Lychee
(Litchi chinensis)

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Alupag, alupag-amo (Tagalog), amboina, anthocyanins, Bengal, Brewster, cay vai (Vietnamese), cerisier de Chine (French), Chinese cherry, copper, cyanidin-3-glucoside, cyanidin-3-rutinoside, epicatechin, flavonoids, flavonols, giong vai (Vietnamese), glutinous rice ball, Groff, hak ip, kalengkeng (Indonesian), kelengkang (Malay), kinesisk blomme (Danish), kinesiska plommon (Swedish), klengkeng (Indonesia), kwa luk, kyet mouk (Bermese), laichi, laici (Malay), lam yai (Burmese), lechia (Portuguese, Spanish), leechee, letchi (French – Réunion), letsias (Tagalog), li zhi (Chinese), li zhi guo (Chinese), licheas (Tagalog), lichi, lichi kitaiskaia (Russian), lichi kitaiskoe (Russian), lichi lichi (Russian), lichia (Portuguese), lichu, lici (Indonesian), lidzhi kitaiskoe (Russian), lin chi (Burmese), linchi, (Thai), linchi pa (Thai), Litchi chinensis Sonn., Litchi chinensis Sonn. subsp. javanensis, litchi ‘Bombai’, litchi de Chine (French), litchi fruit pericarp (LFP), Litchi litchi Britton, litchi ‘Mauritius’, Litchi philippinensis Radlk., Litchi ramboutan Labill., Litchi ramboutan-ake Labill., Litchi sinensis J.F.Gmel., litchia (Portuguese), litchiblomme (Danish), litchie (French), litchier (French), litchiplommon (Swedish), Litschi (German), Litschibaum (German), Litschipflaume (German), litsi (Greek, Indonesian), mengkuris (Borneo), nefelium lichi (Russian), Nephelium litchi Camb., ngan xanh (Vietnamese), ngèèw (Laotian), no mai tsze, oligonol phosphorus, panjore common, pied de letchi (French – Réunion), procyanidin B2, procyanidin B4, qua vai (Vietnamese), quenepe chinois (French – Haiti), quercetin-3-glucoside, quercetin-3-rutinoside, reishi (Japanese), saponins, see raaman (Thai), si raman (Thai), si raman khao (Thai), sweet osmanthus flavor, tai tsao, thiamine, tu hu (Vietnamese), vai (Vietnamese), vegetative storage proteins, vitamin C, yatou green, zhengcheng hanging green.

Background

  • Lychee (Litchi chinensis) is an evergreen tree native to the lowlands of southern China and is now grown in many tropical regions of the world.

  • Lychee has been used medicinally and as a food. Lychee leaves have been used to make vegetable dye. The lychee tree bears a sweet, red fruit that is highly regarded for its purported astringent, pain-relieving, stomach tonic, and fortifying properties. Tea made from the outer layer of the fruit is said to cure skin rashes. Extracts of the roots, bark, and flowers are traditionally used to cure sore throats.

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence supporting the use of lychee to treat any medical condition in humans.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Analgesic, antiviral, asthma, astringent, blood thinner, cough, diabetes, diarrhea, gastrointestinal conditions, heart disease, high cholesterol, immunomodulation, inflammation, memory, nerve pain, orchitis, pain (hernia), skin care, skin rashes, smallpox, sore throats, swollen glands, tonic (gastrointestinal), tumors.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for lychee in adults.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for lychee in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to Litchi chinensis, its constituents, or members of the Sapindaceae family.

  • Cross-reactivity with birch pollen, Compositae pollen, sunflower seed, mugwort, and latex may be observed.

  • Swelling of the lips or tongue, swelling under the skin, itching, hives, shortness of breath, restlessness, flush, inspiratory stridor (harsh sound made when breathing in), anaphylaxis, and bronchospasm have been reported.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Lychee is likely safe when consumed by nonallergic persons in amounts normally found in food.

  • Allergic reaction to lychee is rare. However, lychee may cause swelling of the lips or tongue, swelling under the skin, itching, hives, shortness of breath, restlessness, flush, inspiratory stridor (harsh sound made when breathing in), anaphylaxis, or bronchospasm in allergic individuals.

  • Lychee may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

  • Lychee may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.

  • Use cautiously in patients taking cholesterol- or lipid-lowering agents, as lychee seed water extract significantly decreased the levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides and increased the content of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

  • Avoid consuming in amounts greater than those normally found in food in pregnant and breastfeeding women, due to insufficient scientific evidence.

  • Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to Litchi chinensis, any of its constituents, or members of the Sapindaceae family.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Avoid in pregnant and breastfeeding women in amounts greater than those normally found in food, due to insufficient scientific evidence.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Lychee may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

  • Lychee may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).

  • Lychee may also interact with anticancer agents, anti-inflammatory agents, antivirals, cardiovascular agents, cholesterol- or lipid-lowering agents, immune modulating agents, or pain relievers.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Lychee may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.

  • Lychee may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.

  • Lychee may also interact with anticancer agents, anti-inflammatory agents, antioxidants, antivirals, cardiovascular herbs and supplements, cholesterol- or lipid-lowering agents, immune modulating herbs and supplements, or pain relievers.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Aggarwal V, Kumar K, Sidhu PS. Spatial changes in some soil properties under Litchi and mango plantations. Communications in soil science and plant analysis 2005;36(17-18):2503-2511.
  2. Bansal A, Sood A. Development of vegetable dyes from litchi leaves. Textile Magazine 2001;42(9):47-49.
  3. Besra SE, Sharma RM, Gomes A. Antiinflammatory effect of petroleum ether extract of leaves of Litchi chinensis Gaertn. (Sapindaceae). J Ethnopharmacol 1996;54(1):1-6. View Abstract
  4. Buts JP. [Lyophilized Saccharomyces boulardii: example of a probiotic medicine]. Rev Gastroenterol Peru 2005;25(2):176-188. View Abstract
  5. Garrido S, Garcia BE, Echechipia S, et al. Anaphylaxis following the first ingestion of lychee fruit: clinical features and immunological cross-reactivity implications. Allergy 2007;62(8):962-963. View Abstract
  6. Guo JW. Effects of Litchi seed on enhancing insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic-insulin resistant rats. Chinese Journal of New Drugs 2003;12:526-529.
  7. Li M, Zheng X, Zhu Y, et al. Development and characterization of SSR markers in lychee (Litchi chinensis). Mol Ecol Resour 2006;6(4):1205-1207.
  8. Niggemann B, Reibel S, Hipler C, et al. Anaphylactic reaction to lychee in a 12-year-old girl: cross-reactivity to latex? Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2002;13(1):64-67. View Abstract
  9. Prasad VG. Evaluation of acaricides for the control of litchi mite-Aceria litchii Keifer (Acarina: Eriophyide). Pesticides 1981;15(1):22.
  10. Purmova J, Opletal L. [Phytotherapeutic aspects of diseases of the cardiovascular system. 5. Saponins and possibilities of their use in prevention and therapy]. Ceska Slov Farm 1995;44(5):246-251. View Abstract
  11. Qiu DL, Liu XH, Guo SZ. Effects of simulated acid rain on fertility of litchi. J Environ Sci (China) 2005;17(6):1034-1037. View Abstract
  12. Raap U, Schaefer T, Kapp A, et al. Exotic food allergy: anaphylactic reaction to lychee. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 2007;17(3):199-201. View Abstract
  13. Sivakumar D, Korsten L. Relating leaf nutrient status to fruit quality attributes in Litchi cv. ‘Mauritius’. J Plant Nutr 2007;30(10):1727-1735.
  14. Vieths S, Scheurer S, Ballmer-Weber B. Current understanding of cross-reactivity of food allergens and pollen. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2002;964:47-68. View Abstract
  15. Wu Y, Pan Q, Qu W, et al. Comparison of volatile profiles of nine litchi (Litchi chinensis Sonn.) cultivars from Southern China. J Agric Food Chem 2009;57(20):9676-81. View Abstract

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.