One of the most beautiful and beneficial fruits of autumn is the glossy orange-red persimmon. TCM says it's a 'cold' food that can clear heat, help lower blood pressure and brighten the complexion.
Persimmons (shi zi) have played a part in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years: Its flesh, leaves and stem are all good for you. The bright reddish fruit shaped like round Chinese lanterns are often given as lucky presents to newlyweds to symbolize eternal love.
According to TCM, persimmons are loaded with cold yin energy and thus are potent in expelling pathogenic heat. They are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins A, C, phosphorous, manganese, iodine and other elements. They are rich in fiber and calories. Applying fresh peel to your face can lighten and brighten the complexion.
There are many varieties the best persimmons come on the market from September to November. They are best eaten fully ripe.
TCM says the juicy, 'cold' energy persimmon can help promote fluids, nourish the lungs, dispel pathogenic heat, reduce internal bleeding and blood clots and aid the digestive system. It's good for hangovers and hemorrhoids too. The iodine content can help goiter patients.
TCM practitioner Wang Shixiong in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) wrote in 'Suixiju Yinshi Pu' ('Recipe of Suixiju') that fresh persimmons can nourish the yin energy in the lungs and stomach it can treat insufficient fluid and excessive internal heat.
Persimmons are used to treat persistent cough caused by pathogenic heat in the lungs, diarrhea due to a weak digestive system, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, and blood in phlegm, urine and stool.
Unlike apples, fresh persimmon is not available year round. Dried persimmon, however, can be consumed for six months if kept away from sunshine and damp. It's made into shi bing or persimmon cake.
According to TCM classic 'Ben Cao Gang Mu' ('Compendium of Materia Medica') written by Li Shizhen in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), persimmon cake can help dissolve internal blood clots, benefit the spleen and stomach, relieve coughing and dissolve phlegm, stop bleeding, quench thirst and kill parasites. Eating it often can relieve patches of pigmentation.
Persimmon cakes are always covered with white 'frost.' This isn't mold, it's the glucose and fructose that has evaporated out and crystalized while the fruit dried. Cakes are used as medicines like fresh fruit.
Apart from the fruit, drinking tea from stems and leaves can help relieve hiccoughs and coughing. Frequently drinking persimmon leaf tea can help lower blood pressure and treat hardening of the arteries.
Some don'ts: since it's a 'cold' food, 'cold' people shouldn't eat too much as it can cause diarrhea. Diabetics should beware of its high sugar content. Anemia patients should know that the high tannin content may inhibit iron absorption chronic gastritis sufferers should avoid it as tannin can upset the stomach.
If you eat persimmons, eat them after meals and peel them, since most of the tannic acid is in the peel. Eating them on an empty stomach is not advised as excessive consumption can cause stones.
No one should eat more than three at a time because they contain so much 'cold' energy. Don't eat persimmons with sauerkraut, black dates, crab, goose, eggs, sweet potato, and vinegar.
Gargle and clean your teeth after eating persimmon lest the tannic acid, pectin and sugar damage your teeth.
(Shanghai Daily September 9, 2008)