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Food in Chinese Medicine: Longan

Updated: Apr 15, 2019

Longan is a tropical fruit species predominantly grown in Southeast Asia and Southern China. The fruits ripen in autumn, then picked, seeds removed and dried. In Chinese it is known as the "dragon's eye", because the fresh fruit has a translucent flesh (like a pupil) with a black seed in the middle. It is juicy and deliciously sweet with a musky flavour.

Longan is used for qi and blood deficiency syndromes for people with a pale complexion, lethargy, heart palpitation, forgetfulness and insomnia. It can be used to support kidney and liver tonifying herbs to nourish yin, enrich blood and benefit qi for weakness after recovering from an illness, anaemia or to replenish blood loss after birth. The kidney plays an important role in memory, so longan can complement kidney tonifying herbs in a remedy. Apart from its high iron content, it is a good source of vitamin c which is essential for iron absorption. It can soothe the nervous system for neurasthenia, hence why it is used to “calm the mind”. Longan with ginger and a little brown sugar will make a nice warm beverage in winter to warm the body, nourish blood and settle the mind for better sleep at night.

Because longan is warm in property and very nourishing, too much of it can cause qi stagnation, phlegm retention and heat symptoms such as dry mouth, bloating, acne breakouts, nausea and indigestion. It is not suitable for women in early stages of pregnancy as heat accumulation will increase foetal irritability. Longan is also high in glucose so only a small portion is recommended for people with diabetes.


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