This unassuming little gord has been part of Chinese medicine for centuries and like so many Chinese herbs, just recently introduced to Americans.
What's incredible is this fruit won't raise your blood sugar level. This small gourd is the size of your palm and it’s 300 times sweeter than sugar by weight.
Grown in southern China, this fruit is known as Lo Han Guo or Longevity Fruit. It got its name because the communities who ate this for years have an unusually high number of centenarians among them. Their longevity defied the norm, thus the name "Longevity Fruit".
Science now provides us with an insight into the chemical constituients inside this fruit. What makes this fruit so special is a chemical called mogrosides. In addition to glucose and fructose, which give it a very sweet, sugary flavor is the mogrosides. Recent research suggests the mogrosides work as an antioxidant that can help prevent cancer and are proving useful for those with Epstein-Barr virus.
The fruit has now been developed into a non-caloric sweetener to compete with other herbal sweeteners such as stevia. (You can find it in our store, since it's rare to find in health food stores, check it out)
The fruit is also high in vitamin C, a small handful of fresh fruit contains 400 mg to 500 mg. Lou Han Guo's real claim to fame comes from over 200 years of use as a Chinese herb for dry cough, dry skin, dry mouth and a throat remedy. Boil it and drink the water as a tea to help sooth a sore throat, stop a dry cough, moisten the mouth and nasal passages and help prevent constipation by moistening the intestines. Chinese medicine researchers have been studying and using this herb for acute bronchitis, tonsillitis and gastritis.
You might find monk fruit in a local Asian market. It is as common as bananas. It is small, light brown in color and very light weight. To use as a soothing throat tea you simply crack the gourd, place in a pot with 2-3 cups of water. Simmer it for 30-45 minutes and then strain out the seeds and shell. I find the tea/extract much too sweet to drink without diluting. I often add it to a pitcher of hot or ice tea as a natural sweetener.
You can find lou han guo tea sold in ready to dissolve cubes and Lo Han SweetTM the sugar substiture, here at the Pacific Herbs store.
Just for the record, other names for Lo Han Guo include, Lo Han Kuo, Luo Han Gu, Monk Fruit, Momordica Fruit, Momordicae Grosvenori Fructus, Longevity Fruit, Fairy Fruit and Magic Fruit.
Check out this blog for more uses and receipes with monk fruit