Lychee cultivation is recorded in China as far back as 2000 BC. Litchi chinensis is the sole member of the genus Litchi in the soapberry family. In the Philippines, a relatively unknown indigenous species belonging to the same genus is called "alupag" (Litchi chinensis subsp. philippinensis). Initial grafting trials suggest it has good rootstock potential and compatibility with lychee.
Litsiyas is a handsome, dense, slow-growing, round-topped tree, growing to a height of 10 to 30 meters. Leaves are alternate, up to 20 centimeters long, acuminate, and leathery. Flowers are greenish white, in terminal panicles. Fruit is rounded, red, 3 to 5 centimeters long, with a pink-red, roughly texture rind, with a sweet, translucent, fleshy edible aril.
- In the Philippines, found predominantly in the cool highlands of the Cordilleras. specifically Benguet and Baguio and in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur.- Introduced from China in the early 20th century.
- Native to the low elevations of provinces of Kwangtung and Fukien in southern China.
- Extensive plantings in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Taiwan, Japan, Queensland, Madagascar, Brazil, and South Africa.
- Reported scattered cultivation in Hawaii, West Indies, Guatemala, and California.
- Majority are "water types" grown in low, well-irrigated land.
- Some leak juice when the skin is broken; some retain juice within the flesh. The latter is referred to as "dry-and-clean" and are highly prized.
- There is much variation in form (round, egg-shaped, or heart-shaped), skin color and texture, fragrance, flavor, and even color of the flesh, and more important, the size and form of the seed.
- Professor Groff, in his book The Lychee and the Lungan, lists 15 cultivars.
- In the Philippines, two cultivars are predominantly grown in the highlands: Mauritius, from South Africa, and Sinco, from China.
- Food value per 100 g of edible portion: calories 63-64 (fresh), 277 (dried); protein 0.68-1 g (f), 2.9-3.8 g (d), fat 0.3-0.58 g (f), 0.2-1.2g (d); carbohydrates 13.31-16.4g (f), 70.7-77.5 g (d); fiber 0.23-0.4g (f), 1.4g (d), calcium 8-10mg (f), 33 mg (d); potassium 170 mg (f), 1,100 mg (d); ascorbic acid 24-6- mg (f), 42 mg (d), among others.
- Study of semen litchi (seeds) yielded five chemical constituents. viz., stigmasterol, P-hydroxy- benzaldehyde, protocatechuic acid, daucosterol, and kaempferol-3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside.
- Study of pericarp extract yielded three flavonoids, viz., Epicatechin, proanthocyanidin B2 and proanthocyanidin B4. (See studies below).
- Nutrient analysis of 100 grams of edible portion of raw lichis yielded proximate values as: water 81.76 g, energy 66 kcal, protein 0.83 g, total lipid 0.44 g, total dietary fiber 1.3 g, ash 0.44 g. Mineral analysis yielded calcium 5 mg, iron 0.31 mg, magnesium 10 mg, phosphorus 31 mg, potassium 171 mg, sodium 1 mg, zinc 0.07 mg, copper 0.148 mg, manganese 0.055 mg, selenium 0.6 mcg. Vitamin analysis yielded vitamin C 71.5 mg, thiamin 0.011 mg, riboflavin 0.065 mg, niacin 0.603 mg, vitamin B6 0.100 mg, total folate 14 mcg, vitamin B12 0.00 mcg.
- Proximate analysis showed the seeds to be an excellent source of carbohydrate (81.098%), protein (6.126%), fat (0.89%) and crude fiber (4.327%%). Nutritive value showed 356.917 Kcal/100 gm of seeds. (see study below)
- Considered antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-hyperlipidemic, anti-thrombotic.
Fruit, seeds, bark, flowers.
Edibility / Culinary
- Fruit most relished fresh, out-of-hand; but often added to fruit cups and fruit salads, or stuffed with cream, nuts or other fruits.
- Also used for sherbet, gelatin, flavoring ham or grilling on top of meats.
- Canned in sugar syrup.
- In China, dried lychees eaten like raisins. Also, dried flesh used as sweetener of tea, in lieu of sugar.
- No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Elsewhere, used for common colds, asthma, stomach pains, hiccups, chronic diarrhea, headaches, anemia, menorrhagia, irritable bowels, testicular swellings.
Reported to relieve coughing, especially when ingested in moderate amounts.
- Also reported beneficial effects on gastralgia, tumors, and gland enlargements.
- In China, seeds used for pain relief; used in neuralgia and orchitis. Tea of fruit peel is taken for smallpox eruptions and diarrhea.
- In India, powdered seeds are considered astringent and used for intestinal troubles; also used for neuralgic pains. Decoction of root, bark, and flowers are gargled to relieve throat ailments.
• Aldose Reductase / Diabetic Cataracts: Study of extracts of fruits and an EtOAc fraction showed potent inhibition of rat lens reductase in vitro. Aldose reductase has been reported to play an important role in sugar-induced cataract. From the EtOAc fraction, delphinidin 3-O-beta- galactopyranoside-39-O-beta-glucopyranoside was one of four minor compounds identified, and was found to be the most potent of the inhibitors and may be useful in the prevention and/or treatment of diabetic complications. (4)
• Hepatoprotective / Antioxidant / Anti-Apoptotic: Study of fruit pulp extracts in rats intraperitoneally injected with CCl4. Antioxidant properties of the lychees extracts, as evidenced by the vitamin C and phenolic compounds, anti-lipid peroxidation and anti-apoptosis could explain the hepatoprotective effects in CC;4-induced hepatotoxicity. (5)
• Antiplatelet / Anticoagulant / Fribrinolytic: Study of a 70% ethanol extract showed dose-dependent inhibition of collagen- and ADP-induced platelet aggregation in rat platelet-rich plasma. It also significantly prolonged coagulation times (PTT and PT). The antithrombotic effect suggests L. chinensis may be a natural source for development of of antiplatelet, anticoagulant and thrombolytic therapeutics for thrombotic and cardiovascular diseases. (6)
• Hepatoprotective: Study showed both alcoholic and aqueous extracts of fruit pulp of L. chinensis exhibited significant hepatoprotective activity in carbon tetrachloride induced hepatotoxicity. The aqueous extract was more effective than the alcoholic extract. (7) Chloroform and methanol extracts of L. chinensis leaf were evaluated for protective effects on paracetamol-induced liver damage in Wistar albino rats. While both test extracts showed hepatoprotective efficacy, the methanol extract was more effective. (14)
• Immunomodulatory / Anticancer: Study of litchi pericarp extract isolated epicatechin, proanthocyanidin B2 and proanthocyanidin B4. All three showed higher stimulatory effects on splenocyte proliferation than the reference, rutin. Epicatechin and proanthocyanidin B2 showed lower cytotoxicities to human breast cancer cell MCF-7 and human embryotic lung fibroblast than paclitaxel. (9)
• Antimicrobial / Antioxidant: Study of methanol extract of stem-bark and its fractions yielded phenolic compounds, flavonoids and tannins. An aqueous-methanolic extract showed the highest total antioxidant activity and a maximum growth inhibition against Bacillus subtilis. (10)
• Anti-Inflammatory / Toxicity Studies: Anima study of petroleum ether extract of leaves showed no toxicity up to up to 1 g/kg intraperitoneal dose. Results suggest it may inhibit the cyclooxygenase pathway of arachidonic acid metabolism. (11)
• Antimicrobial / Seeds: Study investigated seed aqueous extracts from Litchi chinensis and Nephelium lappaceum for antibacterial activity. Both showed moderate inhibition against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. The highest inhibitory activity was produced by L. chinensis against Streptococcus pyogenes. (13)
• Anti-Cancer / Seed: Study reviews recent findings regarding the benefits of the traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of human cancer and the possible cellular and molecular mechanisms of the litchi seed. Study suggests LCSP treatment could inhibit proliferation in various cancer cells and induce cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis in CRC cells, suggesting a potential as a novel chemopreventive agent. (15)
• Anti-Inflammatory / Flower: Flower ethanol extract yielded five flavanoids, nine phenolic acids, and proanthocyanidin. The extract was used to evaluate the inhibitory effects on lipopolysaccharide-(LPS)-induced pro-inflammatory mediators in RAW264.7 cells. Results showed suppression of expressions of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), the productions of NO and prostaglandin E2, and the secretions of pro-inflammatory cytokines. (16)
• Antioxidant / Antinociceptive: Crude extracts of leaves and ethyl acetate fraction exhibited high antioxidant activity. The antioxidant activity of the main compounds viz procyanidin A2 and procyanidin B2 was remarkably high with DPPH and ABTS. There was also reduction in nociception in FM and HP models. (17)
• Biosorbent / Peel Waste: Study evaluated the adsorption capacity of lychee peel waste for the removal of Acid Blue 25 dye from aqueous solution. Results suggest that Litchi chinensis peel waste can be used as an adsorbent in treating industrial effluents containing dyes. (18)
• Antihyperglycemic / Antihyperlipidemic / Pericarp: Study evaluated the hypoglycemic and antihyperglycemic activities of L. chinensis in normal and STZ-induced diabetic rats. Results showed significant antihyperglycemic, antihyperlipidemic activity and provided significant protection against kidney damage, which might be due to its antioxidant properties. (19)
• Effect on PGE2 and NO Production / Fruit: Study investigated the effects of litchi on prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and nitric oxide (NO) production in myrine macrophage cells. Study isolated three compounds: benzyl alcohol, hydrobenzoin, and 5-hydroxymethyl-2-furfuroaldehyde (%-HMF) from the AcOEt extract. Results showed marked dose dependent increase in PGE2 and NO production. Regulation of COX-2 and inducible NO synthase (iNOS) mRNA expression and NF-kB (p50) activation may be involved in the mechanism of the stimulative process. (20)
• Proximate Analysis / Antioxidant Activity / Seeds: Study investigated the proximate analysis, nutritive value, phenolic content and antioxidant activity of Litchi seeds. Results showed seeds contain medicinally active metabolites. An ethanolic macerate showed the highest phenolic content. An n-butanol fraction showed highest antioxidant activity on DPPH and FRAP assays. (see constituents above). (21)
• Antibacterial / Seeds: Study evaluated the antibacterial activity of aqueous seed extracts of Nephelium lappaceum and Litchi chinensis. Both extracts showed moderate inhibition against pathogenic bacteria viz. gram positive ( Staphylococcus aureus, S. pyogenes and Bacillus subtilis) and gram negative (E. coli, P. aeruginosa) bacteria. The highest inhibitory activity was by Litchi chinensis against S. pyogenes. (22)
Extracts in the cybermarket.