What Is Longan?
Longan (Dimocarpus longan) is a small, round, sweet, and watery fruit that is verry similar to lychee fruit. It has a yellowish-brown thick shell, also known as a pericarp, which hardens as it ages
When it‘s young and fresh, you can peel the pericarp off to get a translucent, white, watery pulp embedding a big black seed, almost like an eye. You need to separate the seed to eat it. However, the seeds can also be processed to obtain essential oils and extracts.
These super delicious tropical fruits of the Sapindaceae family are grown widely in Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, and China. Locals use longan in sorbets, jellies, salads, desserts, and puddings.
But longan is not just another exotic South-Asian fruit since it has been used for many years in traditional medicine.
1. Has Anticancer Effects
Longans have high levels of polyphenols. The polyphenolic compounds like gallic acid eliminate the stress-causing free radicals and toxic intermediates that can cause cancer. The fruit, flower, and the seed are equally potent antioxidants.
Traditional Chinese medicine has used longan seed extracts that interfere with DNA synthesis and suppress the undesirable oncoproteins in the tumors, in turn, destroying them.
Hence, consuming longan fruits or seed extract powders can systematically inhibit breast, colorectal, liver, lung, and cervix cancer cells (1).
2. Has Anti-inflammatory Effects
The Asians used longan fruit pulp to heal wounds, allergies, flu, and other inflammatory diseases.
The pericarp (outer layer), pulp, and seeds have anti-inflammatory phytochemicals like gallic acid, epicatechin, and ellagic acid.(2)
These compounds inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals like prostaglandins, histamines, nitric oxide, and tissue necrosis factor (TNF) in your body (3).
Also, because of the abundance of vitamins B and C, longans promote healing and treat chronic inflammatory conditions like edema, GERD, irritable bowel disease (IBS), skin allergies, wounds, burns, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease.(4)
3. Treats Anemia And Iron Deficiency
Longan extracts, along with other native herbs, are used in Chinese traditional medicine to cure intractable anemia, thrombocytopenia, and other blood-related disorders. It was identified that urban women who did not maintain WHO recommended level of iron in their diets (<5 servings of fruit or vegetables per day) were at a higher risk of moderate and severe anemia
Dried longans contain 1.5 mg of iron per ounce. Having longans in your fruit custard or salad will boost the platelet count and hemoglobin concentration – especially in menstruating and expecting women (6).
4. Gives Young And Glowing Skin
Phytochemicals have always been the best solution to treat various disorders, and longan has them in abundance.
Bioactive compounds like corilagin, gallic acid, and ellagic acid in dried longans possess the highest free radical scavenging activity. The fruit also has antityrosinase activity and hence can prevent the onset of cancers
Consuming such a potent antioxidant can give you clean, bright, and spotless skin with reduced risk of developing photosensitivity or skin cancer.
5. Reduces Stress And Treats Insomnia
Commercially available drugs to treat insomnia that target the GABA receptors, histamine receptors, and other active centers of your brain have temporary benefits and long-term side effects. The leaves and pulp of longan have bioactive compounds that suppress the levels of neurotransmitters that cause anxiety, insomnia, and stress.
A 2014 research claims that longans, in combination with other hypnotic derivatives, can increase the rate of sleep and sleep duration. This fruit can also enhance learning and memory by increasing the rate of immature neuronal survival
Though the mechanism is yet to be understood, it doesn’t hurt to start eating this little tangy-sweet, fibrous, and pulpy fruit for all the health benefits it may provide.