For hundreds of years, the monk fruit, also known as luo han guo, has been used for its medicinal properties. Though the medicinal effects of the fruit have not been scientifically studied, recent trials have confirmed that it is safe to eat. The fruit is used in folk medicine, mostly in China, for its potential to increase a person's natural lifespan and for problems of the respiratory system. It is also used to decrease body temperature.
In China, where the monk fruit originates, a tea made from the fruit is commonly used to relieve respiratory distress. It is used to relieve both upper and lower respiratory conditions. Tea made from this fruit is believed to act as an expectorant and an analgesic, clearing excess mucus from the bronchial tubes and relieving discomfort in the throat. The fruit is safe to consume, both raw and as a tea, so there is no harm in using this treatment to help improve mild conditions such as the common cold.
One of the other medical uses of the fruit is to increase lifespan. Though there is no research that confirms that people who eat the fruit regularly live longer than those who do not, circumstantial evidence has led many people to believe it does. This fruit is often eaten in a region of China where a disproportionate number of people live to be older than 100. This fruit has the potential to improve general health and boost the immune system, mainly because of the high concentration of vitamin C.
According to traditional Chinese herbal medicine, the fruit can also be used for its cooling properties. Patients with a fever or who are suffering from heat exhaustion may be given the juice of this fruit, often diluted in water, to help cool them down. The tradition of using the monk fruit for this purpose comes out of an understanding of the elemental properties of various foods. Severe fever or heat exhaustion should not be treated with this fruit because its effects have not been confirmed by medical studies.
Monk fruit can also be used as a sweetener for people who cannot tolerate sugar. The use of this fruit has been approved for use in a number of different countries. The fruit is about 300 times sweeter than sugar, meaning that only a very small amount of it needs to be used to sweeten things such as beverages. Diabetic patients can safely use this sweetener.