Longan fruit is one of the elite fruits of the Chinese herbal system, respected alongside schizandra and goji for its tonifying attributes.
The Chinese name, long yan rou, translates "dragon eye" or "dragon eye flesh." This is because the sliced open fruit surrounds a dark shiny pupil-like seed, thought to resemble an eye of a dragon.
Despite its long-time popularity in the Orient, reported to date back to the Han Dynasty, the longan is considered to be a relatively new fruit to other parts of the world.
Because it is a tropical-growing species, it is in fact rarely found fresh outside of its natural habitats and climate zones. Until only recently, it was predominantly available in Asian countries and markets.
Now, it is becoming more common here in the U.S. and Canada as a dried fruit variety, similar to goji berries. It is also sold as an extract powder that can be added to beverages.
In traditional preparations the dried fruit is used as a tonic for teas, frequently incorporated into herbal formulations.
Longan fruits, or sometimes called "longan" or "dragon eye fruit", are a round thick-skinned fruit a little smaller than a ping pong ball.
The shiny "dragon eyed" seed, as well as the thin leathery skin or "shell" is removed and the white translucent fleshy fruit remaining is the part that is edible.
This is the juicy sweet succulent pulp, much like the texture of a peeled grape. It can be consumed fresh but is commonly dried or prepared as a powdered extract to concentrate its beneficial attributes..
When dried, they are admittedly not the most attractive of fruits as they scrunch up and darken considerably, turning a golden to brown color.
Dried longan fruit, however, is quite delicious in our opinion with a soft chewy consistency, like raisins, and a unique sweet somewhat rich smoky flavor, similar to rooty tonic herbs like he shou wu. There is really nothing like it that we have come across.
Longan (Dimocarpus longan or Euphoria longan) is occasionally referred to as "longan berry", although it is not technically a berry but a type of drupe fruit. It grows from an evergreen tree believed to have originated in the mountainous regions between Southern China and Burma.
They are in the same soapberry family as lychee fruit and have a very similar pulp and seed structure but do not have a tart flavor. Longan is not to be confused with "logan berries" which is an entirely different fruit species.
Longan fruit is a renowned "beauty herb" among women of the Orient and has thus been used in women’s herbal formulations for centuries.
Prepared in teas or peeled and eaten as fresh fruits, longans have a long-lived reputation as a natural beauty enhancer and skin tonic. They are often associated with preserving youth and maintaining a beautiful appearance.
These prized opalescent superfruits are commonly dried and utilized with other herbs specific to women, such as schizandra, peony and dong quai. Likewise, longan is incorporated into herbal elixirs honoring the Taoist goddess Magu, revered for her sensual nature and eternal beauty. Yang Guifei (Yang Kuei Fei), one of the "four beauties" of ancient China, was believed to consume longan berries or tea on a regular basis.
Longan or long yan rou is one of the "three sisters" or "Chinese beauty berries", along with schizandra and lycium fruit (goji). They are frequently combined together to enhance overall effectiveness.
From a nutritional perspective, "dragon eye fruit" is rich in polyphenols as well as a number of other antioxidant compounds, like vitamin C. (*) In some research Dimocarpus longan has been found to exhibit antioxidative and anti-inflammatory attributes.
While more scientific observation is still needed, these features are often believed to go hand in hand with the fruits beautifying and restorative potential.
Like schizandra, longan fruit is traditionally considered one of the special sexual "love" tonics specific for women, known to not only increase beauty but also sensuality and sexual desire.
The common phrase in Chinese herbalism is that "women are governed by blood." Blood tonics like longan are frequently used to build the blood, nourish bodily tissues as well as promote a healthy female sex drive.
It does not have an influence on hormones, like tongkat ali or other libido enhancing substances, but rather supports general sexual functions and fluids.
Because of its ability to alleviate dryness, in addition to its calcium content, it can also be beneficial for women going through menopause.
As a blood building tonic, the concentrated dried fruits, extract powders and teas are believed to offer tonifying properties to the Yin elements and organ meridian systems, particularly the spleen and heart, to help increase their balanced functioning. The spleen has a major regulatory influence over the quality and quantity of blood, whereas the heart pumps it throughout the body.
Longan is additionally known to be a good source of iron, a primary nutrient that makes up red blood cells.
According to Chinese herbalism, another valued benefit of longan fruit for both men and women is that it is a Chi (Qi) Energy tonic, which means it works to increase, regulate and/or balance the circulation of "Chi." Chi tonics generally can distribute excess Chi or tone areas where deficiency occurs.
In other words, it can provide qualities that can either stimulate physical energy when needed or calm excess or over-stimulation. It is typically used in formulations with other energy tonics, like codonopsis, astragalus and ginseng.
As mentioned, longan fruit works specifically with the Spleen meridian, transforming the energy from nutrients, to achieve this goal. This aspect goes side by side with the fruits blood tonifying properties.
Some of the reported benefits of long yan rou include a more relaxed sleep as well as an enhanced mood and/or emotional well-being.
Also working directly with the Heart meridian, which controls the mind and emotions, it is considered a Shen tonic herb, one of the Three Treasures in Chinese herbalism linked with higher consciousness and spiritual awareness. Shen tonics, like longan, are known to impart a calm heart-centered nature and encourage a peaceful state of mind.
While longan fruit is currently limited, as of 2018, to only a few online suppliers, we believe this will change in upcoming years. Fresh longan fruits grown in Florida are now available from a handful of suppliers, if you happen to live in the U.S. or Canada.
Longan fruit can be eaten fresh or consumed straight as a dried fruit, by the handful or blended into shakes and smoothies. It also makes a nice addition to homemade tonic herbal tea formulas and tinctures.
As an extract powder it can likewise be incorporated into beverages, used to add sweetness and health benefits to desserts as well as dissolved into any hot tea or elixir.