What it is: In contrast with its mouthful of a name, the Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit is really just a morsel.
The 2cm-long red drupe contains a single seed, which is removed so only the flesh of the fruit - known as shanzhuyu in Chinese - is used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
The third edition of the Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica said the seeds are excised as they are believed to cause spermatorrhea, the abnormally frequent and involuntary non-orgasmic emission of semen.
The Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit is not actually from the cherry family but comes from a species of flowering plant in the dogwood family, Cornaceae, which is found in China, Japan and South Korea, said Ms Pansy Yeo, a TCM practitioner at Chong Hoe Health Products Chinese Medical Store.
The fruit is collected in late autumn, around October or November, then baked till it turns dark red, she added. It is sold at $2 for a tael (37.5g) at Chong Hoe.
How TCM uses it: The sour fruit is considered warm in nature and is said to move through the meridians of the liver and kidneys. Meridians are channels in the body through which qi (vital energy) travels. A good flow of qi, as well as a balance of yin (the element responsible for cooling organs) and yang (the element linked to heat) in the body are needed for good health.
The kidneys regulate the absorption and excretion of water. If yin, yang or the essence of nutrients - which sustains the functions of all organs - in the kidneys are insufficient, a person will experience abnormally high fluid loss.
Insufficiency could be due to ageing, chronic disease or a weak constitution.
The person will then suffer from urinary frequency, incontinence and excessive sweating, said Ms Yeo. Men may have spermatorrhea and women may have excessive menstrual bleeding.
The Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit can benefit such patients as sour herbs are believed to be able to arrest abnormal discharge from the body.
Ms Yeo said liver and kidney functions can be impaired when these organs have qi, yin or yang deficiencies, which could lead to symptoms such as chronic fatigue, dizziness, soreness and weakness of the lower back and lower limbs.
The fruit is often prescribed to strengthen the liver and kidneys, which tend to lack yin rather than yang, she said.
Who is it for: It is common for the elderly to wake up two or more times each night to urinate. This symtom is called nocturia. If this problem is accompanied by night-time perspiration, Ms Yeo said, the sufferer can consume the Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit with herbs such as fragrant Solomon's seal rhizome and unripe wheat grain.
Women undergoing menopause exhibit "heaty" symptoms - hot flushes and night sweating - that are characteristic of yin deficiency in the liver and kidneys. Ms Yeo said this is due to changes in their hormonal cycles.
They are often prescribed the Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit with Sichuan lovage rhizome and rehmannia root.
Who should avoid it: People who have difficulty urinating or experience painful urination - for instance, because of a urinary tract infection - should avoid the Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit, which would aggravate their symptoms.
What research has shown: In a study published in the journal Molecular And Cellular Toxicology in 2010, eight-week-old male mice were divided into a normal control group, a diabetic control group and a diabetic group treated with Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit.
Blood glucose levels in both diabetic groups were significantly higher than those in the normal control group.
At eight weeks after the experiment, blood glucose levels in the diabetic group treated with the Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit were significantly lower than those of the diabetic control group by an average of 32 per cent.
The Korean authors concluded that the fruit can alleviate high blood sugar levels, thereby preventing or slowing down the development of diabetic nephropathy. This kidney disease, caused by diabetes, is a common cause of kidney failure.
Source: Ms Pansy Yeo, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner from Chong Hoe Health Products Chinese Medical Store
50g Chinese yam
10g dried longan
50g white rice
Sugar, to taste (optional)
1)Wash the Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit, then soak it in water for about 15 minutes.
2)Wash the Chinese yam and dried longan. Drain them of water and set them aside.
3)Wash and soak the rice in water for half an hour, then drain it of water and set it aside.
4)In a pot, add 500ml of water, then all the other ingredients. Bring the mixture to the boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
5)Add sugar, if desired, before serving warm.
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