Spotlight on Herbs: Sweetgum Fruit

August 04, 2020

Sweetgum fruit, the seed pod of the liquidamber tree, is used in traditional herbal medicine to open channels and passages

3 Uses for Dried Sweetgum Fruit:

  1. Deter garden pests – For gardeners constantly leaving out plates of beer or spreading iron phosphate in hopes eliminating plant damage by slugs and snails, perhaps there is an alternative more in line with Buddhist philosophy. Less about annihilation and more about deterrence, spreading dried sweetgum fruit around the base of the plants, effectively building a mote, should keep gastropods away. The sharp, woody spikes tear up their bodies if they try to crawl over them. At that point, they will just eat the plants in your neighbor’s garden as the meal of less resistance.
  2. Craft projects – First time I ever saw sweetgum fruit, I immediately thought, “Hmmm, add a little glitter spray paint and some 20-pound-test line, and those would make an excellent Christmas garland!” Apparently, I am not the only one to have this thought. The internet is full of ways to make this yard hazard into loveliness. Though Dave has warned me it’s going to take more than a needle to string these would-be ornaments. Like pre-drilling holes with a power tool.
  3. Traditional herbal medicine – oh yeah, that’s how I got on this topic. See below.
 

Herb Name Essentials

  • Scientific Name
    Liquidamber taiwaniana  

    Common Name (Western)
    Sweetgum fruit

    Chinese Name (Pin Yin)
    Lu Lu Tong

    Origin
    Grows in the temperate regions of China, in the Hubei, Anhui, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces

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  • If you think dried sweetgum fruit looks like something you don’t want to step on with bare feet, you’re right. These hard, spiky wood balls contain the seed of the sweetgum tree. The seeds contain shikimic acid, which is the starting material for the drug oseltamivir, more commonly recognized by the name Tamiflu. But getting those seeds out of their reinforced shells is no easy nut to crack, so just boiling up a handful of them is probably not sufficient to help your chills and fever. If you try to smash sweetgum fruit, it will become obvious why “gum” is in its name. It’s full of sticky resin.

     

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  • In traditional Chinese medicine, sweetgum fruit is used to relieve painful obstruction syndrome. In fact, the literal translation of the Chinese name, lu lu tong, is “all roads open.” Used for stiff back and knees as well as abdominal distention and difficulty with urination, it conjures images of that scene from Indian Jones where the boulder is hurtling through the tunnel crushing everything in its path. Modern research has indicated that it is useful in combination with other herbs in the treatment of allergic rhinitis, again, metaphorically rolling through the sinus passages pushing all the snot out of the way.

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  • Sweetgum fruit is contraindicated during pregnancy.

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Uses in Herbalogic Easy Breather

Herbalogic takes full advantage of the rolling-boulder-through-the-nasal-passages-pushing-snot-out-of-the-way metaphor with its inclusion in Easy Breather.


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