Luo Han Guo
Scientific Name(s): Momordicae grosvenori (Swingle)., Siraitia grosvenori (Swingle) A.M. Lu and Zhi Y. Zhang., Thladiantha grosvenori (Swingle) C. Jeffrey.
Common Name(s): Arhat fruit, Big yellow's fruit, Buddha fruit, Ge si wei ruo guo, Lo han guo, Lo han kuo, Longevity fruit, Lor hon kor, Magic fruit, Momordica fruit, Monk fruit, Na han gwa, Ra kan ka
Luo han guo is the fruit of S. grosvenori, a perennial, herbaceous, dioecious climbing vine that grows 2 to 5 m in length using tendrils.
The roots of the plant are large and fusiform or subglobose.1 The leaves of the plant are heart-shaped (10 to 20 cm length) and the fruit is round (5 to 7 cm diameter), smooth, and yellow-brown or green-brown in color. The seeds are numerous, pale yellow, broadly ovate, and compressed. The female inflorescence is in the form of axillary clusters; the male inflorescence is racemose.1 The plant is native to southern China in the provinces of Guangxi, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi, and in Northern Thailand.1 A synonym is Momordicaceae.
The name luo han guo or "monk fruit" might be derived from the belief that Buddhist monks were among the first people to cultivate this fruit; in Chinese culture, monk fruit is also associated with the saints that surround Buddha.1, 2, 3 The skin, flesh, and seeds of monk fruit are sweet and possess a unique taste. The fruit is usually boiled or simmered in water and consumed as an herbal tea or used in preparation of soups and stews.1 The fruit is traditionally associated with abundant health, and its uses as food by Asian populations in many parts of the world and in traditional Chinese medicine are well documented in Chinese historical literature.1 The original botanical name S. grosvenori was published in 1941 in honor of Gilbert Grosvenor who, as president of the National Geographic Society, helped fund an expedition in the 1930s to find the living plant where it was cultivated.1
The penta-, tetra-, and triglucose conjugated mogrosides are the sweetening components of luo han guo; the main mogrosides include mogroside V, mogroside IV, siamenoside I, and neomogroside.2, 4, 5, 6, 7 The siraitic acids A, B, C, D, and E, which are structurally 28-norcucurbitacins, are isolated from S. grosvenori.4
Momorgrosvin is a ribosome inactivating protein also isolated from S. grosvenori.2
In 2009, several new chemical components were isolated from this plant. Siraitiflavandiol is a new bioactive compound of the flavandiols class that has demonstrated in vitro inhibitory activity against oral bacterial species, such as Streptococcus mutans, Porphyromonas gingivalis, and Candida albicans.8
Siraitic acid IIB is a saponin that has demonstrated antitumor activity in vitro against lung cancer cells A-549 and liver cancer cells Hep-G2. Siraitic acid IIC has inhibited liver cancer cells Hep-G2.9
Uses and Pharmacology
In Chinese folk medicine, S. grosvenori has been used for cough, sputum, asthma, bronchitis, pharyngitis, obesity, acute gastritis, and constipation. In traditional Chinese medicine, luo han guo has been used as a pulmonary demulcent and emollient for the treatment of dry cough, sore throat, and extreme thirst. It is also used as a plant-derived substitute for sucrose. The fruit is generally sold in dry form and is used in herbal teas and soups. Previous studies have revealed antiatherosclerotic effects and anticancer, antiallergy, and antidiabetic activity.10
S. grosvenori has shown antihyperglycemic effects in rats via inhibition of maltase. It has also shown antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties.11 Polysaccharides from S. grosvenori promoted the proliferation of spleen cells and regulated the level of reactive oxygen species in vitro. It also raised superoxidase dismutase activity and regulated the cytokine levels of spleen and thymus in mice in vivo.12
S. grosvenori has antineoplastic activity related to the norcucurbitacins isolated from the plant. Siraitic acids IIB and IIC have shown antitumor effects in several lung and liver cancer cell lines.9 The extract has also been reported to have suppressive effects on dicyclanil-promoted hepatocellular proliferative lesions in mice models.13 Several studies have indicated anticancer effects, such as inhibition of Epstein-Barr virus activation and delayed development of papillomas in skin carcinogenesis models.14 Improved glucose, lipid utility, and increased insulin sensitivity were observed as a possible result of AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) activation by crude mogrosides isolated from the fruit of S. grosvenori in several diabetic rodent models.15
S. grosvenori has demonstrated an antifatigue effect on mice that is dose dependent.16
A 28-day dietary study of PureLo, a noncaloric sweetener that is a dried concentrate of luo han guo, was conducted in mice at dose levels ranging from 0 to 100,000 ppm and resulted in no associated toxicity.17
Limited clinical data are available regarding use in humans.
Limited clinical data are available regarding use in humans. However, the fruit is consumed in normal amounts in the form of herbal teas or soups. The intended use of the sweetener PureLo is at a fraction of 1%, far lower than the 10% that constituted the highest level tested, and research with PureLo has shown it is aversive to humans at extremely high concentrations.17
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
Several toxicity studies have been performed with the dried fruit concentrate in mice and dogs. These studies did not reveal any adverse reactions or toxicity with dietary use of luo han guo.17
No data available.
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