The Legend Behind the 'Monk Fruit' Name
The signature ingredient in LAKANTO zero-calorie sweetener is Monk Fruit, a plant renowned for its sweetness and flavor, its use in traditional medicine and the richness of the folk history surrounding it. This special fruit is what gives LAKANTO Golden its color, aroma and flavor.
Prized in Traditional Medicine
Monk Fruit is a member of the gourd family and a distant cousin of the cucumber and melon. Round and greenish, it has a brittle shell dusted by fine hairs and originated in a very specific and rare climate found in Northern Thailand and Southern China.
Since it is difficult to store and transport without fermenting, it is unusual for Monk Fruit to be used fresh. Most often, it is dried until dark brown in color, and then steeped as a tea to treat symptoms of congestion, inflammation, coughing and sore throat.
The raw fruit has a sweet, refreshing taste and a distinct “cooling” property that leads it to be used against inflammation. When dried, is also used in powder form as a sweetener by people for diabetes management or for weight loss.
Although people have known about Monk Fruit and its healing benefits for centuries, it was not popularly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine because it was so rare, difficult to cultivate and usually grown in family-sized orchards.
We still use traditional farming methods for the Monk Fruit in LAKANTO.
However, manuscripts tell of its medical and health uses being explored since the 13th century. Nowadays, it is more widely used and its properties promoting health and longevity are known worldwide, earning it the nickname, “The Longevity Fruit.”
A Unique Home For a Unique Fruit
It’s impossible to talk about Monk Fruit without talking about the place it originated – the fabled mountains of Guilin, in Guangxi Province, China. The mist-shrouded slopes of these vast limestone forests provide an ideal environment for Monk Fruit vines to flourish. Lore suggests that Monk Fruit itself embodies the nature of its home – cool, tranquil and unique.
Dmitry Sumin - Li River, Guilin, China (Flickr)
The Buddha's Fruit?
Most of the legends about Monk Fruit are about the people who first cultivated it and gave it its name – the Buddhist masters called the Luo Han. During the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD), Guilin was a common destination for Buddhist monks in pursuit of enlightenment. These monks were known as Arhats in India, and Luo Han in China. The gorgeous scenery and mild climate provided a perfect backdrop for their spiritual development.
Monk Fruit gets its name from the Buddhist Monks who first used it.
As the monks meditated and lived on the misty mountains of Guilin, they encountered a fruit they prized and cultivated for its sweetness and healing properties. They were the first to brew healing tonics using the fruit and developed basic farming techniques to ensure the fruit’s survival. “Luo Han Guo,” as it is called in China, literally means “Monk Fruit” and to this day, the legend lives on in its name.
Another tale of how Luo Han Guo got its name is associated with Buddha himself; locals tell stories of the round fruit resembling the belly of Buddha, thereby earning its name and virtue.
Sweet... But Not From Sugar
Unlike most fruits, whose sweetness comes from fructose sugar, Monk Fruit’s sweet taste comes from a different kind of substances called mogroside, which tastes extremely sweet but has negligible calories. The Monk Fruit extract found in LAKANTO is hundreds of times sweeter than regular sugar.
With each taste of LAKANTO, you can imagine the sun shining though the undergrowth of cool limestone forests and savor the history of the legendary Luo Han monks.
In part two of this series on Monk Fruit, we will look at some of its known health benefits and some of the scientific research that has been done about this awesome fruit.