Longan is a delicious tropical fruit which contains anti-aging properties, improves skin health, nourishes the blood, increases circulation, and enhances memory. The fruit’s amazing health benefits also include boosting the nervous system, improving immunity, lowering blood pressure, calming the body, and treating insomnia and dizziness. In Chinese traditional medicine, it is used to increase the Qi (energy) of the heart, and as a sexual and beauty tonic.
What is Longan?
Longan is the fruit of the longan tree (which is scientifically known as Dimocarpus longan). It looks like a berry or a grape and tastes mildly juicy and sweet. Longan is classified within the larger group of soapberries, which is composed of other exotic fruits, such as lychee, ackee, salt lime, and guarana, among others. It is commonly called dragon’s eye fruit because the flesh of the fruit is pale white with a black seed right in the middle.
As the fruit ripens, the outer layer of skin forms into a hardened shell, so that when they are harvested, the fruit can easily be freed from the shell. Before eating the inner part of the fruit, the seed should be removed, but the essential oils of these seeds are often used for medicinal purposes. It has only recently been introduced to the rest of the world and is now experiencing another resurgence in popularity as a health food.
Native to Southern Asia, longan has been cultivated and harvested for generations, and its first recorded use is actually more than 2,000 years ago. This fruit is not only an important culinary element but also a popular tool in traditional medicine in Asia, thanks to its unique nutrient profile.
Longan Nutrition Facts
Longan is extremely low in calories, with less than 20 calories present in an ounce of these small fruits. There are also very few carbohydrates found in these fruits, which is good for those on a ketogenic diet. However, longan is an excellent source of potassium and vitamin C, as well as copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese, in addition to numerous B vitamins, including folic acid. The fruit also boasts certain antioxidant polyphenols like corilagin, gallic acid, and ellagic acid that can increase the overall wellness of the body.
Health Benefits of Longan
Let’s take a look at some of the most notable health benefits of longan:
Vitamin C, present in high amounts in longan, is vital for collagen synthesis, which keeps the skin firm and healthy. It provides antioxidant protection against ultraviolet radiation and clears out the oxidative stress in your system. In traditional Chinese medicine, longan soup is a time-tested recipe known to add luster and suppleness to the skin.
Longan can help eliminate wrinkles, age spots, as well as blemishes and the appearance of scars. The flesh of the fruit contains vitamins B and C as well as antioxidants, which have anti-aging properties and minimize dryness, as well as the cracking and peeling of skin.
Longan tonics have been popular since time immemorial with Chinese women to increase their sensuality and appearance. The fruit helps to increase energy and stave off fatigue.
The dried berry has a calming effect and is used to treat anxiety and sleeplessness. In traditional Chinese medicine, longan tea made by steeping Chinese red dates and dried longans in hot water, which helps to reduce anxiety as well as warm the body in winter months.
In a study, it was found that longan extract has anxiolytic activity, which prolonged sleep time in people. The flesh of the fruit and tissues in its seeds are often used in Chinese tonics to enhance calmness and induce deep, rejuvenating sleep.
There are trace amounts of iron in longan, which can help to stimulate the production of red blood cells and boost circulation. With proper blood flow, you will have resources delivered to key parts of the body, as well as oxygen, which can increase energy and prevent the symptoms of anemia.
Promotes Weight Loss
Due to the extremely low number of calories found in longan, it is extremely effective in losing weight. The nutrient density can help to suppress the appetite, despite being able to eat as many of these fruits as you want without any real fear of compromising on your caloric intake.
In Chinese traditional medicine, it was believed that longan could help to balance the Qi, which can improve energy levels, prevent chronic disease, reduce dizziness and boost the metabolism. Millions of anecdotal reports from China confirm the energy-boosting potential of this fruit.
Controls Blood Pressure
Potassium, present in longan, has been directly linked to lowering blood pressure. The mineral is a vasodilator, which means that it can release the tension in your blood vessels and arteries, which can ultimately protect the cardiovascular system and reduce your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Research has found that longan can help to balance the electrolytes in the body, and this can, in turn, help to improve the function of the nervous system. The electrical signals required for every action in the body must pass through the electrolytes, so this fruit can help overall function and even muscle movement.
Longan, being a rich source of vitamin C, can give a boost to your immune system in addition to increasing antioxidant activities.
Having a high level of vitamin C also means that this fruit can help in the production of collagen, which is essential for every tissue, cell or muscle in the body. Proper levels of collagen mean that repair can happen effectively and efficiently.
Prevents Chronic Diseases
Despite having a minimal amount of antioxidants, they can still help to eliminate free radicals and neutralize their impact within the body. This can help prevent the mutation of healthy cells, which can reduce your risk of cancer, arthritis, autoimmune diseases and various heart conditions.
Aids in Digestion
Dried and fresh longans have a high fiber content that helps bulk up the stool and promote peristaltic motion. It helps to pass bowel movements and prevent symptoms of constipation, indigestion, diarrhea, bloating, cramping, and general stomach upset, while also improving nutrient uptake efficiency.
Numerous research studies have linked the consumption of longan with improved cognitive abilities, particularly those relating to the formation and retention of memory.
Treats Snake Bites
In Vietnam, the seed of the fruit is commonly used to treat snakebites and is usually pressed against the infected area. It contains saponin, which has the ability to absorb venom.
B vitamins, especially B6, B12, and folic acid present in this tropical fruit lowers the chances of age-related macular degeneration and helps maintain vision health.
Longan, abundant in B vitamins, is also known to keep the teeth and gums in good condition.
Longan – Select & Store
Choose longans, which are ripe and have a deep tan color, and make sure it is not bruised. The fruit is best had fresh or in dried form. It is also available as canned fruit in syrup. Fresh longans can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. You will often find it used in soups, puddings, desserts, and as a flavoring agent in certain beverages or dishes.
Difference: Longan, Lychee & Rambutan
Even though longan, lychee, and rambutan belong to the same family of fruits, Sapindaceae, they are all very different when they are removed from their outer skins and coverings (white flesh, central seed etc.). Lychee is certainly the most well-known of these three around the globe, but longan and rambutan are quite popular throughout Asia as well.
Appearance: Longan, as mentioned, is yellowish and slightly larger than a grape. Lychee has a red outer skin that might be mistaken for rambutan but they are notably smaller. However, the rambutan fruit is bright orange with dozens of small spikes coming off the golf ball-shaped body of the fruit.
Taste: In terms of taste, longan tends to be a bit tart, while lychee has more actual juice and makes for a more refreshing bite. Rambutan, on the other hand, has firm flesh and it has a sweet, creamy and slightly floral taste. Rambutan is the sweetest of the three. When you eat the fruit or mix them in cocktails, it can often be difficult to distinguish between their tastes.
Despite the many potential benefits of longan, there are some side effects, such as an increased risk of gastrointestinal distress and complications in pregnancy.
Pregnancy: If you are pregnant, speak with your doctor before adding this exotic fruit to your diet, as it can have stimulatory effects on the body, potentially even menstruation, which could complicate your pregnancy.
Stomach Upset: If you have a sensitive stomach or are experiencing any sort of stomach upset, avoid this fruit, as it can exacerbate these effects, resulting in anything from diarrhea and vomiting to cramping and constipation.