Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a popular fruit in Japan and belongs to same family as apples and plums. Though native to China, it is widely cultivated in Asia and available in Europe and parts of America. It has a long history, with references of this fruit can be traced in Chinese mythology and ancient texts.
Loquat fruits are 1-2 inch small and pear shaped. They have yellow coloured thin yet hard outer peel. The flesh depending on the variety is white, yellow or orange in color and is sweet tangy, succulent and juicy. Loquat fruit is often consumed raw or processed into jam, jellies, juice or other similar processed fruit products. Loquat is used in a traditional medicine as “Dai-yaku-ohh-jyu” in Japan for over a thousand years. Loquat fruit syrup is used as traditional medicine for cough. Loquat leaves and loquat seeds are utilized for various traditional medicinal purposes. Leaves are used to relax body, reduce pain and swelling. Kumquat fruit has similar sounding name of Chinese orgin, but are botanically different fruits.
It is also popularly known as Japanese medlar, Japanese plum or Chinese plum. It is known by different local names - nespola giapponese (Italian), bibassier (French), wollmispel (German), nispero (Spanish), ameixa amarelle (Portugese), malta eriği (meaning Maltese plum in Turkish), Lokwat or Paginggong (Malay), लौकाट Lokat (Hindi and Marathi), Biwa (Japanese), Lo Guat 芦橘 (Cantonese), pípá 枇杷 (Mandarin), Nespli (Malayalam), Ilakotta or Nokkotta (Tamil)
Loquat nutritional fact
Like other fruits in its family, loquat fruit is rich in vitamin A, dietary fibers and other minerals and vitamins. They offer reasonably good calories, but are filling in nature. They offer about 47 calories per 100 gram, which would also include nearly one third of daily dietary requirement of Vitamin A. The peel is richer in carotenoids or Vtiamin A activity compounds including β-carotene, lutein and other xanthophylls. Loquat fruit offers ample amount of dietary fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, calcium and copper. The fruit offers fruit sugars along with malic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid and succinic acid. The fruit is also source of various phytochemicals. The fruit has good amount of pectin.
Loquat flowers contains good amount of flavonoids and phenolics. Various phytochemicals including amygdalin, urusolic acid and oleanolic acid have been isolated from loquat leaves. Loquat seeds contain amygdalin, lips, sterols and other fatty acids.
Health benefits of Loquat
The fruit while enjoyed for its taste and nutrients, leaves and seeds of loquat are used in traditional medicinal forms as remedy over respiratory and digestive disorders. Latest research has confirmed some of its uses as employed in traditional medicine. The fruit offer plethora of health benefits, some of these are discussed below:
Benefits of loquat to skin
Loquat fruit offers vital vitamins and minerals which play important role in keeping skin healthy. The modest amount of Vitamin A provided by loquat helps keeps skin and other mucus membranes moist. It offers mild astringent effect and strengthens elasticity of skin. It offer antioxidant properties which keep skin protected from oxidative stress and prevents aging. Try out some of these home remedies and enjoy benefits of loquat for your skin.
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Homemade loquat face mask – Wash 6-8 ripe loquats. Wash them. Blanch them in boiling water and remove the outer skin. Remove the seeds and blend the loquat into puree. Add coconut oil or olive oil for dry skin while add some lemon juice for dry skin. Spread this mask on your face. You may add 1-2 drops of some aromatic oil. While you relax with the aroma, loquat would work on skin within 20-30 minutes. Wash your face clean with cold water.
DIY loquat face mask – Wash about 6-8 ripe loquat fruits. Cut them and remove the pits. Blend the fruit into fine paste. Mix this with 1 tablespoon of grinded oatmeal and 1 tbsp of yogurt to form a consistent paste. Apply this to your face and neck and leave for 15 minutes. Wash your face with cold water to get good looking, young skin free from acne.
Try Loquat fruit scrub at home – Peel about 10 loquat fruits. Remove the pits and grind them to coarse powder. Make paste of the loquat flesh. Add about 1 tsp of honey and mix all ingredients. Scrub your skin with this paste to remove dead cells and offer good looking clean skin.
Loquat leaves have been long used for medicinal purpose to treat various skin diseases and inflammation. In Japan, Biwa cha (tea made from Loquat leaves) is considered detoxifying beverage. It keeps body free from toxins and reduces emergence of acne, skin ulcers or other swellings on skin. As anti-inflammatory agent, it reduces inflammation of skin and helps healing of skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema or atopic dermatitis. Paste / poultice made from loquat leaves are often used as home remedy for treating such conditions. Today topical skin creams with loquat leaf extract are available in market to reduce inflammation and skin allergy. Washing face and skin with loquat leaf tea is good way of enjoying skin benefits of loquat leaves.
Seeds of loquat fruit are also considered good for skin. A study pointed out to protective properties of seed extract in preventing aging. Another study showed its ability to modulate immune function and reversing allergic dermatitis in rats.
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Loquat and weight management
Scientific studies point to property of loquat leaves in reducing sugar cravings and suppressing appetite. Such properties make Biwa cha, a potential food for helping weight loss. Loquat fruits offer modest calories and high nutrients and are good way of managing weight. Fibers from fruits like loquat keep stomach full and reduce frequent hunger.
Loquat as an antioxidant food
Together with Vitamin A activity, Vitamin C and other flavonoids and phenols, loquat fruit has antioxidant activity. It helps in scavenge free radical from body and protect body cells from oxidative stress. As an antioxidant it help reduce risk of degenerative diseases including cancer, cataract, diabetes and other. It protects brain cells from memory loss and other neurological diseases arising due to oxidative stress.
Loquat for relief on respiratory disorders
Loquat fruit syrup has been long used as homemade cough syrup. Similarly loquat leaves tea or Biwa Cha is consumed in Japan and China as cough suppressant and expectorant. It works well in offering quick and temporary relief over sore throat. Try out herbal tea made from loquat leaves, ginger, basil leaves, licorice and honey as home remedy for cough and cold. Loquat leaves are also effective over asthma. These benefit of loquat leaves on respiratory disorders can be attributed to anti-inflammatory properties of loquat leaves.
[Read about natural remedies for common cold]
Loquat and diabetes
Loquat tea is considered effective in diabetes management. Loquat food helps regulate insulin, reduce body lipid and cholesterol. Studies are active in area of understanding benefits of loquat leaves for type II diabetes. In animal studies, supplementation of loquat leaves extract was found to reduce body lipid and regulate diabetes in mice. In another study, anti-diabetic potential of loquat was attributed to presence of triperpene acid. Similar benefits have been found for loquat seeds.
Loquat for healthy heart
Small but considerable amount of dietary fibers in loquat helps in preventing bad cholesterol from getting absorbed in intestine. Low sodium and high potassium keeps blood electrolytes at balance and controls heart rate and blood pressure. With its antioxidant property, it protects heart from oxidative stress and reduces risk of heart disorders.
Loquat and prevention of osteoporosis
Lab studies have investigated anti-osteoporosis properties of loquat leaves. Supplementation of control rats with loquat leaf extract was found to prevent loss of body mineral density. It was suggested that ursolic acid present in loquat leaves can prevent bone mineral density deterioration. Further anti-inflammatory property of loquat is effective in reducing inflammation of joints and bones in osteoporosis.
[Read more about natural foods to keep away osteoporosis]
Loquat and cancer cure
With adequate supply of antioxidant nutrients like Vitamin A and flavonoid, loquats are believed to reduce the risk of cancer. It prevents free radical from resulting mutation in body cells and leading to cancer. Loquat leaves tea is also good detoxifying agent and helps removal of toxins from body which may result in cancer or tumors. Loquat is believed to reduce risk of lung, oral and colon cancer. Lab studies show that loquat leaf extract have ability to inhibit growth of cancer cells. Corosolic acid, a triterpene isolated from loquat leaves is suggested to have anti cancer properties and have potential to treat human leukemia.
Antiviral property of loquat
Loquat fruit has been used in treatment of respiratory disorder often due to inflammation caused by virus. Phytochemicals particularly glycoside and polyphenols result in production of viral antigen in body and reduce viral infection. Initial studies with loquat leaf with ursolic acid, oleanolic acid and pomolic acid, have even short suppressive effect on HIV virus, suggesting its use for treatment of the disease. However these studies over HIV virus are conclusive and could not be replicated. Another study published in leading health journal suggested extract of loquat leaves inhibited growth of Candida fungus.
Loquat offers benefits to eyes
Loquat offers benefits to eye just like carrots. Their supply of vitamin A activity nutrients keeps eye tissues healthy and prevents their degeneration from oxidative stress. Regular consumption of loquat can offer body with reduced risk of cataract and macular degeneration and improves vision. Luetin present in loquat increase pigmentation in eye and improves vision. Along with other xanthophylls, luetin reduces risk of nuclear lens opacity.
[Read about natural ways to get relief from dry eyes]
Loquat as detoxifying agent
Loquat offers body with diuretic properties and helps in removal of excessive uric acid, thus reduces risk of gout and kidney stones. Further with pectin content, it blocks absorption of toxins in intestine and reduces risk of colic cancer. Loquat tea has been long used as liver tonic and detoxifying beverage. Lab studies have found that extract of seeds of loquat offers liver protective benefits. Extract of loquat seed has been able to prevent development of liver fibrosis and pollionosis in lab rats.
Other Benefits of loquat
Loquat offers astringent effect on digestive tract and is traditionally used in treatment of vomiting, diarrhea and other digestive tract disorders. Flowers of loquat are traditionally used in treating depression and alcoholism. No scientific studies have confirmed such properties of loquat.
Side effects of loquat
Seeds and leaves of loquat contain amygdalin, which is metabolized into toxic cyanides in body. Excessive intake of leaves or seeds may lead to food poisoning symptoms. Saponin present in tender young leaves may lead to causing headache.
Culinary uses of loquat fruit
Simplest way to eat loquat is to peel and enjoy the tangy juice flesh of loquat fruit raw. You can use them in your recipes salads, custards, pie or process it to jam, jelly, marmalade or pickle. Loquat chutney or sauce is popular in Asia. The fruit can be fermented to produce local fruit wine. Loquat leaves tea or biwa cha is popular way of enjoying benefits of its leaves.
How to make Biwa cha (loquat tea) – Heat dried leaves of loquat in a closed container and allow it to simmer 10 minutes after boil. You may add other herbs like basil, ginger, turmeric, etc. Allow it to cool and then strain the ingredient to get refreshing and healthy biwa cha. It has mild pleasant flavor and effective in treating various diseases including respiratory disorders and diabetes.
Try some healthy loquat recipes at home.
Loquat Jam recipe – Collect about two cups of loquat flesh by peeling them and removing the seeds. Cut the flesh in small pieces so that it can be easily cooked. In separate bowl, heat 2 cups of water. Once it is boiled, add loquat pieces and 1 cup of sugar. Allow it to simmer, till loquat pieces are soft and jelly. Add some cinnamon and cardamom powder. Store this jam in sterilized jar.Image Credits: Flickr - Linda Kovacevic, Flickr - 3Point141, Flickr - Chick*pea