Functional Food Roundup

Supplements that are tasty, fruity, or make good tea

Written by Kamal Patel
Last Updated:

There are four updates this week (mostly from user request) all of which can fall under the tagline of functional foods (related to our Food Product category page, supplements that might be in your grocery store and may not inherently require buying a supplement; check the dosage and summary sections to see if this stuff applies to the particular food product)

Dimocarpus Longan starts us off with solely being a fruit. This fruit is known as Longan, Euphoria Longan, and Dragon Eye due to resembling a dragon's eye (if they existed of course). There is not much evidence on it, but it appears to be a great source for ellagic and gallic acids, and is a potent anti-oxidant because of these molecules and related structures. There is some evidence that oral ingestion can enhance cognition in otherwise normal rats and is highly neuroprotective in response to toxin stressors, but the molecules underlying this are not currently known. Dragon Eye is one of the supplements in our database where the does appear to be a glaring hole in the 'composition' section where many of the benefits could be attributed to a currently unknown bioactive. This is only known to be consumed as a fruit or fruit byproduct (smoothie or whatnot)

Crataegus Pinnatifida is Chinese Hawthorn, with the fruits being consumed at times and the leaves being used either as supplements or a tea. The fruits seem to be the center of the medicinal usage in traditional chinese medicine, but the supposed heart healthy aspects of Hawthorn have not been replicated much in the West. It is healthy and kinda cool, but more of a research topic than a practical supplement. Oral ingestion of the fruits has once been linked to promoting hair growth, which is very interesting.

On a related note, the Shayenosides have a structural similarity to Minoxidil which has some cardiovascular protective properties when orally administered (similar to the traditional usage of Hawthorn). The link has not been established by the similarities are pretty interesting to make note of as the promotion of anagen induction in the hair follicles after oral ingestion of Hawthorn is again similar to the mechanism of action of Minoxidil.

And now for some tea, Gynostemma Pentaphyllum is a nice option due to its sweet taste. This 'Southern Ginseng' has traditionally been used as a cheap substitute for Panax Ginseng, and literally has many of the same bioactives thought to once be unique to Panax ginseng. It also appears to be anti-diabetic and has human evidence for this claim, the mechanism most likely being PTP1B inhibition (PTP1B negatively regulates the insulin receptor. The insulin receptor normally gets suppressed by many mechanisms after activation to preserve balance in the cell, and inhibiting PTP1B delays this suppression and preserved insulin receptor signalling). You can eat the roots of Southern ginseng as well, but it is not common and the tea is the main functional food vessel.

Finally, Morus Alba can either have the fruits eaten (we call the fruits 'White Mulberries') or the leaves and stems can be brewed into tea. The tea also appears to be anti-diabetic, although not by a fancy mechanism on the cell; it appears to inhibit absorption of carbohydrates from the intestines and seems to be fairly potent on all sugars except lactose (with minimal efficacy against starches, so having Morus Alba to block the absorption of carbs probably works better with candies than with bagels). This seems to be related to the iminosugar compound 1-deoxynojirimycin, which has a structure similar enough to glucose to have affinity for the enzymes in the intestines but then competitively inhibits their actions.

It should be noted that the tea is a better option for anti-diabetic effects since the active ingredient is highest in stems and lowest in fruits; and the fruits do clearly have carbs in them since they are fruit.