Luo han kuo (also spelled as luo han guo), a fruit known for its unique natural sweetness, has been used for centuries in China to enhance the body's immunity and also to treat respiratory problems like coughs. Besides being high in anti-oxidant, it is also traditionally consumed as a longevity tonic. In areas where the fruit is substantially grown and consumed, it is reported that many people live up to the age of 100 years.
It is mostly grown in southern China, mainly in the mountainous areas of Guangxi province. It was purported to be first mentioned in old records as being consumed by Song dynasty monks as far back as 800 years ago and the name in Mandarin literally means "monk's fruit". By grounding it into powder form and boiled as a herbal tea, it is believed that the plant enhances the body's respiratory system and helps a person to live longer.
Today, luo han kuo is popular in Asia and is still consumed for its traditional health benefits for treating throat and lung problems as well as constipation. The fruit is dark or greenish brown in colour with a thin hard skin and is quite hollow on the inside. It is about the size of a small orange and is very light due to it being a dried fruit and being quite hollow on the inside. The whole fruit can be broken up by hand and boiled as a tea. Luo han kuo is also nowadays used as a natural substitute for sugar.
It is reported to be 200 times sweeter than sugar and has very little calories and low glycemic, which makes them suitable for diabetics and the health conscious. So for those who drink coffee and tea frequently, luo han guo can be used to replace the normal sugar used for coffee, tea, chocolate drinks or any other drinks which usually require a certain amount of sweetening. In research, luo han kuo has been found to have high antioxidant properties, thus may be helpful in preventing cancer:
Besides being sold as a whole fruit, it is also available in sachets and powdered cubes form. To eat the luo han kuo fruit, simply wash it, crack it open with the hand by pressing it in your palms and boil it with water and then drank as a tea. You can even boil it with ginger or lemon to enhance the taste and for enhanced nutrients.
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