Botanical Name: Siraitia grosvenorii
Species: S. grosvenorii
*Momordica grosvenorii Swingle
*Thladiantha grosvenorii (Swingle) C.Jeffrey
Common Names: Arhat, monk fruit or luo han guo
Luóhàn is a shortened form of ?luóhàn, which is an old transliteration of the Indian Sanskrit word arhat (prakrit: arahant). In early Buddhist traditions, a monk who becomes enlightened is called an arhat who attains the “fruition of arhatship” (Sanskrit: arhattaphala). This was rendered in Chinese as luóhàn gu? (literally “arhat fruit”) which later became the Chinese and western commercial designation for this type of sweet fruit.
It may also be called la han qua (from Vietnamese la hán qu?), Buddha fruit, or longevity fruit (also used for other fruits).
Habitat : Arhat is 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 low-calorie sweetener for cooling drinks and in traditional Chinese medicine.
The scientific species name honors Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, who as president of the National Geographic Society, helped to fund an expedition in the 1930s to find the living plant in China where it was being cultivated.
The vine attains a length of 3 to 5 m, climbing over other plants by means of tendrils which twine around anything they touch. The narrow, heart-shaped leaves are 10–20 cm long. The fruit is round, 5–7 cm in diameter, smooth, yellow-brownish or green-brownish in color, containing striations from the fruit stem end of the furrows with a hard but thin skin covered by fine hairs. The inside of the fruit contains an edible pulp, which, when dried, forms a thin, light brown, brittle shell about 1 mm in thickness. The seeds are elongated and almost spherical.
The interior fruit is eaten fresh, and the rind is used to make tea.
The monk fruit is notable for its sweetness, which can be concentrated from its juice. The fruit contains 25 to 38% of various carbohydrates, mainly fructose and glucose. The sweetness of the fruit is increased by the mogrosides, a group of triterpene glycosides (saponins). The five different mogrosides are numbered from I to V; the main component is mogroside V, which is also known as esgoside.
Germination of seeds is slow and may take several months. It is grown primarily in the far southern Chinese province of Guangxi (mostly in the mountains near Guilin), as well as in Guangdong, Guizhou, Hunan, and Jiangxi. These mountains lend the plants shade and often are surrounded by mists which protect the plants from the sun. Nonetheless, the climate in this southern province is warm. The plant is rarely found in the wild, so it has been cultivated for hundreds of years.
Records as early as 1813 mention the cultivation of this plant in the Guangxi province. Most of the plantations are located in Yongfu County and Lingui County.
Longjiang Town in Yongfu County has acquired the name “home of the Chinese luohanguo fruit”; a number of companies specialised in making luohanguo extracts and finished products have been set up in the area. The Yongfu Pharmaceutical Factory is the oldest of these.
Luohan guo is harvested in the form of a round, green fruit, which becomes brown on drying. It is rarely used in its fresh form, as it is hard to store.
Thus, the fruits are usually dried before further use and are sold in this fashion in Chinese herbal shops. The fruits are slowly dried in ovens, preserving them and removing most of the unwanted aromas. However, this technique also leads to the formation of several bitter and astringent flavors. This limits the use of the dried fruits and extracts to the preparation of diluted tea, soup, and as a sweetener for products that would usually have sugar or honey added to them.
The plant is most prized for its sweet fruits, which are used for medicinal purposes and as a sweetener. In traditional Chinese medicine , it is used for cough and sore throat and in southern China it is believed to be a longevity aid. The fruits are generally sold in dried form, and traditionally used in herbal tea or soup.
Safety: At least one generally recognized as safe (GRAS) notice has been received by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In Europe, it is classified as an unapproved Novel Food (not used in the food system before May 1997) which means that it may be marketed as a food or food ingredient only after a safety assessment and approval by the European Commission; as of 2017, Siraitia grosvenorii was not listed among approved Novel Foods in the EU.
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Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.