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Synsepalum dulcificum

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Synsepalum dulcificum
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Sapotaceae
Genus: Synsepalum
S. dulcificum
Binomial name
Synsepalum dulcificum

Bakeriella dulcifica (Schumach. & Thonn.) Dubard
Bumelia dulcifica uSchumach. & Thonn.
Pouteria dulcifica (Schumach. & Thonn.) Baehni
Richardella dulcifica (Schumach. & Thonn.) Baehni
Sideroxylon dulcificum (Schumach. & Thonn.) A.DC.
Synsepalum glycydora Wernham

Synsepalum dulcificum is a plant in the Sapotaceae family, native to tropical Africa. It is known for its berry that, when eaten, causes sour foods (such as lemons and limes) subsequently consumed to taste sweet. This effect is due to miraculin. Common names for this species and its berry include miracle fruit,[3] miracle berry, miraculous berry,[3] sweet berry,[4][5][6] and in West Africa, where the species originates, àgbáyun (in Yoruba),[7][8] taami, asaa, and ledidi.

The berry itself has a low sugar content [9] and a mildly sweet tang. It contains a glycoprotein molecule, with some trailing carbohydrate chains, called miraculin.[10] When the fleshy part of the fruit is eaten, this molecule binds to the tongue's taste buds, causing sour foods to taste sweet. At neutral pH, miraculin binds and blocks the receptors, but at low pH (resulting from ingestion of sour foods) miraculin binds proteins and becomes able to activate the sweet receptors, resulting in the perception of sweet taste.[11] This effect lasts until the protein is washed away by saliva (up to about 30 minutes).[12]

The names miracle fruit and miracle berry are shared by Gymnema sylvestre and Thaumatococcus daniellii,[3] which are two other species used to alter the perceived sweetness of foods.


The berry has been used in West Africa for a long time. It is a part of the diet of the Yoruba people.[7] Outsiders began learning this fruit since at least the 18th century, when a European explorer, the Chevalier des Marchais, provided an account of its use there. Des Marchais, who was searching West Africa for many different fruits in a 1725 excursion, noticed that local people picked the berry from shrubs and chewed it before meals.

In the 1980s in the United States, an attempt was made to commercialize the fruit for its ability to mask non-sweet foods as sweet without a caloric cost, but became compromised when the Food and Drug Administration classified the berry as a food additive and required evidence of safety.[9][13][14] For a time in the 1970s, US dieters could purchase a pill form of miraculin.[15] This interest had a revival in food-tasting events at which tasters consume sour and bitter foods, such as lemons, radishes, pickles, hot sauce, and beer, then experience the perceived change to sweetness with miraculin.[16]


It is a shrub that grows 1.8–4.5 m (5.9–14.8 ft) in height and has dense foliage.[17][18] Its leaves are 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in) long, 2.0–3.7 cm (0.79–1.46 in) wide, and glabrous below. They are clustered at the ends of the branchlets. The flowers are white. It carries red, 2 cm (0.79 in) long fruits. Each fruit contains one seed.[5]


Small specimen in a botanic garden

The plant grows best in soils with a pH as low as 4.5 to 5.8, in an environment free from frost and in partial shade with high humidity. It is tolerant of drought, full sunshine, and slopes.[5]

The seeds need 14 to 21 days to germinate. A spacing of 4 m (13 ft) between plants is suggested.[5]

The plants first bear fruit after growing about 3–4 years,[5] and produce two crops per year, after the end of the rainy season. This evergreen plant produces small, red berries, while white flowers are produced for many months of the year.

The seeds are about the size of coffee beans.

In Africa, leaves are attacked by lepidopterous larvae, and fruits are infested with larvae of fruit flies. The fungus Rigidoporus microporus has been found on this plant.[5]

Transgenic tomato plants have been developed in research projects that produce miraculin.[19][20]

Uses and regulation[edit]

In tropical West Africa, where this species originates, the fruit pulp is used to sweeten palm wine.[21] Historically, it was also used to improve the flavor of soured cornbread,[8] but has been used as a sweetener and flavoring agent for diverse beverages and foods, such as beer, cocktails, vinegar, and pickles.[22]

Since 2011, the United States FDA has imposed a ban on importing Synsepalum dulcificum (specifying 'miraculin') from its origin in Taiwan, declaring it as an "illegal undeclared sweetener". However the ban does not apply when it is imported from other countries.[23] In 2021, the company Baïa Food Co. in Spain was granted to put Dried Miracle Berry on the market in the EU.[24]


  1. ^ Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) & IUCN SSC Global Tree Specialist Group (2018). "Synsepalum dulcificum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T87719610A147296202. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  2. ^ "Synsepalum dulcificum (Schumach. & Thonn.) Daniell". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Wiersema, John Harry; León, Blanca (1999). World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference. CRC Press. p. 661. ISBN 0-8493-2119-0.
  4. ^ Peter Hanelt, ed. (2001). Mansfeld's encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops. Vol. 2. Springer. p. 1660. ISBN 3-540-41017-1. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e f James A. Duke, Judith L. DuCellier, ed. (1993). CRC handbook of alternative cash crops. CRC Press. pp. 433–434. ISBN 0-8493-3620-1.
  6. ^ John C. Roecklein, PingSun Leung, ed. (1987). A Profile of economic plants. Transaction Publishers. p. 412. ISBN 0-88738-167-7.
  7. ^ a b Bascom, William R. (January 1951). "Yoruba Food". Africa. 20 (1). Cambridge University Press: 47. doi:10.2307/1156157. JSTOR 1156157. S2CID 149837516.
  8. ^ a b Plant inventory. Vol. 58: Seeds and plants imported. United States Department of Agriculture. 1919. p. 42.
  9. ^ a b Levin, Rachel B. (23 June 2009). "Ancient Berry, Modern Miracle: The Sweet Benefits of Miracle Fruit". thefoodpaper.com. Archived from the original on 10 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  10. ^ McCurry, Justin (25 November 2005). "Miracle berry lets Japanese dieters get sweet from sour". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 29 August 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  11. ^ Koizumi A, Tsuchiya A, Nakajima K, Ito K, Terada T, Shimizu-Ibuka A, Briand L, Asakura T, Misaka T, Abe K (2011). "Human sweet taste receptor mediates acid-induced sweetness of miraculin". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 108 (40): 16819–24. doi:10.1073/pnas.1016644108. PMC 3189030. PMID 21949380.
  12. ^ Park, Madison (25 March 2009). "Miracle fruit turns sour things sweet". CNN. Archived from the original on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2009.
  13. ^ Mangold, Tom (28 April 2008). "Sweet and sour tale of the miracle berry". The Week. Archived from the original on 16 November 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  14. ^ "The miracle berry". BBC. 28 April 2008. Archived from the original on 1 May 2008. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  15. ^ Rowe, Aaron (7 December 2006). "Super Lettuce Turns Sour Sweet". Wired Magazine. Archived from the original on 31 August 2008. Retrieved 22 July 2008.
  16. ^ Farrell, Patrick; Kassie Bracken (28 May 2008). "A Tiny Fruit That Tricks the Tongue". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 June 2008. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  17. ^ Inglett, G. E.; Dowling, B.; Albrecht, J. J.; Hoglan, F. A. (1965). "Taste Modifiers, Taste-Modifying Properties of Miracle Fruit (Synsepalum Dulcificum)". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 13 (3): 284–287. doi:10.1021/jf60139a026.
  18. ^ Inglett, G. E.; May, J. F. (1968). "Tropical plants with unusual taste properties". Economic Botany. 22 (4): 326–331. doi:10.1007/BF02908127. S2CID 44903479.
  19. ^ Hirai, Tadayoshi; Go Fukukawa; Hideo Kakuta; Naoya Fukuda; Hiroshi Ezura (2010). "Production of Recombinant Miraculin Using Transgenic Tomatoes in a Closed Cultivation System". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 58 (10): 6096–6101. doi:10.1021/jf100414v. ISSN 0021-8561. PMID 20426470.
  20. ^ Sun, Hyeon-Jin; Hiroshi Kataoka; Megumu Yano; Hiroshi Ezura (2007). "Genetically stable expression of functional miraculin, a new type of alternative sweetener, in transgenic tomato plants". Plant Biotechnology Journal. 5 (6): 768–777. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7652.2007.00283.x. ISSN 1467-7644. PMID 17692073.
  21. ^ Oliver-Bever, Bep (1986). Medicinal plants in tropical West Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 266. ISBN 0-521-26815-X.
  22. ^ Farrell P, Bracken K (28 May 2008). "A Tiny Fruit That Tricks the Tongue". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  23. ^ "Synsepalum dulcificum Import Alert 45-07; Taiwan". US Food and Drug Administration. 5 February 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  24. ^ foodnavigator.com (15 June 2021). "Baïa Food eyes 'untapped' potential of 'Dried Miracle Berries' in sugar reduction after Novel Foods approval". foodnavigator.com. Retrieved 29 August 2022.

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