|Posted by Tanya on June 9, 2013 at 3:20 PM|
Eyes of the Dragon
Longan is a tropical tree fruit and belongs to the family, lychee. It is native to Southeast Asia, including southern China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. and is highly used in Chinese medicine herbology.
Commonly known in Chinese as Long Yan Rou, it literally translates as "dragon eyes." The Longan berry has an syrupy sweet, and slight peppery taste. When fully ripened, the freshly harvested outer shell is rough and bark-like and is easily cracked allowing one to squeeze out the inner, opalescent fruit which is similar to an iris with the hard lacquered black dark pit faintly showing in the center.
As a botanical, Longan berries are sold pitted and dried and they have a golden brown iridescent color. In order to more easily extract the seed from the rough outer skin and the pit from the fruit, they are lightly heated and smoked.
The Medicinal Properties of Longan
Longan berries are one of the three or more "super fruits" used as tonics in Chinese medicine. Two others would be Jujube Date (Hong Zao) and Goji Berries (Gou Qi Zi). A wonderful snack I've recommended to Clients with diabetes and chronic constipation is kind of Chinese trail mix with Longan berries, lycii berries (goji berries), fennel seeds, almonds, and hemp seeds.
Longan works as a blood tonic and as a tonic for the Spleen and Heart, for low energy and with special benefit for the mind and improving the memory.
It is indeed a powerful brain-nourishing food. It is high in glucose, and the brain relies on a steady supply of glucose for thought energy. The skull and brain usually contain about a third of the blood of the entire body. So it is easy to understand how glucose-rich Longan berries are used to counteract brain fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and poor memory. It is an essential herb to give to anyone but especially the aged who are prone to memory lapses, dementia and possibly Alzheimer's as well. In this regard it is useful for anyone who thinks a lot and may experience occasional brain fog. Despite their high sugar content I have prescribed both Longan berries and lycii berries to diabetics who found that they both actually helped regulate blood sugar.
However it is not only the glucose of Longan berries that make them a superior blood tonic. They are high in blood-enriching iron content, reportedly 20 times that of grapes and 15 times that of spinach! Iron is an important blood nutrient which carries oxygen from the lungs to the cells of the body. This is obviously important for maintaining youthfulness and vitality (both being therapeutic claims for Longan berries). However they have a special benefit for women in that they add luster and beauty to the skin and their iron-rich "red-blooded" properties enhance female attractiveness and serve as a special tonic for sexual vitality. Those individuals who have iron sensitivity need not worry because the iron is organically present and the body will be better able to regulate its usage.
Longan berries have a generally calming effect, which apart from relieving symptoms of anxiety and sleeplessness, contributes to an overall feeling of calm.
Finally, Longan berries are very beneficial for the skin, hair and eyes.
Longan berries are a longevity power food and one needn't wait until developing symptoms of anemia, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and memory problems before having them prescribed by a medical herbalist.
You can purchase them dried, in bulk (they are reasonably priced) and keep them on hand as occasion demands. You can purchase them fresh from Chinese markets, and right now your Local supermarket! Or, you can discuss with your traditional Chinese medicine doctor about the perfect formula for your inner landscape.
The one contraindication from eating too many of them, described as a "damp Spleen" which in Chinese diagnostics means a swollen and bloated fruit belly. As with any food, moderation is key!
Chinese Trail Mix
Although this isn’t available commercially, it’s easy to make, delicious to eat, and is oh so good for you.
Mix equal parts (more or less) of the following:
- jujube dates
- longan berries
- lycii berries (goji berries)
Jujube dates: The delicious large red jujube dates tonify both Qi and Blood, treating poor digestion, weakness, low energy, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, diarrhea from Coldness and poor appetite, digestion and memory. Nourishing to the Spirit, they calm and stabilize emotions when feeling irritable, sad or crying for no reason. They are added like licorice to sweeten and harmonize other herbs in a formula. After cooking the dates in a tea or soup, eat them for their full medicinal value (remove pits first). They help weight gain and help malnourished children thrive.
Longan berries: These delicious berries quickly tonify Heart Blood (like no other herb I know), alleviating palpitations, anxiety, forgetfulness and insomnia, particularly due to overwork or from excessive thinking, studying, reading or talking (all of which use a lot of Heart Blood and blood sugar in the brain – these berries are high in glucose and sucrose, which quickly replenish blood sugar).
Lycii berries (Gou Qi or goji berries): This small, red, sweet-tasting berry tonifies Blood and Yin of the Liver and Kidneys, treating anemia, dizziness, poor eyesight, night blindness, blurred vision, sore back, knees and legs, impotence, seminal and nocturnal emission, tuberculosis and peri/menopausal complaints. Very high in beta-carotine, it promotes regeneration of liver cells, inhibits fat deposits in liver cells, lowers cholesterol, prevents artherosclerosis and enhances immunity. I always toss them in my hot cereals, soups or oatmeal cookies (instead of raisins), and frequently give them to patients as a snack. It is one of the best herbs to include in Kidney tonic formulas.
Walnuts: The Chinese use walnuts to tonify Yang, strengthening the Kidneys and alleviating low back and knee pain and frequent urination. They also warm the Lungs and help the Kidneys to “pull down” Lung Qi, treating chronic cough or wheezing due to Deficient Lungs and Kidneys (this type of cough or wheezing is determined when it’s harder to inhale than exhale, there’s dribbling of urine upon sneezing, or there are accompanying symptoms of low back ache, frequent urination and/or night time urination).
Walnuts also act as a mild laxative, particularly in the elderly, anemic or those with Kidney Yang Deficiency. Constipation that doesn’t respond to normal herbal laxatives in people who are tired, anemic, cold, have clear, frequent urination, low back pain, low sex drive, lowered metabolism and/or edema of the legs usually respond to walnuts since they lubricate the intestines and provide enough heat and energy to move the stools. Walnuts also increase body weight and dissolve stones in the urinary tract. In paste form and applied externally, they treat dermatitis and eczema.