In Chinese, longan translates to “dragon eye.” But don’t worry – it’s not dangerous! This tropical fruit is a type of soapberry that looks a lot like lychee. It’s native to South Asia, so you’ll find it in many Asian groceries.
Longan has a long history as a medicinal fruit in Chinese medicine. Only the flesh is consumed, while the peel and seed are tossed away. However, the seeds and flowers can also yield potent extracts. To learn how the fruit can help you, check out these 7 health benefits of longan.
1. Makes Bones Stronger
If you want healthier bones, look beyond calcium and vitamin D. Longan fruit extract has been shown to activate osteoblasts, the cells that form bones. It does this by boosting the pathways that stimulate osteoblasts. This benefit of longan may be especially useful for menopausal and aging women, who are at risk for bone loss and osteoporosis.1
2. Fights Inflammation
From asthma to arthritis, inflammation can cause a lot of chronic diseases. Some disorders might even make the immune system attack itself.2 Prescription medication can manage the symptoms, but longan is a natural alternative. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that the flower, seed, and fruit has potent anti-inflammatory properties.
It’s all thanks to the antioxidant phenols and flavonoids in longan. These compounds activate NF-κB, a protein complex in the cell that’s in charge of survival. It also regulates the cellular response to stress and inflammation. With longan, NF-κB can function properly.3
3. Fights Cell Damage Caused By Free Radicals
Longan’s benefits also include antioxidative abilities. Because it’s full of flavonoids and tannins, the fruit will protect your cells from damage. These compounds inhibit inflammation and the final processes needed for oxidative stress – your body is said to be experiencing oxidative stress when it’s unable to cope with the cell damage triggered by free radicals.4 Plus, like most fruits, longan is teeming with vitamin C. This will help your immunity flourish and help fight off free radicals.
4. Fights Bacteria
Even the seeds of longan have remarkable benefits. Extracts have been found to combat bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, which is responsible for a staph infection. It can even act against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. This type of bacteria is so strong that it can’t be cured by the antibiotic methicillin. But with longan seed extract, it won’t stand a chance!5
Because the antimicrobial properties of longan are so mighty, it may even be useful for minor infections like acne, for example, which is caused by the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes.
5. Fights Fungal Infections
As a fruit, longan is jam-packed with natural chemical compounds called polyphenols. These substances can fight Candida species and Cryptococcus neoformas, which are fungi. These crop up as yeast infections and call for antifungal treatment. However, longan seed extract can stop fungal activity. It works best when added to oral care products like mouthwash.6
6. Improves Brain Function
Thanks to its antioxidant properties, longan can also benefit your brain. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that longan flower extract protects the brain from oxidative stress, therefore preventing neurodegenerative or nerve-wasting diseases. Examples include Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. To top it off, the central nervous system also gets a dose of protection.7
7. Boosts Energy
Aside from nutritional benefits, longan will also give you a wake-up call. Typically, exhaustion from movement is caused by a buildup of waste products called urea nitrogen (from the liver) and lactic acid (from the muscles). Longan has been linked to decreased blood levels of both. The result is less fatigue and more natural energy – without the caffeine crash.8
Should Pregnant Women Have Longan?
Some cultures, like in Hong Kong, believe that longan being a “wet-hot” fruit produces a “poisonous energy” that causes allergy and skin eruption in the baby and hence should be avoided.9 Some also believe that this heat-producing food might aggravate the condition of constipation in pregnant women and may even cause bleeding. But if you don’t have a tendency for constipation, it may not be all that harmful when eaten in moderation. However, it’s always best to confirm with your doctor.
Longan fruit is available both fresh and dried. You can also find it in tea form, which is made from dried longan. Health food stores may even have extracts of the flower or seeds.
|↑1||Park, Seoyoung, Joo-Hyun Kim, Younglim Son, Sung-Ho Goh, and Sangtaek Oh. “Longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.) Fruit Extract Stimulates Osteoblast Differentiation via Erk1/2-Dependent RUNX2 Activation.” Journal of microbiology and biotechnology 26, no. 6 (2016): 1063-1066.|
|↑2||Understanding Autoinflammatory Diseases. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.|
|↑3||Kunworarath, Nongluk, Nuchanart Rangkadilok, Tawit Suriyo, Apinya Thiantanawat, and Jutamaad Satayavivad. “Longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.) inhibits lipopolysaccharide-stimulated nitric oxide production in macrophages by suppressing NF-κB and AP-1 signaling pathways.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 179 (2016): 156-161.|
|↑4, ↑5||Ho, Su-Chen, Lucy Sun Hwang, Yi-Jane Shen, and Chih-Cheng Lin. “Suppressive effect of a proanthocyanidin-rich extract from longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.) flowers on nitric oxide production in LPS-stimulated macrophage cells.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 55, no. 26 (2007): 10664-10670.|
|↑6||Rangkadilok, Nuchanart, Songsak Tongchusak, Rachasak Boonhok, Sansanee C. Chaiyaroj, Varaporn B. Junyaprasert, Waranun Buajeeb, Jaratluck Akanimanee, Thida Raksasuk, Theeralaksna Suddhasthira, and Jutamaad Satayavivad. “In vitro antifungal activities of longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.) seed extract.” Fitoterapia 83, no. 3 (2012): 545-553.|
|↑7||Lin, Anya Maan-Yuh, Liang-Yi Wu, Kai-Chih Hung, Hui-Ju Huang, Yen Ping Lei, Wen-Chien Lu, and Lucy Sun Hwang. “Neuroprotective effects of longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.) flower water extract on MPP+-induced neurotoxicity in rat brain.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 60, no. 36 (2012): 9188-9194.|
|↑8||Zheng, S. Q., F. Jiang, H. Y. Gao, and J. G. Zheng. “Preliminary observations on the antifatigue effects of longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.) seed polysaccharides.” Phytotherapy research 24, no. 4 (2010): 622-624.|
|↑9||Motivations for food prohibitions during pregnancy and their enforcement mechanisms in a rural Ghanaian district. National Institutes Of Health.|