Longan (scientific name Dimocarpus longan) is a tropical tree that bears edible fruits. In fact, longan is one of the more familiar tropical trees belonging to the soapberry family (Sapindaceae). This plant family also includes lychee. Longan has its origin in Southern Asia.
A close relative of lychee, often longan has been mentioned as "lychee's little brother". Compared to lychee, longan is somewhat smaller in size and has a pale brown hued skin that is smoother compared to that of lychee. The two fruits, however, have a similar taste. Longan is valued commercially because it comes soon after lychee's season, thereby extending the time of this type of fruit's availability in the market.
Longan grows in clusters that hang from the branches. This is a spherical fruit measuring anything between 1/2 inch and 1 inch across. The rind of longan fruit is thin, fragile and its color may vary from yellowish-brown to pale reddish-brown. The flesh of the fruit is translucent, whitish, slightly musky and sweet. However, longan is less sweet compared to lychee and also less aromatic. The seed of longan is round, shining, jet-black having a white mark at its base. This white spot gives the impression of an eye.
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The longan is an evergreen tree that grows up to a moderate height. Generally, these trees can attain a height of anything between 6 meters and 7 meters (20 feet and 23 feet). These trees are slightly susceptible to frost. Logan trees have a preference for sandy soils. At the same time, trees belonging to this species have a preference for a temperature range that does not usually drop below 4.5°C (40°F). Nevertheless, longan trees can endure as low as roughly -2°C (28°F). Usually, longans start bearing fruits a little after the lychee season ends.
There are several different varieties of longan trees, for instance Chin ch'i ho shih hsia, Hei ho shih hsia, She pi', Wu Yuan and Hua Kioh. The fruits of longan variety called hei ho shih hsia enclose a black seed, while the seeds of Chin ch'i ho hsia are brown. The flesh or pulp of these two types of longan fruits is sweeter as well as crisper compared to other longan varieties.
On the other hand, the Wu Yuan longan fruits are very small, somewhat sour and are mainly used for canning. Fruits of another longan variety called Hua Kioh have an extremely thin flesh that is almost tasteless and is of very inferior quality. Then again, She pi' longan bears the largest fruits in the entire longan family. The fruits of this variety have a coarse skin and large seeds. However, the quality of this fruit is also poor and it contains some juice between its flesh and rind.
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Longan fruits will remain viable and fresh for many days when stored at room temperature. Unlike lychee, longan fruits can also be frozen, because they do not disintegrate very fast. Usually, longan fruits are consumed fresh. However, they can also be consumed after cooking. Moreover, canned syrup prepared from longan juice is also available in the market.
Apart from being consumed as a fruit, longan is also employed for therapeutic purposes. The flesh of this fruit is considered to be a remedy for poison. On the other hand, the dried out flesh of longan fruit is employed for treating sleeplessness or insomnia. People in Vietnam use the seed or the fruit's eye to cure snakebites. These seeds are pressed against the snakebite so that it soaks up the poison.
In addition, longan fruits are also used to treat stomach ache, dropsy and amnesia. At the same time, it is believed that longan fruits stimulate the spleen and heart, support the blood and help to soothe the nervous system.
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A tonic is prepared by blending longan flesh and sugar in equal quantities and simmered in water until it condenses to form syrup. It is recommended that one should take a spoonful of this syrup twice daily to help improve the overall health.
Similarly, a decoction prepared from the dried out flesh of longan fruit is taken in the form of a tonic as well as a remedy for neurasthenic neurosis and insomnia.
The seeds of longan fruit are used to treat excessive sweating. In fact, the kernel of longan encloses vital compounds like tannin, saponin and fat. The crushed kernel is useful as a styptic - a substance that constricts or brings together the tissues of the body and is useful in preventing blood flow as well as other secretions.
Perhaps, longan is the primary medicine in Chinese tonic herbalism for treating blood related disorders. Normally, this fruit is used in combination with several other blood medications similar to Peony and Dang Gui with a view to prepare teas that help in building blood and other therapeutic formulations. In fact, the iron content in Dragon Eye Fruit is extremely high - almost 20 times more than what is contained by grapes and 15 times more than that of spinach.
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People who consume longan fruits regularly obtain various health benefits. For instance, this fruit is much more than just being a temporary energy booster. In fact, longan fruits serve as an excellent Qi tonic, which helps to raise the energy levels on a long term basis. Since longan is an outstanding blood tonic, in addition to being a wonderful Qi tonic, one may use this fruit to treat insomnia, memory lapse as well as anxiety. According to Chinese healthcare practitioners, all these conditions are attributed to insufficiency of blood and Qi.
It has been found that regular use of longan helps to encourage peace and tranquility, especially when it is used in combination with Shen tonics - something similar to reishi. In addition, longan is also said to improve your sleep pattern and helps you to have a deep and sound sleep that is rejuvenating. If you are enduring sleeplessness, you can drink a long-established tonic formulation known as "Ginseng and Longan Combination". This tonic is reputed for promoting undisturbed sleep throughout the night.
Longan is also good for the health of the skin. It makes the skin look youthful and glow. People in China believe that apart from being an excellent remedy for skin, longan is also a great sex tonic. This is the main reason why this fruit has been recognized as something essential for women, who desire to be beautiful as well as sensuous. In fact, longan has a reputation of inducing love and enhancing libido and has been used in a love tonic for more than 2,000 years.
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The fresh, delectable and sweet longan fruits offer numerous health benefits and perhaps we are not aware of many of them. The lesser known benefits of consuming longan fruits include putting off all types of stomach pains, preventing infections and boosting the immune system.
In fact, longan, which is considered to be a close relative of lychee as they both belong to the same plant family, can actually perform miracles on the nervous system. As a result, this fruit is recommended for everyone who is suffering from depression. In addition, longan fruits also have a comforting consequence on the nervous system and it has been proved that consuming this fruit helps to boost the functioning of the nervous system, reduce tetchiness and also alleviate fatigue. Aside from these, longans are also useful for treating insomnia and neurasthenic neurosis.
Longans are also useful in facilitating wound healing. In addition, regular consumption of this delicious fruit helps to increase one's life span. The natural compounds present in longan aid in neutralizing free radicals in our body, thereby preventing the cells from being harmed. Moreover, this fruit is also helpful for diminishing the chances of developing some cancer forms and, at the same time, enhances cell development and growth. Longans are also effective for replenishing blood and, hence, an excellent cure for anemia. This fruit also promotes the assimilation of iron from ingested foods into the human body.
At the same time, longans are considered to be beneficial for the health of the heart. As this fruit reduces fatigue and stress, it provides respite from heart disease and performs a vital role in maintaining the normal blood pressure.
Fresh longan fruits can do wonders for the health of your skin. It has been found that fresh longans have an anti-aging effect. In addition, it has been established that they work to improve the skin's health. In fact, fresh longans are especially beneficial for delicate skin - close to your eyes. It also prevents cracking and peeling of the skin, thereby enhancing one's complexion.
Longan is a very delectable and sweet fruit that offers numerous health benefits. It is especially useful in treating problems related to teeth and gum, eye sight, as well as oral sores and cracks successfully.