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Sweetgum Fruit (Lu Lu Tong)

Close up of Liquidambar formosana Hance, Sweetgum Fruit (Lu Lu Tong)

What is Sweetgum Fruit (Lu Lu Tong)?

Sweetgum Fruit (lu lu tong, 路路通), also known as Liquidambaris Fructus, refers to the infructescences of the plant Liquidambar formosana, which is a large and deciduous tree belonging to the family Hamamelidaceae. Found in Asia and North America, the tree has a certain economical and ornamental value as its wood can be crafted into furniture, pulp materials and baskets. 

Sweetgum trees grow at a moderate rate and can reach heights of 65-70 feet, some in excess of 100 feet. The trees have straight trunks, and the crown is pyramid-shaped, ranging more than 40-60 feet wide that becomes more oval as the tree ages. The leaves of the sweetgum tree are palmate with five lobes and are green in the spring and summer but turn an attractive purple, red, or yellow in the fall. 

Their brilliant fall colors, moderate growth rate, and resistance to most pests make the ornamental sweetgum trees a desirable choice for many landscapes or parks. However, the tree’s spiny seed pods can litter lawns in the fall making mowing difficult.

The only edible part of the tree is its dried sap, which makes a fragrant, bitter chewing gum when hardened, which is how it got its name. However, despite its name, the gum does not taste sweet. A relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, Lu Lu Tong first appeared in a supplementary record to the Compendium of Materia Medica (本草纲目) in 1765 AD. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Sweetgum Fruit falls under the category of ‘Herbs that invigorate the blood’. Such herbs can help to stimulate the blood flow. In TCM, such herbs are used to help the circulation of blood for cardiovascular conditions, menstrual irregularities and acute pains caused by Blood Stagnation. These herbs can also be used to treat certain tumours, cysts and hardened clots caused by Blood Stagnation.

Neutral in nature, Lu Lu Tong does not affect the yin-yang balance in your body. Bitter in taste, the herb can cleanse the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements . In particular, the herb targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

Functions and Benefits of Sweetgum Fruit (Lu Lu Tong)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Sweetgum Fruit has the following health benefits.

Sweetgum Fruit can promote the movement of qi and invigorate blood. This helps to unblock channels and open the Middle Jiao. Sweetgum Fruit can thus treat symptoms such as epigastric pain, abdominal distention, irregular menstruation and scanty menstruation. The herb is also used to treat Wind-Damp Bi (痹) syndrome with pain, stiffness in the lower back and knees, numbness in hands as well as other discomfort caused by blood stasis.

Sweetgum Fruit can expel Wind and promote urination. This makes the herb an effective form of treatment for nasal congestion and oedema with urinary difficulty. Sweetgum Fruit is able to relieve skin and nasal allergies, including but not limited to urticaria, allergic rhinitis and general itching.

In addition, it is believed that Sweetgum Fruit can promote lactation, which helps breastfeeding women who are facing lactation problems caused by Qi Stagnation.

Modern studies have suggested that Sweetgum Fruit may contain anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to prevent chronic diseases and boost one’s immune system. It may also contain antioxidants, which can combat signs of ageing and free radical damage to relieve oxidative stress

Some research has also suggested that Sweetgum Fruit may help to inhibit certain viruses, such as Influenza A, herpes and ECHO6. The herb may also protect the liver.

Close up of Sweetgum Fruit (Lu Lu Tong)
The Sweetgum Fruit (Lu Lu Tong) is effective in easing water retention in the body.

How to Use Sweetgum Fruit (Lu Lu Tong)

The recommended daily dosage of Sweetgum Fruit is 3 – 10g, when used as a decoction. Alternatively, you can stir-bake Sweetgum Fruit into charcoal.

Aside from decoctions, Sweetgum Fruit can be made into pills, lotions and other forms of supplements as well.

For external application, you can pound the herb into powder before applying it on the desired area.

Cautions and Side Effects of Sweetgum Fruit (Lu Lu Tong)

Sweetgum Fruit should not be used by individuals experiencing heavy menstruation or abnormal bleeding between regular menstrual periods (metrorrhagia). Also, pregnant or breastfeeding women should use this herb with caution. In addition, usage of this herb may induce side effects such as palpitations.

Some individuals may be allergic to this herb, it is best to consult your healthcare provider before deciding to add this herb to your healthcare routine.

Summary

Here is a summary for Sweetgum Fruit (Lu Lu Tong):

  • Herb name (Chinese): 路路通
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): lù lù tōng
  • Herb name (English): Beautiful Sweetgum Fruit
  • Herb name (Botanical): Fructus Liquidambaris
  • Origin of species: Liquidambar formosana Hance
  • Part(s) of herb used: Infructescence (Fruiting head)
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Most parts of China
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Bitter; Neutral; Administrates the Liver and Kidney Meridians
  • Actions: Relieves pain relating to rheumatism or post stroke recovery period; Aids recovery from physical injuries; Eases water retention in the body; Eases pain and reduces blood clots relating to menstrual disorders; Eases swollen or tender mammary glands , and stimulate lactation; Relieves skin irritation and itchiness

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