August 04, 2020
Scientific Name Liquidamber taiwaniana Common Name (Western)Sweetgum fruit Chinese Name (Pin Yin) Lu Lu Tong OriginGrows 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.
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.
Sweetgum fruit is contraindicated during pregnancy.
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