Miracle Berry The History

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It has been established how civilization and modern man developed from communities that have been highly dependent on the products of Mother Nature. Plants have been sources of lumber for shelter, fibers for clothing, and of course fruits and vegetation for food and nutrition. Mammals like humans are able to appreciate these plant products because of distinct tastes. However, there is a plant called the miracle berry which has the ability to transform flavors and make them sweet to the taste. Get to know more about the miracle berry or the miracle fruit, how it was discovered, and what it can do.

Chevalier de Marchais was a noted French explorer and cartographer who traveled south towards Africa in the 18th century. During the age of exploration, nations were attempting to venture into newer territories, discovering newer products from nature, and finding out how they can be used by man. When de Marchais chanced upon West Africa, he discovered this plant with sweet red berries. He and his group used to eat these fruits before meals and enjoyed the flavors they contained.

What was this plant that Marchais found in the region? With the species name Synsepalum dulcificum or Richadella dulcifica, the miracle berry belongs to the same family as the chicle plant, shea, and star apple, which is Sapotaceae. The miracle fruit thrives in tropical climates, such as those in Asia, Africa, and some parts of Hawaii and Florida. The plant can grow as high as 18 feet, and bears bright red fruit about 2 to 3 centimeters long.

What makes the miracle berry so special? Scientific and historical sources which first described the plant explained that the berries create an extraordinary effect in the mouth. Eating the fruit before consuming sour and bitter foods made these strong flavors sweeter and more palatable. The miracle fruit did offer something special and something worth investigating, and was seen to have the potential as a flavor enhancer and alternative to sugar.

Around the 1970's to the 1980's, scientific research papers on the miracle berry were published in international peer reviewed journals. In 1988, as published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers from Japan were able to completely purify and isolate the taste modifying protein from the miracle fruit, which was called miraculin. Later on, many investigations on the effects of miraculin on the taste receptors of rabbits, pigs, and rhesus monkeys, and other primates were done. True enough, the animals responded favorably to miraculin, where they seemed to be able to stand the sourness of citrus fruits longer. Some of these researches were published in the journal Chemical Senses.

According to BBC News, the first production of the miracle fruit tablets in the 60's to the 70's was attributed to a rich entrepreneur named Robert Harvey, who found that he can make the berries into powdered form. Soon, even iced popsicles made from the fruit extracts were enjoyed by people across America. In 1974, however, the FDA discontinued the production of the tablets because of lack of further research to investigate its effects on health.