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Monk Fruit

Monk Fruit
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Monk Fruit

Siraitia grosvenorii is an herbaceous perennial vine of the Cucurbitaceae (gourd) family, native to southern China and northern Thailand. The plant is cultivated for its fruit, whose extract is nearly 300 times sweeter than sugar and has been used in China as a natural low-calorie sweetener for cooling drinks, and in traditional Chinese medicine to treat diabetes and obesity.

The plant's fruit is often called in English language publications luo han guo or luo han kuo. It may also be called la han qua, arhat fruit, Buddha fruit, monk fruit, or longevity fruit.

Uses of Monk Fruit:

In southern China, luo han guo is popularly considered a longevity aid and is used to balance heat buildup caused by internal conditions, life-forces, or external heat. It is used as an expectorant and antitussive to treat lung congestion, cough, other respiratory ailments, and sore throat. It also is used for constipation and chronic enteritis. Luo han guo is a low-caloric, low-glycemic food used as a sweetener in beverages and cooked food.

Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses:

1. Luohanguo has been used in parts of southern China as a fruit that enhances longevity. There is a high proportion of centenarians in the areas of south China where the fruit grows. This is probably why the fruit has gained its reputation as a longevity fruit.

2. Traditional Chinese medicine has long used luohanguo to treat obesity. Studies have shown that it has antioxidant properties though its ability to neutralize free radicals seems to be less than that of Vitamin E. It also has an anti-histaminic effect and has been used to treat heat stroke, chronic cough and sore throats.

3. Laboratory studies suggest that some of the compounds in the fruit like cucurbitane glycosides have a potential for fighting cancer cells. The mogrosides may also inhibit the growth of the Epstein Barr virus.

4. Luohanguo is usually dried before being used. This is due to the fact that the fresh fruit is difficult to store and ferments easily, developing a decomposed taste. They are dried slowly in ovens which helps to get rid of the unwanted smell and also help to preserve them. The drawback of this technique is that it may lead to the formation of bitter aromas. These aromas limit its use to the preparation of tea and as a sweetener.

5. The process of manufacturing the sweetener includes removal of all the unwanted aromas to make the sweetener suitable for general applications. In this process, the immature fruit is harvested and left to mature in storage. Once the maturity process is completed, the shell and seeds are removed and the fruit is ground into a pulp. The pulped fruit is then made into a concentrate and solvents and other chemicals are used to remove the unwanted aromas.

6. Luohanguo products are widely available in the commercial market today. Powdered instant luohanguo is available in China and in Chinese shops that are present in the West. There are also a number of products available which combine luohanguo with other herbs. Combinations of luohanguo and Ginkgo biloba are used to treat cough and it is combined with chrysanthemum to treat headache and heatstroke. It has been combined with sucralose and used as a sweetener in protein bars.

7. There have been no reported incidences of side effects with luohanguo and the US FDA has classified it as a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) product.

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