in the form of pulp or juice. To date, the trees have not been grown successfully outside of South America.

Purported Medicinal Qualities *

Although consumed for their medicinal qualities for thousands of years by tribes in the Amazon, acai berries have only begun to get credit recently in the West for their many health benefits. It wasn't until the 1950's that researchers started to realize the benefits of acai berries, but it is only within the last few years that the general population has begun to learn about these benefits. Extremely high in anti-oxidants, acai berries can help raise energy levels and lower bad cholesterol.

Historically, acai berries have been used to:

  • Aid digestion
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Protect against heart disease
  • Improve skin appearance and texture
  • As an aphrodisiac
  • Induce sleep
  • Inhibit the effects of aging
  • Fight infection
  • Improve immune response
  • Prevent cancer
  • As a source of Omega-3 fatty acids
  • As a source of vitamin A, C and E
  • As a source of iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium
  • As a source of fiber (100 grams of acai berries equals one adult's fiber RDA)

* Always check with your healthcare provider before consuming, inhaling, applying or otherwise ingesting any non-prescription of prescription natural or homeopathic substance of pharmaceutical. is not recommending, suggesting, inferring or otherwise endorsing the use of any herb or spice as a medicine or therapeutic remedy.

Culinary/Suggested Use

Most commonly consumed as a juice or as an ingredient in smoothies, acai berries can also be found in ice cream, granola bars and many desserts. A breakfast staple in Brazil, acai berries are eaten fresh on their own or mixed into plain yogurt. They are similar to blueberries in taste, but a little less sweet. Some people taste chocolate in acai berry powder or pulp.  Food for thought:

  • mix acai pulp into plain yogurt for a healthy snack
  • Add acai juice or pulp to smoothies
  • Use acai juice and pulp for healthy homemade popsicles or ice cream
  • Blend acai berries with softened vanilla ice cream and re-freeze
  • Substitute acai berries for half the blueberries in blueberry crisp
  • Add dried acai berries to your favorite cereal or trail mix
  • Add dried acai berries to homemade granola or granola bars
  • Mix almonds, acai berries and semi-sweet chocolate chips for a healthy snack
  • Add acai powder or pulp to balsamic salad dressing
  • For a more healthful reduction sauce, use acai juice to de-glaze meat skillets or pans.


view other A-Z Spices