What is Synsepalum Dulcificum?

Alex Tree

Synsepalum dulcificum, better known as the miracle fruit plant, produces berries that are known to cause a startling effect after consumed. A person who eats these berries will taste sour foods to be sweet upon subsequent consumption, with this effect lasting up to one hour. The evergreen bush that produces these small red berries is native to West Africa, where the explorer Chevalier des Marchais discovered it in 1725.

Synsepalum Dulcificum is an evergreen bush native to West Africa that produces small red berries.
Synsepalum Dulcificum is an evergreen bush native to West Africa that produces small red berries.

This miracle fruit grows on a tropical plant that produces roughly two crops per year. In the wild, the plant frequently reaches heights of 20 feet (6 m), but does not do nearly as well in cultivation, rarely growing more than half that size. The flowers of this plant are produced through most of the year, and are small and white.

After a person consumes synsepalum dulcificum fruit, any sour foods they eat will taste sweet.
After a person consumes synsepalum dulcificum fruit, any sour foods they eat will taste sweet.

Synsepalum dulcificum seeds are widely available, especially on the Internet. One can acquire these seeds and grow their own miracle fruit. The plant requires an acidic soil and should be germinated in a small container, such as an egg carton. For the plant to thrive, it should be kept in moist soil away from direct sunlight. As it is a rain forest plant, it prefers very hot and humid environments. It may take up to two weeks for the seeds to germinate.

As of 2010, scientists are not entirely sure how Synsepalum dulcificum makes sour foods taste sweet, but many theories are tossed about. They do know, however, that this miracle fruit’s ability can have worrying side effects. For example, after eating a berry, a sour liquid like vinegar will taste unusually sweet, but drinking a glass of such an acidic liquid is not recommended. The same can be said for spicy foods and harmful chemicals. In rare cases, the taste buds of one’s tongue are altered for nearly an entire day instead of just one hour.

Synsepalum dulcificum has a very low sugar content and, throughout the years, many people have tried to turn it into a commercial product by using it as an artificial sweetener. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified the fruit as a food additive and quickly halted attempts to commercialize it. Much controversy surrounds the miracle plant berry as of 2010, primarily due to the fact that similar artificial sweeteners are commonly sold. Due to the low crop yield of each plant and the temporary FDA ban on commercially selling the plants in the U.S., some people purchase one grape-sized miracle berry for as much as $4 United States Dollars (USD).

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Discussion Comments


@umbra21 - I don't know if the danger is a bit overstated. I mean, artichokes essentially do the exact same thing, even if they aren't as strong. They make everything taste sweeter for a while after you eat them.

I suspect the reason it hasn't been more widely marketed is because companies which develop other artificial sweeteners have stopped it from being developed and sold.


@croydon - I always wondered if it was because they could potentially be dangerous. The miracle berry doesn't add sweetness to only the food that contains it. It makes it so that everything tastes sweeter. And there's a reason we taste things the way we do.

Lemons, for example, are the fruit that everyone is encouraged to try when they've had the berries, because it will taste sweet. But it is still acidic, so even if it tastes sweet, it could still injure your mouth if you have too much of it.

I just don't think there is that much of a market for something that alters your perceptions for that amount of time.


You can get these miracle fruit online if you want to. Actually, I haven't seen the berries themselves, but I know there are websites that sell the substance in pill form as a novelty item.

Apparently they don't have a very long shelf life, so that might be another reason why they aren't very wide-spread as an artificial sweetener.

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