Closely allied to the lychee, the longan has been referred to as the 'little brother of the lychee'. Longan is slightly smaller than lychee, and with a dull brown skin which is smoother than that of the lychee. The fruit taste is similar, and the value of longan on the market is due to the fact that its season follows that of the lychee, extending the period when this type of fruit is available. According to the esteemed scholar, Prof. G. Weidman Groff, the longan is less important to the Chinese as an edible fruit, more widely used than the lychee in Oriental medicine.
The fruit grows in drooping clusters. Fruit is globose, 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter, with thin, brittle, yellow-brown to light reddish-brown rind. The flesh is whitish, translucent, somewhat musky, sweet, but not as sweet as that of the lychee and with less "bouquet". The seed is round, jet-black, shining, with a circular white spot at the base, giving it the aspect of an eye.
Health Benefits of Longan
- Longan is used as remedy for stomach ache, insomnia, amnesia, and dropsy.
- The fruit is said to invigorate the heart and spleen, nourish the blood and have a calming effect on the nervous system.
- A spoonful of longan tonic made of equal quantities of longan flesh and sugar simmered in water till it is reduced to a syrup consistency is recommended twice a day.
- A decoction of the dried flesh is taken as a tonic and treatment for insomnia and neurasthenic neurosis.
- In Vietnam, the "eye" of the longan seed is pressed against snakebite in the belief that it will absorb the venom.
- The seeds are administered to counteract heavy sweating, the pulverized kernel, which contains saponin, tannin and fat, serves as a styptic (substance that draws together or constricts body tissues and is effective in stopping the flow of blood or other secretions).