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4+ Powerful Persimmon Benefits + Nutrition & How to Eat It

Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
SelfDecode Science Team | Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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Persimmons

A tropical Asian fruit that not only tastes good but also carries many health benefits, persimmon is full of fiber and antioxidants. It may help manage obesity, cholesterol, gut health, and blood sugar; read on to learn more about this amazing fruit.

What Is a Persimmon?

Persimmon is the berry fruit of the Diospyros plant, native to China, Japan, Korea, and other East-Asian countries. More than 350 different species of Diospyros exist [1].

The most commonly grown species in both Asia and the US is Diospyros kaki, also known as Japanese or Oriental persimmon. A less widespread variety is Diospyros virginiana, also known as North American or common persimmon [1, 2].

Tea made from persimmon leaves has been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine at least since the Ming Dynasty. Persimmon fruits, bark, and roots are cherished remedies in folk medicine. Their use spans high blood pressure, clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), stroke, and constipation [3].

Varieties

Persimmon comes in two types, astringent and non-astringent.

Astringent persimmon has a bitter taste when not fully ripe. It can only be eaten after becoming completely soft. This variety owes its bitterness to the tannins concentrated in the skin [4, 2].

The non-astringent variety is also called sweet persimmon. It can be eaten while still firm or later when it has become soft [4, 2].

Common persimmons are all the astringent type, while the Japanese variety can be found as either the astringent or sweet type [4, 2].

Snapshot

Proponents:

  • Rich in nutrients & antioxidants
  • Potential benefits to inflammation, obesity, cholesterol, and blood sugar

Skeptics:

  • Rare allergic reactions are possible
  • High in sugar

Persimmon Nutrition

Persimmons are an excellent source of provitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese. They also contain significant amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K, copper and potassium [5].

Depending on size, one raw Japanese persimmon (168 g) will provide around 118 calories, and [5]:

  • 31 g of carbohydrates
  • 21 g of sugar
  • 6 g of fiber

Like most fruits, it’s very low in fat and protein [5].

Compared to the raw fruit, dried persimmon contains about 4 times the amount of calories and carbohydrates due to its lower water content [6].

Vitamins

Persimmons are filled with vitamins and minerals. One raw Japanese persimmon (around 168 grams) will provide the following Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of nutrients [5]:

  • Vitamin A: 19%
  • Vitamin C: 22%
  • Vitamin B6: 13%
  • Vitamin E: 8%
  • Vitamin K: 5%
  • Manganese: 30%
  • Copper: 9%
  • Potassium: 8%

Antioxidants

Persimmons are full of antioxidants, including vitamin C, polyphenols and carotenoids (provitamin A). Both the skin and fruit abound in carotenoids, which give persimmons their characteristic rich orange color. These include lutein, astaxanthin, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin [4].

In rodent studies, beta-cryptoxanthin from persimmon reversed fatty liver disease. It also reduced inflammation and insulin resistance. Carotenoids are also vital for eye and heart health [4, 7, 8].

The polyphenols in persimmon can be divided into three groups [4, 9]:

  • Phenolic acids (e.g. caffeic, ferulic, gallic and coumaric acids)
  • Flavonoids (e.g. anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and catechins)
  • Tannins (found in the skin)

Proanthocyanidins are powerful antioxidants concentrated in the skin, fruit, and leaves of persimmon. In a recent study, these molecules extended the lifespan and prevented memory impairment in rapidly aging mice [10].

Fisetin is another powerful flavonoid phenol found in persimmons. In both cell and animal studies, fisetin inhibited pathways linked with tumor growth (Akt and mTOR). In other words, fisetin may help to slow the growth of cancer [11, 12].

Health Benefits of Persimmon Fruit & Leaves

Persimmon is considered very safe to eat as food, but its extracts have not been approved by the FDA for medical use and generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for supplements but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.

Insufficient Evidence For

The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of persimmon for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking persimmon extracts, and never use them in place of something your doctor recommends or prescribes.

1) Obesity

In a Korean pilot trial of 20 obese people, persimmon vinegar (with or without ginger) reduced inflammatory markers, body weight, and fat after 6 weeks [13].

Obesity and inflammation conspire together in a vicious spiral. Inflammation leads to problems such as insulin- and leptin resistance, which increases fat gain. All the while, fat cells release cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-alpha, which further worsen inflammation [14, 15, 16].

Hence, lowering inflammation may help break this dangerous cycle. In cell- and rodent studies, phenols from persimmon decreased various inflammatory compounds (nitric oxide, TNF-α, IL-1, IL-6, prostaglandin E₂, and COX-2) [17, 18, 19].

Pancreatic lipase is an enzyme that breaks down and helps absorb dietary fats. In test tubes, tannins from persimmon skin bound to pancreatic lipase, making it less available to aid fat absorption. In mice, persimmon fruit and citrus peel had a similar effect [20, 21].

What’s more, persimmon leaf extract reduced weight gain, liver and belly fat gain in obese mice on a high-fat diet. It also reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL, blood sugar, insulin and leptin levels [22].

2) Cholesterol

In a clinical trial of 66 people, persimmon extract in combination with statins lowered blood fat levels to a greater degree than statins alone [23].

In another clinical trial of 40 people divided, 5 g/day of persimmon fibers greatly reduced bad (LDL) cholesterol, while 3 grams had a much milder effect [24].

Numerous animal studies attest to its ability to lower LDL. Some researchers believe that [25, 4, 26]:

  • Its highly concentrated antioxidants reduce LDL damage (carotenoids and proanthocyanidins)
  • Its fibers bind fats in the gut

3) Gut Health

Persimmon is high in dietary fiber, which supports gut health in several ways [27]:

  • It increases the bulk of the stool, speeding up food transit
  • It feeds the good gut bacteria, which go on to produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids

The tannins in persimmon also help rebalance the gut microbiota when given in moderation. In rats, they increased the good gut bacteria (Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp.), while killing the bad gut bacteria (like E. Coli). However, only low to moderate doses were beneficial. High doses affected the microbiota negatively [28].

4) Blood Sugar

The way persimmon leaves appear to lower blood sugar has long remained a mystery, despite their millennia-long use in traditional medicine. In a recent clinical trial of 68 prediabetic people, scientists discovered that persimmon leaf extract can positively affect complex protein signatures in the body. According to the authors of the study, this means that persimmons may affect gene expression to help prevent diabetes and high blood sugar [29].

According to animal studies, these fruits may limit the activity of genes that lead to fat accumulation. In diabetic mice, persimmons prevented fat build-up in the liver and improved blood sugar control. And in another rodent study, proanthocyanidins from persimmon also lowered blood sugar [30, 31].

Other research suggests that persimmons might prevent blood sugar spikes after a meal by lowering amylase enzymes that break down complex sugars. In animals, persimmon limited the digestion of starch and reduced the uptake of glucose into the bloodstream [32, 33, 34, 35].

Animal Research (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of persimmon for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

5) Heart Health

Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque inside the arteries. According to some researchers, the antioxidants in persimmon may slow atherosclerosis by lowering inflammation and oxidative damage to the bad (LDL) cholesterol [4, 36].

Traditionally, the leaves of Japanese persimmon are used in Japan to reduce blood pressure. Flavonoids from the leaves can lower the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), similar to several blood-pressure-lowering drugs [37].

In rats, the flavonoids from persimmon leaf extract lowered blood pressure (by increasing eNOS and cGMP) [38].

Additionally, persimmon may protect heart cells against hypoxia or the lack of oxygen, according to research on rat cells [39].

6) Brain Health

Cognition & Alzheimer’s Disease

Persimmon leaf extract improved cognitive function in rats with Alzheimer’s disease. Its flavonoids and triterpenoids likely carry this effect since they can increase key antioxidants in brain cells [40].

Another study highlights its brain-protective effect: persimmon leaf extract limited brain cell injury and death caused by free radicals. It boosted antioxidants inside cells, including glutathione and catalase [41].

Plus, the extract reversed learning and memory impairment in mice. It could reduce amyloid-beta production, oxidative stress, and neuroinflammation–all crucial to Alzheimer’s risk [42].

Our cells have “molecular switches” for communication called Rho GTPases. When these switches become overactive, synapses in the brain can get destroyed, impairing cognition. By blocking Rho GTPases, persimmon leaf extract reduced synapse loss and improved learning and memory in mice Alzheimer’s [43, 44, 45].

Brain Inflammation & Blood Flow

In rats, the extract lowered inflammatory waste products and NF-κB, which means that it may reduce brain inflammation. NF-kB is one of the main drivers of stress-triggered inflammation in the brain, which can lead to depression [46, 47].

It may also protect brain cells against damage from poor blood flow and oxygen levels (ischemia and hypoxia). It protected rats against glutamate toxicity [48].

Lacking Evidence: Persimmon Tea for Acid Reflux

Persimmon tea for acid reflux is a popular natural home remedy. The so-called ‘Persimmon Punch’ is a tea made of persimmon, ginger and cinnamon said to ease heartburn [49].

However, no studies have investigated whether persimmon tea improves acid reflux. This is a strictly speculative, traditional use.

Limitations and Caveats

Only limited research on persimmon has been carried out in humans.

There are a good amount of cell and animal studies. But it is important to remember that human physiology is different from that of animals or test tubes.

Eating persimmons or drinking persimmon tea is likely safe.

Safety

  • Eating unripe persimmon may result in intestinal blockage [50]
  • Allergic reactions possible in people who are allergic to birch pollen [51]
  • More than 1-2 fruits per day might negatively affect the gut microbiota [28]
  • May interact with blood pressure medications [52]

Eating Persimmon

Ripe persimmons are known for their sweet flavor, akin to honey. You can eat them raw, dried, cooked, or prepare them as tea. It’s easy to bite into firm and ripe non-astringent persimmons. Or simply cut them into pieces or slice them up and add to a salad or smoothie [53, 54].

But be careful to choose the right persimmon type. The astringent ones can only be eaten when soft, when you can cut them open and eat the flesh using a spoon. They can also be pureed or added to various savory dishes, such as curries [53, 54].

Dried fruit is an easy snack to bring along, but remember that it’s high in carbohydrates.

Persimmons can be used in baking and for making puddings and pies.

You can make a tea from dried persimmons or from persimmon leaves. Various studies mentioned above used persimmon leaf extracts, not the dried fruit. Leaf extracts are commercially available, but not widespread [54, 55, 3].

Takeaway

Persimmons are nutrient- and antioxidant-dense fruits with potential benefits in obesity, cholesterol, gut health, and blood sugar. They’re a great source of carotenoids (provitamin A), to which they owe their bright orange color. Their fiber content may also boost good gut bacteria to the detriment of bad bacteria. Persimmon leaves are also used to make tea and extracts.

About the Author

Puya Yazdi

Puya Yazdi

MD
Dr. Puya Yazdi is a physician-scientist with 14+ years of experience in clinical medicine, life sciences, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals.
As a physician-scientist with expertise in genomics, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals, he has made it his mission to bring precision medicine to the bedside and help transform healthcare in the 21st century.He received his undergraduate education at the University of California at Irvine, a Medical Doctorate from the University of Southern California, and was a Resident Physician at Stanford University. He then proceeded to serve as a Clinical Fellow of The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine at The University of California at Irvine, where he conducted research of stem cells, epigenetics, and genomics. He was also a Medical Director for Cyvex Nutrition before serving as president of Systomic Health, a biotechnology consulting agency, where he served as an expert on genomics and other high-throughput technologies. His previous clients include Allergan, Caladrius Biosciences, and Omega Protein. He has a history of peer-reviewed publications, intellectual property discoveries (patents, etc.), clinical trial design, and a thorough knowledge of the regulatory landscape in biotechnology.He is leading our entire scientific and medical team in order to ensure accuracy and scientific validity of our content and products.

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