Lychee: Anti-viral, anti-influenza, anti-cancer properties

Lychee: Anti-viral, anti-influenza, anti-cancer properties

Lychee, which is in the soapberry family, but is the only member of its genus, meaning that it is quite unique in the world. It is a fruit tree that can grow in tropical and subtropical climates and is native to China. It smells very much like a flower and is often used to flavor cocktails and dishes because of its unique scent, which is lost if not consumed fresh. The fruit is primarily eaten as a dessert in Asian nations and is growing popular in other parts of the world too. The fruit has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years in China and was once considered a great delicacy of the Imperial Court. It is now cultivated in many nations around the world, but the main production still resides in Southeast Asia, China, India, and Southern Africa. Lychee is soft and pulpy, white or pink in color, and the size is usually about 2 inches in height and width. They are highly eminent in countries around the world because of their health and medicinal benefits, which are due to the wealth of nutrients and organic compounds present in them.

Benefits of lychee

Aids in Digestion

The significant amount of dietary fiber in lychee, as in most fruits and vegetables, helps add bulk to the stool and increases digestive health. This helps bowel movements move through the digestive tract smoothly, and fiber also stimulates the peristaltic motion of the smooth small intestine muscles, increasing the speed of food passing. It also stimulates gastric and digestive juices, so the absorption of nutrients is efficient. This can reduce constipation and other gastrointestinal disorders. It also helps reduce abdominal obesity, according to a study cited in the Journal of Functional Foods. Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory properties of flavanol-rich lychee also possess hepatoprotective effects, as per the PLOS One journal.

Boosts Immunity

Perhaps the most significant nutrient in lychee is vitamin C, and this fruit has more than 100% of the daily requirement of ascorbic acid in a single serving. This means that the immune system gets a major boost, as vitamin C is a major antioxidant compound and is known to stimulate the activity of white blood cells, which are the main defensive line of the body’s immune system.

May Help Prevent Cancer

Research by the Division of Experimental Oncology, National Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, China shows that lychee fruit pericarp contains polyphenolic compounds that show antioxidant activity. These compounds show an impressive anticancer potential against human liver cancer cells. Lychee is a rich source of organic compounds, so it can be consumed as an effective preventative measure of various cancers. A 2006 study shows that lychee fruit pericarp extract has the ability to induce apoptosis as well as inhibit cell proliferation of breast cancer cells. The research revealed that lychee seed extracts can be an alternative therapy for prostate cancer treatment. Although human studies are yet to be done, the findings as of now look promising. The latest research published in the Nutrients journal suggests that lychee has some therapeutic effects that can help in the treatment of colon cancer.

Improves Cognition

Researchers from the Southwest Medical University have published a study in the Nutrients journal which highlights the neuroprotective effect of lychee seeds. The study demonstrates significant improvement in cognitive function and prevention of neuronal injury in the rat model affected by Alzheimer’s disease.


The proanthocyanidins in lychee have been studied extensively, and they have also demonstrated antiviral capabilities by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Litchitannin A2, a compound found in lychee, has been closely connected to preventing the spread or outbreak of viruses, including herpes simplex virus and coxsackievirus.

Controls Blood Pressure

Lychee has a wealth of potassium, meaning that it can help the body maintain a fluid balance; it is also low in sodium, which helps too. Fluid balance is an integral part not only of metabolic functions but also in hypertension. Potassium is considered to be a vasodilator, meaning that it reduces the constriction of blood vessels and arteries, thereby lowering the stress on the cardiovascular system. Potassium levels are almost three times higher in dried lychee rather than in fresh lychee! Furthermore, Dr. Mahesh Thirunavukkarasu, University of Connecticut Health Center, USA, in a study has revealed that oligonol derived from lychee fruit too is a vasodilator.


This powerful phenolic compound found in lychee has been connected to a number of important health benefits, including anti-influenza activity, an improvement in blood circulation, reduction in weight, and the protection of your skin from harmful UV rays when exposed to the sun. It also demonstrates considerable antioxidant capabilities, just like ascorbic acid, and other proanthocyanidins in lychee.

Improves Blood Circulation

Copper is another essential mineral found in considerable quantities in lychee, and although iron is most commonly associated with red blood cells, copper is also an integral part of RBC formation. Therefore, the copper content in lychee can boost blood circulation and increase oxygenation of the organs and cells.

Adding lychees to your diet

Eat them fresh or add to fruit salads. Stuff with cottage cheese and serve as a salad with dressing and nuts or stuffed with cream cheese and mayonnaise.

Often use them in desserts, layered with pistachio ice cream and whipped cream or used in mousses or even added to cakes. Find them in gelatin salads or pureed to flavor ice cream or sherbet. People make Sherbet by juicing the lychees and then adding the juice to plain gelatin, hot milk, light cream, sugar, and lemon juice, and then freezing.

More Ways to Add Lychee To Your Diet

Lychees are commonly found canned wherein the fruit is combined with sugar syrup and a small percentage of tartaric or citric acid to prevent discoloration. Dried lychees, called lychee or litchi nuts, are also popular and are similar to raisins. Store dried lychees for up to a year and then use it as a snack or chopped into fruit or green salads. Much Chinese use dried lychee instead of sugar to sweeten their tea.

Less commonly, lychees may be spiced or pickled or made into sauces, preserves, or even wine. Lychees are quite high in vitamin C, as well as vitamin B, potassium, thiamin, niacin, folate, and copper, making them a healthy food choice. They make a refreshing and nutritious smoothie by combining yogurt, honey, chopped lychees, fresh lime, powdered cardamom, and ice cubes, blended until smooth and frothy.

Lychees are in season from May to June and can be consumed any time of the day but it should be strictly avoided on an empty stomach in the morning.

Word of caution

Since lychees are a very good source of sugars, diabetics should be careful when eating lychees since it can unbalance their blood sugar levels. Also, people consider lychees a “hot” food, meaning that they can sometimes unbalance the body’s nutrient levels. Excessive consumption of lychees can result in irritated membranes, bleeding nose, fever, or a sore throat. However, in normal quantities, there are no inherent health risks.

Recipe for Lychee kheer

Calories – 369, Total Time – 30m, Prep Time – 10m, 6 Servings


6 drops rose essence

1 1/2 litre milk

3 powdered green cardamom

6 tablespoon sugar

350 gm lychee

For Garnishing

pomegranate seeds as required


To prepare this dessert recipe, place a saucepan over medium flame and heat milk in it. Add green cardamom powder and stir it well. When it turns aromatic, take it off the flame and set it aside for a while. Meanwhile, peel and de-seed the lychees.

Place the pan with milk over the medium flame again and let it boil until it reduces to half its quantity. Add saffron and sugar to it and give it a stir. Let the sugar dissolve and sprinkle the rose essence in it. Reduce the flame and let the milk boil over low flame. Now, stir in the peeled lychees. Mix them well. Then ensure their evenly coating with milk.

Once the milk has attained the desired consistency, take it off the flame. Transfer the kheer to a bowl and let it cool. Transfer it to the fridge to chill. Once chilled, take it out and garnish with some peeled lychees and pomegranate seeds to enjoy!

Recipe for Lychee rabdi

Total Time: 45-60 minutes, Serves:6, 240 calories


1 litre – whole fat Milk

2 tbsp – malai (top Cream of milk)

1 cup – lychee

1/2 cup – Sugar

1/2 tsp – Cardamom powder

3 – 4 drops – kewra essence

10 – 12 – pistachios, chopped thinly


Put milk to boil, add sugar (save 1 tsp). Allow to boil to 2/3 volume.

Add malai, cardamom powder, stir and simmer for 2 minutes.

Keep aside to cool to room temperature, add essence.

Refrigerate in chiller till very cold.

Chop lychees into pieces.

Sprinkle remaining sugar on lychees.

Refrigerate till very cold, and required.

An hour before serving, stir in litchis into chilled rabdi.

Stir in slivered pistachios, pour into individual bowls.

Lastly, serve chilled.

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