What Is Li Zhi He
Li Zhi He commonly known as Semen Litchi or Lychee Seed is the dried and mature seed of Litchi chinensis Sonn., which is an evergreen tree belonging to the family Sapindaceae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Ben Cao Yan Yi> (Extension of the Materia Medica) in the sixth year of the Zhenghe reign of the Northern Song Dynasty (1116 AD).
Litchi chinensis also known as Lychee or Lichi is the only known species in the genus Litchi. It is a subtropical fruit tree native to southern China, Malaysia, and northern Vietnam. It is currently widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Its branches are the primary source of fuel used in the preparation of Cantonese cuisine-style roast goose. Its fruit is a highly popular and well-liked delicacy.
Perhaps in today’s world, we can enjoy fruits from around the globe in the comfort of our homes. However, over a thousand years ago, this would have been a luxurious and unimaginable experience.
More than a thousand years ago, there was an emperor’s concubine in China who had a strong fondness for lychees. In response, the emperor established a special team of swift horses to transport fresh lychees from Guangdong to Xi’an, just to present them to his beloved concubine. It’s said that riders and horses were changed along the way and the fruit was rushed to the palace as quickly as possible before they were spoiled.
When the Lychees arrived, the concubine was very happy would give a beautiful smile. A poem by Du Mu, a poet of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), exposed and satirized this palace extravagance. It reads: “A horse gallops across the land at full speed, and the concubine laughs. Who else knows it is lychees coming.” Ever since then, lychees have been considered in China the finest of delicacies and a symbol of romance. One type of lychee is even named “Smiling Concubines” (Fi Zhi Xiao).
In the summer, people gather the mature fruits of Litchi chinensis Sonn., take out their seeds, wash them with water, dry them in the sun, use them directly, or stir-fry them with salt water, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.
Li Zhi He contains kaempferol, quercetin, L-epicatechin, stigmasterol, β-sitosterol, daucosterin, litchiosides A~B, pumilaside A, funingensin A, litchitannin A1, litchitannin A2, aesculitannin A, proanthocyanidins, volatile oils, fatty acids, pigments, amino acids, polysaccharides and some trace elements.
Generally, Li Zhi He that are chestnut-red or purplish-brown, plump, firm, and glossy are preferred.
According to the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, the medicinal nature of Li Zhi He is relatively warm, with a sweet and slightly bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the liver and kidney meridians.
In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often used to promote qi circulation and eliminate masses, dispel cold and relieve pain, and treat hernia pain, swelling pain of the testicles, distending pain in epigastrium, dysmenorrhea, postpartum abdominal pain, neuralgia, periumbilical colic due to cold, unilateral sagging of the testicle, chronic colitis, ulcerative colitis, allergic colitis, chronic prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia, orchitis, liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, diabetes, as well as a supplementary treatment for various types of cancer.
There are more than 50 kinds of traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions containing it, such as Shi Xiang Wan, Jin Lida Granules, and Jiang Tang Tong Mai Pian.
- Anti-oxidation, scavenging DPPH free radicals, converting iron ions into ferrous ions .
- Inhibiting herpes simplex virus 1 and coxsackie virus B3 activity in vitro .
- Dispelling cold, treating hernia pain and swelling pain of the testicles caused by qi stagnation due to congealing cold.
- Soothing the liver and harmonizing the stomach, treating distending pain in the epigastrium caused by stagnation of liver qi, or liver-stomach disharmony.
- Promoting qi circulation and eliminating masses, treating dysmenorrhea and postpartum abdominal pain caused by blood stasis due to liver depression and qi stagnation.
- Its polyphenols reduced systolic blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats and alleviated hypertension-induced renal damage .
- Its saponins can inhibit the rat hyperplasia of the mammary gland, and its possible mechanism is related to adjusting the transduction pathway of estrogen signal to lower estrogen levels .
- Its saponins improve cognitive function and prevent neuronal injury induced by Aβ25–35 in AD rats through inhibiting apoptosis of the neuronal cells in the hippocampus . Furthermore, its extract protects against neuronal injury and improves cognitive function in rats with type II diabetes mellitus with cognitive impairment .
- Its extracts decreased the weight, improved lipid accumulation and lipid metabolism, and modulated the gut microbiota and mycobiota compositions in high-fat diet-induced obese zebrafish .
- Its extracts have certain inhibitory effects on Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaris, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus subtilis .
- Its total flavonoids effectively alleviated CCl4-induced liver fibrosis in rats. The mechanism of action is related to the upregulation of retinol metabolism, which consequently affects lipid metabolism and excessive extracellular matrix degradation .
- Several studies have revealed that it has promising antihyperglycemic activities, including improving insulin resistance, anti-inflammatory effect, lipid regulation, neuroprotection, anti-neurotoxic effect, and renoprotection effect .
- Its ethanol extract can induce apoptosis of human colon cancer cells and arrest their cell cycle in the G2/M phase . Its extract can inhibit non-small cell lung cancer cell growth . Its total flavonoids can suppress the growth of breast cancer and eliminate breast cancer stem cells by inhibiting the Notch3 signaling pathway . Its drug-containing serum has the effect of inhibiting the proliferation of liver cancer cells in vitro. It may inhibit the angiogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma by down-regulating the expression of VEGF and MMP-9 . It contains Pumilaside A, which can induce apoptosis in human gastric cancer BGC823 cells via activation of death receptor- and mitochondria-mediated apoptotic pathways . Its total flavonoids can attenuate prostate cancer progression via inhibiting AKT/mTOR and NF-kB signaling pathways .
- It can be used in combination with Xiao Hui Xiang (Fructus Foeniculi), Qing Pi (Citri Reticulatae Pericarpium Viride), Wu Yao (Radix Linderae), etc. to treat hernia pain and swelling pain of the testicles caused by qi stagnation due to congealing cold.
- It can be used in combination with Long Dan Cao (Radix Gentianae), Chuan Lian Zi (Fructus Meliae Toosendan), Huang Bai (Cortex Phellodendri), etc. to treat swelling pain of the testicles caused by damp-heat.
- It can be used in combination with Mu Xiang (Radix Aucklandiae), Fo Shou (Citri Sarcodactylis Fructus), etc. to treat chronic distending pain in epigastrium caused by stagnation of liver qi, or liver-stomach disharmony.
- It can be used in combination with Xiang Fu (Rhizoma Cyperi), Dang Gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis), etc. to treat dysmenorrhea and postpartum abdominal pain caused by blood stasis due to liver depression and qi stagnation.
- It can be used in combination with Hu Zhang (Polygoni Cuspidati Rhizoma et Radix), Da Huang (Radix et Rhizoma Rhei), Zhi Zi (Fructus Gardeniae), Ze Lan (Lycopus Lucidus), Shi Chang Pu (Rhizoma Acori Tatarinowii), Wu Zhu Yu (Evodiae Fructus), Wei Ling Xian (Radix Clematidis), etc. to treat chronic prostatitis.
- Currently, there is no literature reporting any toxic effects of Li Zhi He, and no studies have shown that it can cause serious adverse reactions when taken in the recommended dosage.
Precautions and Warnings
- The dosage of Li Zhi He should be controlled between 5-10g.
- It can be made into decoctions, pills, or powders.
- People who are allergic to Li Zhi He should not take it.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should take it under medical supervision.
- Children, the elderly, and the infirm should take it under medical supervision.