The heimang ( R. chinensis ) trees that are found in Manipur and other northeastern states bloom with white flowers every September.
The flowering trees are easily distinguished by the green deciduous leaves, earning them the name ‘September Beauty.’ By November and December, they turn into red cherries with velvety glandular hair. These fruits have been used as food and medicine for centuries.
The small, spherical fruits have a tart, citrus-like flavor and are packed with nutrients, including polyphenols and flavonoids, as well as antioxidants.
The traditional healers in Manipur are known as Maibas and Maibis. They prescribe heimang to treat common gastrointestinal issues like dysentery and diarrhea. The fruit is recommended for stomach ulcers and indigestion.
Healers claim that the fruit can also be used to treat kidney disease and urinary stones.
This claim is supported by researchers at the Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research in Ghaziabad and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysuru.
In vitro experiments, such as test tubes, were conducted by the researchers. They found that extracts from the heimang fruit prevented the formation of urinary and kidney stones. The study was published in the Journal of Herbal Medicine on October 20, 2021.
The bark, roots, stems, and leaves of human trees have also been found to be therapeutic and preventive.
A review in the December 2010 issue of the journal Phytotherapy Research states that compounds derived from these tissues are also useful in treating other ailments, such as rectal or intestinal cancer, diabetes, sepsis, and oral diseases.
Researchers note that the plant contains compounds that prevent the enamel from losing its minerals.
In 2010, a review article found that compounds isolated in the stems of human trees can also significantly inhibit HIV-1 activity. HIV-1 is the more common of the two types of human immunodeficiency viruses.
A review of 37 articles in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine published in August 2018 also noted this benefit. The study suggests that teaming extracts can suppress HIV-1, herpes simplex, and high cholesterol, as well as reduce blood sugar levels after meals.
The local communities of the state boil heimang leaves with rice water to make a shampoo that is called chinghi. The preparation is sieved with a muslin fabric after cooling. It is then used as a shampoo. The shampoo can be kept for up to two days.
Researchers at Jiangnan University in China have also attempted to determine the medicinal properties of this plant. In the March 2019 issue of the journal Industrial Crops and Products, they write that the oil obtained from the fruit and seeds contains beneficial unsaturated fats and phytochemicals and can be used in dietary foods and nutrition supplements.
Salty or sour?
Manipur is a part of Indo-Burma, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. This region spans northeastern India, as well as parts of Southeast Asian countries.
It is no surprise that the human tree has been used for centuries in many countries as a medicinal and culinary ingredient. In China, heimang is called yan fu mu; yan means salt in Mandarin.
Some ancient Chinese communities added the salty flavor of the fruit to their food. The Hani people who live in the Naban River Watershed National Nature Reserve still use it.
Its versatility is due to its sour flavor, which can be attributed in part to organic acids like malic acid, ascorbic acid, and citric acid. It can be used to flavor meats, vegetables, and desserts.
It is traditionally mixed with jaggery in order to create a digestive and nutritious candy. The fruit can also be dried and ground to use as a flavoring. Some people boil the fruit with water and drink the decoction. Fresh heimang fruit is dried and stored to ensure availability year-round for teas or as a souring agent.
The teaming fruit has yet to find widespread commercial application despite its incredible versatility. In India, some companies have begun to include the fruit in herbal teabags. Promoting such traditional products can provide employment opportunities to communities with access to the trees.
Heimang Fruits: 1 teaspoon
Tea leaves: 12 teaspoon
Water: 2 cups tea Sugar to taste
Add the tea leaves, heimang fruit, and water to a pot and bring it to a boil. Once the decoction has been prepared, sieve out the tea leaves and heimang fruits. Add a pinch of sea salt and ginger to the boiling liquid for a more pronounced taste. The tea can be finished by adding sugar to taste.
Fruit Heimang: 100 g
Salt is a taste.
Powder the dried heimang fruits. Also, blitz the sugar. The digestive churan can be sprinkled on salads or eaten by itself.