Luo Han Guo: Sweet Fruit as Sugar Substitute and Medicinal Herb
Luo Han Guo (luohanguo) refers to the fruit of Siraitia grosvenori, formerly called Momordica grosvenori, a member of the Curcubitaceae (1). The fruit is well-known for its sweet taste; this plant family (Gourd family) has other members that contain remarkable sweet components, including additional species of the genus Siraitia (e.g., S. siamensis, S. silomaradjae, S. sikkimensis, S. africana, S. borneensis, and S. taiwaniana 2) and the popular herb jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum). The latter herb, which has both sweet and bitter tasting triterpene glycosides in its leaves, is now sold worldwide as a tea and made into an extract for use in numerous health-care products (3). Luohanguo has been used as a medicinal herb for treating cough and sore throat (4) and is popularly considered, in southern China, to be a longevity aid (5). These are the same uses as listed for jiaogulan. Luohanguo has more recently been developed into a non-caloric sweetener to compete with other herbal sweeteners such stevioside from the unrelated Stevia leaf. (6).