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YOURWELLNESSSPA 60 DAYSPA | AUGUST 2016 HERBAL HEALTH Often referred to as a "superfruit," acai (pro- nounced ah-sigh-EE) was propelled into popularity in the U.S. several years ago when rumors began swirling that the berry offered weight loss benefi ts. Although little scientifi c evidence was forthcoming to support these claims, acai has remained a trendy ingredient in culinary recipes and skincare formulas alike. But is the fruit worth the hype? In short: yes. Acai has long been revered by indigenous Amazon peoples, and for good reason. The naturally sugar-free purple berries are packed with a slew of elements that put its berry counterparts to shame. "The ratio of trace minerals, antioxidants and nutri- ents within acai is a magical combination," says Lindsey Bro, food explorer and culinary director for Sambazon, a sourcer and producer of acai products. The dark, fl eshy berries are also chock full of vitamins, fi ber and amino acids—attributes that have boosted the fruit's popular- ity as a skincare ingredient. In fact, acai pairs well with spa offerings, both internal and external. SMALL BUT MIGHTY For centuries, Amazonian tribes have been harvesting acai, which they call ica-cai, meaning "the fruit that cries." Legend has it that an Amazon tribe was running out of food when the chief demanded the slaughtering of all newborns, including a grandchild from his own daughter, Iaca. Laden with grief, Iaca heard phantom cries of her newborn in the rainforest; when she went searching for the child, she stumbled upon a fruit-bear- ing palm, where she lay down and passed away. The tribe found her body at the base of the tree—saved from starvation, they named the tree after the young woman. Acai berries fl ourish on slender, indigenous palm trees that grow in groves in the heart of the Central and South American Amazon. Euterpe oleracea, the acai palm, can stand as tall as 100 feet, and is often found near river basins throughout the Southern Hemi- sphere's rainforests. The shade-loving tree takes up to This tiny Amazonian berry packs a serious antioxidant-rich punch. By Rachel Kossman All About Acai © GETTY IMAGES