China provides the world with an abundant supply of natural therapies. Many of these herbal substances are classified as “functional foods,” which means that they are consumed for daily nutritional requirements but also possess unique medicinal properties.
Monk fruit, a green fruit that looks like a melon, is named after the group of monastic practitioners who popularized its use as both a natural sweetener and a medicine. It is the latest nutritional treasure to emerge from the Far East.
Monk fruit, scientifically known as Siraitia grosvenorii, first surfaced in Chinese culture in the 13th century.1 Buddhist monks who were the medical practitioners of that era cultivated this member of the gourd family for many uses, primarily for the treatment of respiratory illnesses.
The species name was chosen in honor of Gilbert Grosvenor, who was president of the National Geographic Society and funded an expedition in the 1930s to find the living plant in its native habitat of southern China.2
Monk fruit made its way into the United States in the early 20th century, but serious research into the fruit’s potential as a sweetening agent did not being until after 1975.1
This article originally appeared on MPR