Most people are familiar with the longan fruit, which can be eaten fresh, tinned in syrup or dried. No matter their form, they are equally efficacious for use in TCM and can help promote the quality of sleep, says Ms Ou Cuiliu, a consultant of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) at Raffles Hospital.
What Is It? Longan aril is the ripe pulp of the fruit of an evergreen tropical tree which is native to southern China and was introduced to India and other warm regions such as Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia in the 18th century. The shape of the fruit has earned it the Chinese name of longyan, which means dragon eye. Longan aril is known as longyanrou, or flesh of the dragon eye.
How Do You Use It? The sweet-tasting longan aril is considered warm in nature. It is thought to move through the meridians of the heart and spleen. Meridians are channels in the body through which qi (vital energy) travels. In TCM, good circulation of qi and blood is required for optimal health.
Longan aril is used to address blood deficiency in the body, especially that affecting the heart and spleen. When a person has blood deficiency, he exhibits symptoms such as palpitations, headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, a pale complexion and a weak pulse.
The heart controls a person's mental well-being, including the quality of sleep. Those with blood deficiency in the heart have symptoms such as insomnia, are easily awakened and often have dreams. Longan aril is used to strengthen the heart and promote sleep for these people.
In one TCM formula used for invigorating the spleen, longan aril is used with largehead atractylodes rhizome (baizhu), angelica root (danggui) and astralagus root (huangqi). Blood deficiency is caused by a weak constitution, chronic illnesses or bleeding, for instance from an accident or surgery, she said. It is thought that blood deficiency can give rise to qi deficiency and vice versa. In TCM, blood produces qi and qi promotes the circulation of blood, so they are closely linked.
If there is qi deficiency, a person will have a pale or sallow face, feel tired all the time and be breathless, and sweat easily because his body cannot properly control pore closure without a good flow of qi.
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