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Lychee Fruit: A True Super Food

Updated on July 5, 2010

Many health-conscious people today are turning to the natural world for health benefits. Every year, some new “super food” is discovered. One of the latest discoveries is the lychee fruit, and this one isn’t just hype!

Lychee, or properly Litchi chinensis, is a tropical plant that’s native to parts of India, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Lychee is actually a member of the soapberry family. The fruits from the lychee tree are rather unusual looking. They somewhat resemble a bumpy leather strawberry. When this leather jacket is removed, however, the delicious flesh of the lychee fruit is uncovered.

What does lychee fruit taste like?

Lychee fruit is sweet, with a taste somewhat like the combination of a pear and a grape. The flesh is delicate, and the fruits have a sweet, slightly musky aroma. Lychee is ususlly eaten fresh, but it can also be preserved by canning. It’s often made into jams, jellies, sauces, purees, and preserves. In some regions, lychee is a favorite addition to salads and desserts.

Another way to enjoy the fruit is in its dried form. The dried lychee is usually referred to as lychee nuts, although they don’t look or taste like nuts. They more closely resemble raisins in both appearance and taste.

History of the lychee

The Chinese often seem to appreciate the inherent benefits in natural foods long before the Western World catches on. Such is the case with the lychee. They’ve been using lychee fruit for hundreds of years!

The benefits of lychees were extolled in Chinese literature as early as the eleventh century. References from the Tang Dynasty also mention the lychee. During this period, Emperor Li Longji had the special fruits delivered every day and night to his favorite concubine, making sure she always had an ample supply of lychee.

The spread of the lychee

Something as popular as the lychee couldn’t remain a Chinese secret forever. The growing of lychee trees spread across Asia in the 1600s, and by the next century, the fruits and the trees had made their way to the West Indies. The practice spread to Europe in the 1800s.
The English were captivated by the lychee, and since it wouldn’t grow well in the cool climate, it was often grown in greenhouses. By the end of the 19th century, lychees were being grown in the United States, mostly in Florida and California, where the warm climate agreed with the fruit trees.

The health benefits of lychee fruit


The Chinese and other Asian populations have long used the lychee fruits as a pain reliever, especially as a remedy for sore throats. They also ate the fruits to relieve the symptoms of colds and as a digestive aid. Asians believe the lychee fruit enhances overall good health and increases longevity.

What about the modern scientific evidence and the treatments of breast cancer?

There’s no disputing that lychee is a healthy food. It’s packed with vitamin C. Lychee also has flavanoids with powerful antioxidant potential, which might help ward off a host of ailments.

In the past few years, scientists and doctors began to study the specifics of the lychee. A study at Zhejiang Gongshang University in Hangzhou, China revealed some of the amazing effects of lychee. These scientists discovered that the flavonoids in lychee were found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The lychee pulp in the study seemed especially effective against human breast cancer. Hopefully, with more studies and experimentation, lychee can become part of the treatments of breast cancer.

A subsequent study, conducted at the Chegdu’s West China Hospital at Sichuan University, echoed the previous findings. This scientific study confirmed that the polyphenolic compounds of lychee inhibited the growth of cancer cells, especially in certain types of carcinomas. This offers even more hope that lychee might someday play a significant role in the effective prevention and treatments of breast cancer.

What about research in the U.S.?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Cancer Institute joined forces to study the potential benefits of lychee. They found that lychee root extract inhibited the growth of one type of cancerous tumors in laboratory animals. Of course, this is exciting news, and subsequent studies will follow.

As for informal evidence, many people who consume lychee report numerous benefits. One of the most prominent is the lychee’s apparent ability to relieve pain from stomach ulcers. Others report that they have more energy and experience fewer colds and coughs.

The studies about lychee have created a buzz and have increased the demand for the fruit worldwide. Currently, lychee trees are commercially grown in Florida and California, and Americans seem to be developing a taste for this new super food.

Where can you find lychee fruit?

You can find lychee fruit products online, in health food stores, and in Asian markets. If you purchase the fresh fruits, remove the outer skin and eat the delicious pulp, but avoid the seed. Store your lychee fruits in the fridge. Even if the fruits turn brown after a day or two under refrigeration, the pulp itself will be good to eat.

Lychee is also often added to teas, health drink mixes, candies, and even to skin creams. You can also purchase canned lychees.

Check out the lychee products below!

The lychee fruit is a super food!
The lychee fruit is a super food!

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    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I'm getting hungry for these right now while reading this! It's a good thing that there's an Asian food store only about 3 miles from me that sell these fresh and canned! There's nothing like eating them fresh, by the way. I love getting like a whole vine of them for long road trips!

      Great hub, Hollie!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      Fascinating hub, habe, chock full of information and nutrition. Thank you.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 7 years ago

      From reading books about China, I'd heard of these, but you've filled me in on just what they are. Thanks.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      A whole vine of lychees would be cool, Dohn!!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Bpop! Got any leftovers from breakfast?

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      I have to say that I never tried this fruit. Thanks for the info.

    • Carol the Writer profile image

      Carolyn Blacknall 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Never heard of Lychee Fruit before - thanks!

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 7 years ago from Virginia

      OMG Habee! You never fail to surprise me! This is one fruit that is oftenunheard of but is great and like you pointed out full of nutrients! I am not that crazy about myself it but a lot in my family are! Excellent hub!

    • lctodd1947 profile image

      lctodd1947 7 years ago from USA

      This sounds wonderful and looks even better. I love strawberries so I would love this. You have done it again...such a good hub

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      Hhmmm, a combination of two of my favorite fruits. I will have to look for this the next time I'm in the wholefood store. Thanks for sharing! :)

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Good to see ya, Sheila!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Give it a try, Sandy!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Carol! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 7 years ago from Georgia

      Excellent information habee. This is the first time I've heard of this fruit. Thank you so much for sharing this vital information.

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Habee: I dont think much of the canned stuff, but fresh is wonderful.. and I even like the candy! Great post!

    • Anath profile image

      Anath 7 years ago

      I didn't know about the health benefits of lychees. I love them, not only their flavour which I find extremely sensual, but the touch of them, hard and rough on the outside but so soft and silky once you get to the flesh...

      I wish they were easier to find where I live, usually we can only get them exceptionally and I must be the main buyer :)

    • emievil profile image

      emievil 7 years ago from Philippines

      I love lychees. Unfortunately, I only get to eat them out of a can. They're kind of expensive here. But whenever I have a chance to eat them like there's a fruit salad with lychees on it, I'd definitely get lots of them :).

    • JenDobson27 profile image

      JenDobson27 7 years ago

      Thanks for the great information. I've never had a lychee before, but it sounds pretty good!

    • theherbivorehippi profile image

      theherbivorehippi 7 years ago from Holly, MI

      I'm so glad you wrote about this! I just finished a writing job for a client and it was on different cities in China and Thailand and I swear lychee fruit came up non stop! Now I know I must get my hands on some of this fruit!! It's a sign. :)

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      I've never tried these believe it or not so now I must! Great information and presentation.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Habee, Great information as this is a new fruit for me. I am going to check it out. Thanks.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      Lychees have been one of my greatest favourite fruits since forever! I had no idea they had such beneficial qualities - I just love the taste!

      Thanks for a really infomartive and interesting Hub.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • profile image

      peacenhim 7 years ago

      Fascinating! "Put it on my must "Try" list! Sounds like it has great benefits, maybe as good as or better than the blueberry! Thanks!

    • nancy_30 profile image

      nancy_30 7 years ago from Georgia

      Great hub. I've never heard of this fruit before. Thanks for all the information on it.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 7 years ago

      These sound delicious although I had never heard of them. I love fruits and vegetables. I don't know whether I shall get a chance to try them because if it's not at my local grocery store I'm not likely to find it. But if I do see them, I'm going to give them a shot. They look cute too, like cartoonish strawberries. Great hub, upthumbed. :)

    • screation profile image

      screation 7 years ago

      Lychees are also a good source of riboflavin, potassium and copper.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      You're welcome, Veronica!

    • Tubbs Merouge profile image

      Tubbs Merouge 7 years ago from Louisiana

      I've never heard of them before but I'm going have to try some! Thanks for this informative hub!!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Chris! I haven't tried the candy!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Anath - that's how I like my men! lol

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Emi! How ya been?

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Give them a try, Jen!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Ann! My fam loves about every fruit!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks Ictodd, for reading and commenting!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for reading, MG!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Herbi, that must have been an amazing experience!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you, dear Audrey!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Good for you, Pamela!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      See, Tony - you're healthier than you thought! lol

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Peace, the blueberry is pretty awesome, too!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      You're welcome, Nancy!

    • 49lart profile image

      49lart 7 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Delicious Hub. I will have to try some fresh lychee.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Idunn, "cartoon strawberries" - love it!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Screation, thanks for the additional info!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      You're welcome, Tubbs. Thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      49, very nice of you to visit, read, and comment!

    • I*n*v*i*c*t*u*s profile image

      I*n*v*i*c*t*u*s 7 years ago

      Yum, yum, yum! I love lychee's and did not know the nutritional value (superfood) of them.. :) Thanks so much. I guess, lychee martini's kinda defeat the purpose, eh? haha

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I always drink Lychee syrup. it taste delicious. But I never know the benefit behind this fruit. Wonderful information. Thanks,Habee for showing me about this .

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Invictus, I think a lychee martini would be great! I guess you'd still get all the good stuff!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      You're welcome, Prasetio. Thanks for reading!

    • GrantGMcgowan profile image

      GrantGMcgowan 6 years ago

      I am glad to visit this one, Learned something new.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Grant, so nice to have you here as a visitor!

    • danfresnourban profile image

      danfresnourban 5 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thanks for sharing this information, I had never heard of Lychee fruit before. And you have gone through the trouble of showing where to get some, I am going to get some of the Lychee Super Fruit and Great Tea.

    • profile image

      unknow 5 years ago

      yummy

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I've had canned but not fresh lychee. After reading your article I am going to look for it next grocery trip and try them. I'm glad the Chinese passsed this secret on to the world.

    • profile image

      yella 5 years ago

      lychee was not originated in china. It was originatd in thailand and some other countries in south east asia

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