Sweet Gum Tree Balls (Lu Lu Tong)

Fructus Liquidambaris TaiwanianaeSweet gum tree balls are hardly palatable to their owners since it is such a pain in the neck to the lawn mowers. That is the reason why so many sweetgum tree owners are keeping asking for the method of how to get rid of them. So, what can you do with sweet gum tree balls? Besides of making crafts or ornaments, somewhat to the surprise of many people sweet gum balls, also known as Lu Lu Tong, turn out to be also one of amazing Chinese herbs, which is typically used for the treatment of nettle rash, anaphylactic rhinitis, rheumatic arthritis, bruises, missed menstrual periods, and so on. In addition, another ingenious use of gum balls is for a low breast milk supply. That is to say, it can help nursing mother boost the milk supply naturally. Mind you, it tastes rather bitter.

What is a sweet gum tree ball?

Medicinally it refers to the dried ripe infructescence of Liquidambar formosana Hance, which is a plant in the family hamamelidaceae. Note, however, that this is not the fruit from liquidambar styraciflua. And other names include Sweetgum Fruit, Fructus Liquidambaris Taiwanianae, Beautiful Sweetgum Fruit, Taiwan Sweetgum, and so on. It is usually collected during winter when the fruits are ripe. Next steps are to remove impurities and dry.

Sweet gum trees are deciduous trees, 20 to 40 meters in height. Bark is brown and often peeled off in cubes. Leaves are alternate; petiole length is from 3 to 7cm; linear stipules are caducous; heart-shaped blade is often 3-lobed. Flowers are unisexual, monoecious, and without perianth; yellowish green male flowers form catkin and once again arrange into acrogenous racemose; stamens are many but in different length; female flowers arrange into spherical capitulum. Capitate infructescence is spherical, pricky, and 2.5 to 4.5cm in diameter. Capsule is with persistent calyx and style, 2-valvate, and 2-lobed each valve. Seeds are numerous, small, and flat. Flowering time is from March to April and fruit time is from September to October.
Gumball tree fruits contain 28-noroleanonic acid, styracin (cinnamyl cinnamate), bornyl cinnamate, styracin epoxide, isostyracin epoxide, caryophyllene oxide, betulonic acid (liquidambronic acid, liquidambaric acid), 24-ethyl-5-cholesten-3β-ol, and so on.

Sweet gum tree balls health benefits

Breast swelling and pain is one of common postpartum symptoms, which often appear within 3 to 7 days after delivery. It is usually caused by the failure of timely and effective breastfeeding or sucking because of poor suck in preterm infants, neonatal disease treatment, wound pain after cesarean, fatigue after childbirth, etc. The common clinical manifestation include oppression and distention, induration, and pain in breasts. This is mainly due to the retention of the breast lymphatic, venous turgor and swelling, interstitial edema, and blocked mammary duct. From April 2005 to October 2006, gynecology and obstetrics, in the 92th Hospital of People’s Liberation Army, ever used sweet gum ball to treat 44 cases of postpartum breast distension and the curative effect was quite satisfactory.

Modern pharmacological actions of sweet gum ball

1. Experiments show that its alcohol solvents (60%) for external use can prevent the hookworm larvae from invading mouse skin. And its protective effect is relevant to the solvent concentration;
2. Betulonic acid contained has significant inhibitory activity on hepatotoxicity. In vitro it showed a protective cytotoxic effect on carbon tetrachloride and galactosamine-induced primary cultured rat hepatocytes. And the crude drug is used as a liver protection drug in Taiwan.

Selected herbal remedies on balls from sweet gum tree

The Chinese Materia Medica concludes that it is bitter in flavor and neutral in medicinal properties. And it goes to 12 regular channels. Prime functions are dispelling wind and eliminating dampness, soothing the liver to improve collateral circulation, and alleviating water retention. Basic sweet gum tree balls uses and indications include arthralgia due to wind and dampness, numbness of limb, spasm in hand and feet, abdominal pain, amenorrhea, clogged milk ducts, edema, puffiness, and eczema. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 10 grams in decoction.

1. According to Sichuan Zhong Yao Zhi (Manual of Chinese Drugs of Sichuan), it is combined with Qin Jiao (Gentiana Macrophylla Root), Sang Zhi (Mulberry Twig), Hai Feng Teng (Kadsura Stem), Ju Luo (tangerine pith), and Yi Yi Ren (Seeds of Job’s Tears) to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

2. According to Gu Jin Liang Fang (Ancient and contemporary Effective Prescriptions). It is calcined to keep the medicinal properties and used alone in the form of powder to treat perianal abscess.

3. According to De Sheng Tang Jing Yan Fang (Experiential Recipes from Deshengtang), it is coupled with white arsenic to treat ringworm externally.

4. According to Hu Nan Yao Wu Zhi (Medicine Record in Hunan), it is used alone to cure urticaria.

5. According to Zhe Jiang Min Jian Cao Yao (Proven Folk Herbal Prescriptions in Zhejiang), it is decocted alone to treat yellow fluid coming from ears.

Sweet gum tree balls side effects and contraindications

So, are sweet gum tree balls poisonous? Can you eat them? Actually it is edible. However, keep in mind to stay away from it in the following cases – pregnant women, internal heat due to yin deficiency, deficiency-cold metrorrhagia, and menorrhagia.

5 thoughts on “Sweet Gum Tree Balls (Lu Lu Tong)

    1. admin Post author

      The answer is yes, but first you need to receive a full professional training on TCM. However, I am afraid that this will be a slow, painstaking process.

  1. Deborah Frisby

    I have a yard full of these trees. You said it is a fruit and can they be eaten or just use for medical reasons only. Also is it dangerous to mt dog?

  2. Roberta Blackard

    Is there any way you can prevent a sweeygu tree from fruiting. My roof and yard are covered with the sweet gum balls. I rent so I cannot have the tree taken down

  3. Eileen

    How would I manage to eat these spiky pods? Boil them? Drink the boiled ‘broth’? Bake? Will they ‘pop’ / ‘explode’ in an oven or microwave? I have a yard full of these. Interestingly, I never actually see them before they ripen and fall off the tree.


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