Luo Han Guo’s rise as a Popular Natural Sweetener in North America
by Dr. Ann Wang
Luo Han Guo goes by many names, including Monk Fruit, Fairy Fruit, and Momordica Fruit. Its most recognizable feature is its sweetness, being about 200 times sweeter than sucrose despite containing zero calories. This unique combination makes it one of the few truly healthy natural sweeteners, and has led to wide usage of Luo Han Guo in beverages, dairy products and foods.
More recently, extracts from monk fruit have been used to provide calorie-free sweetness in reduced-calorie foods and beverages. In a recent North American consumer survey conducted by New Hope Network, monk fruit was found to be the second most commonly used natural sweetener. It is apparent that North American consumers are already fond of Luo Han Guo.
Studies have shown that Luo Han Guo extract can reduce oxidative stress and blood sugar levels, and increase HDL cholesterol levels. The active ingredient in Luo Han Guo, mogroside, does not negatively impact intestinal flora, but can actually promote an increase of beneficial bacteria. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies the Monk Fruit sweeteners as "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS), while China, Japan, Canada and other countries list Monk Fruit as a safe edible sugar substitute.
Historically, Luo Han Guo was used as a sweetener for low-calorie refreshing drinks in China, as well as in traditional Chinese medicine as a medicinal ingredient. Luo Han Guo is sweet, sour, and cool in nature. It smooths the intestines and detoxifies, rejuvenates and beautifies the skin, moistens the lungs and reduces phlegm.
Clinically, Luo Han Guo is also used by TCM practitioners as a natural flavoring agent for herbal formulas. Particularly for patients who want to take advantage of the bioavailability and efficacy of granule formulas but can not handle the taste, Monk Fruit provides a sweet flavor to help balance the bitterness of some herbs. If you try adding 5 - 15 grams of Luo Han Guo to each 100g bottle of formula granules, you will almost certainly find that the acceptance of the formula’s flavor will be significantly increased. In this way, patients can not only receive the intended clinical benefits but can also make the granule formula taste better, leading to better patient compliance and, in turn, more effective treatment.