Chinese Medicine Diet Therapy: Bo Lou Mi - Jakfruit
Chinese Medicine practitioners in the West tend to learn the entire standard pharmacopoeia of Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs. However, in Chinese and other Asian and Sub continental traditions, there are many fruits and vegetables outside of the usual materia medica that are used as food medicine, and are unfamiliar or overlooked by many in the West.
The medicinal application of many of these “food medicines” would appear to have grown out of necessity, whereby an ailment would be treated with whatever materials were available. This, in practice, tended to be fruits or vegetables that comprised a normal part of the diet, especially for those people occupying the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, or during hard economic or climactic times when all of a society may be affected. Some of these remedies proved to be quite efficacious, and some foods came to enjoy a status as both foods and medicines. Logistically, however, fresh fruits and vegetables are difficult to include in a pharmacopoeia primarily composed of dried materials.
One of these fruits is the jakfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus. Moraceae.), sometimes spelled jackfruit with it’s Chinese name Bo Lou Mi (“pineapple honey”), Shu Po Lou or Mu Bo Lou (both meaning “tree pineapple”). The fruit capsules themselves have a lovely rich flavour and are delicious to eat, but there is also something very impressive about a fruit that can grow to be up to 45kg in weight, although half this size or less is more usual. This makes the jakfruit the largest sized, commercially cultivated fruit in the world, and there is something appealing about a fruit that can cause bodily harm to an unwary bystander were it to fall on them. Many readers may be familiar with these fruits from Asian groceries, where it is possible to find them fresh or tinned. The fruit capsules are also sometimes dried into chips as a snack food, or pureed as a refreshing beverage.
Origin and distribution
The jakfruit is believed to have originated in the rainforests of the Western Ghats of India, and from there spread throughout much of the subcontinent and south-east Asia. It is also cultivated throughout central and South America, the Caribbean and Pacific islands and tropical Australia. The English name “jak-fruit” is derived from the Malayalam name “chakka”, and this tree is related to the breadfruit and durian.
The tree is an evergreen growing to a height of approximately 9-20 metres in height, and grows best in tropical lowland areas. The fruit is large, oval and covered in a thick rind that is covered in hexagonal protrusions. When immature the fruit is green coloured, but starts to yellow as it ripens. Inside, the fruit is composed of a number of hard “fingers” or perianths, and these are inedible. Nesting in these “fingers” are the edible fruit capsules (or “bao” in Mandarin Chinese), which are smooth, fragrant and cream to yellow coloured. Each fruit capsule contains a single light brown “seed” (endocarp) that is high in starch.
The rind and perianths also contain a very sticky latex which is insoluble in water. When fully ripe, the unopened fruit exudes a strong odour that some people, particularly Westerners, find disagreeable, although to a lesser extent than it’s cousin the durian.
Figure 1. Artocarpus heterophyllus
Properties and Actions
The Chinese consider the jakfruit capsule and seeds to be sweet, neutral or slightly cool and to have nourishing, moistening and calming properties. Jakfruit enters the heart, spleen, liver and kidney channels. The seeds are not toxic, although, according to Morton (1987) “…in an uncooked form contain a powerful trypsin inhibitor which makes them indigestible until boiled or roasted. The seed starch is given to relieve biliousness and the roasted seeds are regarded as aphrodisiac, as they are believed to nourish vital energy.” There is also a belief amongst some Chinese that jakfruit can produce wind in the body (Kamil, Ariff, and Beng, 2006).
Modern Scientific Knowledge and Research
The dried latex yields artostenone, convertible to artosterone, a compound with marked androgenic action (Morton, 1987). A lectin derived from the seed, Jacalin, is being utilized in immunological research, and is a useful tool for the evaluation of the immune status of patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1. It is highly cost-effective to obtain, and has found applications in diverse areas such as the isolation of human plasma glycoproteins , the investigation of IgA-nephropathy, the analysis of O-linked glycoproteins and the detection of tumours. (Kabir, S. 1998) In a study by Nuanchawee, et al. (2000), a lectin derived from the fruit has also been found to exhibit an inhibitory activity in vitro with a cytopathic effect towards herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), varicellar-zoster virus (VZV), and cytomegalovirus (CMV).
Food Value Per 100g of Edible Portion
|Protein||1.3-1.9 g||6.6 g|
|Fat||0.1-0.3 g||0.4 g|
|Carbohydrate||18.9-25.4 g||38.4 g|
|Fibre||1.0-1.1 g||1.5 g|
|Calcium||22 mg||0.05-0.55 mg|
|Phosphorus||38 mg||0.13-0.23 mg|
|Iron||0.5 mg||0.002-1.2 mg|
|Vitamin C||8-10 mg|
|Vitamin A||540 I.U.|
The fruit capsule can be eaten in cases of depression due to heart blood deficiency, dry throat and thirst due to stomach yin deficiency and is a traditional hangover remedy for the after-effects of alcohol consumption. It is also thought to increase lactation in nursing mothers. The fruit is eaten in China as a remedy for hypoglycaemia as well as indigestion and diarrhoea. In India, the ripe fruit is believed to have a mildly laxative effect when eaten in excess, yet is also used there for the treatment of diarrhoea.
In traditional Chinese Medicine, the stir-fried seeds are used to treat diarrhoea in small children and chronic enteritis in adults, and are either powdered or crushed to a paste for this purpose. They are also used as a kidney tonic in cases of sexual dysfunction, which corresponds with the previously mentioned use as an aphrodisiac.
The following medicinal uses were recorded by Morton:
• Root: Used as a remedy for skin diseases and asthma. An extract of the root is taken in cases of fever and diarrhoea.
• Bark: Made into poultices and used for fever, diarrhoea, as an expectorant and galactagogue.
• Leaf: Heated leaves are placed on wounds. The ash of jackfruit leaves, burned with corn and coconut shells, is used alone or mixed with coconut oil to heal ulcers.
• Wood: Believed to have a sedative property; its pith is said to produce abortion.
• Latex: Mixed with vinegar, the latex promotes healing of abscesses, snakebite and glandular swellings.
The fruit capsule can be used in cooking when immature and can be eaten straight from the fruit when ripe. It does not keep very well once the fruit has been opened, but can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 5 days, and can be frozen for 1 to 2 months. The ripe fruit can also be sun dried or dried in a dehydrator. The seeds can be boiled (sometimes in salt water) and eaten, or boiled and dried for later use. The seeds can also be stir-fried and roasted and ground into flour.
The latex is incredibly sticky and insoluble in water, so it is advisable to cover the hands and any utensils in vegetable oil before processing the fruit, any latex that then sticks to the skin or other surfaces can be removed with eucalyptus oil and some vigorous rubbing.
For chronic enteritis
Stir fry some seeds until fragrant, and grind to a powder. Use 15g of powdered seed to 30mls of rice wine / sake and take twice daily.
For diarrhoea in children
Use 2-3 seeds and stir fry until fragrant, add half of a dried persimmon and crush into a paste, add water and steam until cooked, then serve. Taken 2-3 times daily.
Notes: Persimmon astringes the intestines and generates body fluid, and is indicated in cases of diarrhoea and dysentery.
Simmer 3 capsules of fruit in water and serve.
For depression and scanty lactation
For cases due to excessive qi and blood loss during parturition. Combine 3 fruit capsules with a similar amount of tinned, dried or fresh longans and a quarter cup of brown sugar and half a cup of water. Simmer together until a syrup is formed and serve.
Notes: The brown sugar nourishes the spleen and stomach, harmonises the blood, removes blood stasis, and eases spasms. Longan fruit tonifies the heart and spleen, nourishes the blood and calms the mind.
Medicinal recipe to tonify spleen and kidney qi - Jakfruit Hummus
Two cups of boiled jackfruit seeds
One large spoon of tahina
Four cloves of garlic
One minced chilli
Juice of one lime
Two spoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Half cup of sliced parsley
Place two cups of boiled jackfruit seeds in a blender. Add one large spoon of tahina, four cloves of garlic, one minced chilli, the juice of one lime, two spoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Add half a cup of parsley and use as a dip for fresh vegetable sticks. (Cunningham, Y. 2005)
Notes: The above recipe is a good tonic for the middle and lower jiao in cases of qi deficiency. The jackfruit seeds and sesame in the tahini tonify the liver and kidney. The garlic and chilli warm and tonify the spleen and dry dampness, and lime astringes and generates body fluid to retain the qi and offset the dispersing and drying nature of the garlic and chilli.
Cautions and Contraindications
There are no contraindications mentioned for this fruit due to its neutral nature. The fruit capsules should be eaten in moderation or used with caution in patients with high blood sugar and / or damp heat in the lower jiao.
Lea Starck studied Chinese Medicine at RMIT University, Australia and Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China, where she completed a one year clinical internship at the university teaching hospital. Lea has a background in Western Herbal Medicine and is originally from tropical North Queensland, Australia, where she derived her interest in and knowledge of tropical fruits and vegetables. She now practices in Melbourne, where she resides with her family.
Australian Tropical Foods. Exotic Fruits. [online]. Date last updated: unknown. Available from: http://www.australiantropicalfoods.com/
Chen, R. Xue, C.L. (2002). Chinese Diet Therapy. The Chinese Medicine Unit, Faculty of Life Sciences, RMIT University. Melbourne, Australia.
Cunningham, Y. Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Far North. Recipes. [online]. Date last updated: unknown. Available from: http://www.abc.net.au/farnorth/stories/s1517259.htm
Dai, Y.F. and Liu C.J. (1986). Fruit As Medicine. (Yao Yong Guo Pin). Kuranda, Australia. The Rams Skull Press.
Kabir, S. (1998). ‘Jacalin: a jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) seed-derived lectin of versatile applications in immunobiological research’. Journal of Immunol Methods. Mar 15;212(2): p193-211.
Kamil M. & Khoo S. (2006). ‘Cultural health beliefs in a rural family practice: A Malaysian perspective’. Australian Journal of Rural Health. Vol 14: p 2-8.
Morton, J. (1987). Fruits of warm climates. Miami, USA. Julia F. Morton.
Nuanchawee, W. (2000). ‘Jackfruit Lectin: Properties of Mitogenicity and the Inhibition of Herpesvirus Infection’. Jpn. J. Infect. Dis., 53: p156-161.