Kiwi is not only a delicious tropical fruit low in calories, but it is also packed with nutrients and provides numerous health benefits. Learn more about its history and its many medicinal applications.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Kiwi, kiwifruit, kiwi fruit
  • Scientific nameActinidia deliciosa
  • Plant typeVine
  • Native regionEast Asia
  • Main producer(s)Italy
  • Main Economic UseFood industry

Originally from northern China, kiwi was referred to as Chinese gooseberry until the early 20th century. It wasn't until it was brought to New Zealand to be cultivated commercially that it received its new name – kiwi was chosen because the round and brown mature fruit slightly resembles the national bird of New Zealand. Kiwi has recently been the subject of much research investigating the fruit's numerous health benefits and medicinal uses.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionDigestive, Sedative
  • Key constituentsActinidain, antioxidants
  • Ways to useCapsules, Food
  • Medicinal rating(2) Minorly useful plant
  • Safety rankingUse with caution

Health Benefits of Kiwi

Preliminary research has supported several potential uses of kiwi, including:

  • Aiding digestion. Kiwi can help the digestive system break down food proteins, relieving some symptoms of digestive ailments.

  • Improving sleep. Research indicates that eating kiwi can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep as well as improve sleep quality and duration.

  • Promoting cardiovascular health. Kiwis help reduce components in the blood that can damage the heart.

  • Boosting the immune system. It is thought that kiwi may improve functioning of the immune system and therefore reduce severity of illness and infection.

How it Works

Kiwis contain an enzyme called actinidin, which is known for tenderizing other foods, especially proteins. When consumed, actinidin can help the body more easily digest protein and protein-rich foods. Kiwi also contains folate and the neurotransmitter serotonin, which are theorized to be the active components in its ability to improve sleeping patterns.

Several antioxidants in the kiwi also help to improve cardiac health. Vitamins C (ascorbic acid) and E (gamma-tocopherol), along with several polyphenols, have been shown to reduce the amount of platelets and plasma lipids in the blood and decrease blood pressure, which reduces the risk of serious heart disease. These antioxidants, as well as carotenoids and dietary fiber, are also likely to be involved in kiwi's ability to strengthen the immune system, although the exact mechanism of action is still not completely understood.

Other herbs with digestive properties are apple and papaya, while passion flower and chamomile share similar sedative effects.

Kiwi Side Effects

Kiwis are mostly safe for consumption, but they are associated with some side effects. The hairs on the skin of the fruit may cause throat irritation if ingested. Kiwi may also cause allergic reactions in some people, especially those who are allergic to latex. Symptoms of allergies to kiwi include difficulty swallowing, vomiting, and hives.

Kiwi Cautions

Kiwis may increase bleeding, so those who have bleeding disorders or are taking medications that affect blood clotting should avoid kiwi products. Kiwi may also be dangerous for people who have problems with low blood pressure or who are taking medication for high blood pressure. Additionally, kiwis may increase the risk of kidney stones due to a high concentration of oxalate in the fruit. Taking kiwi was a supplement, especially during pregnancy or breastfeeding, should be medically supervised.

How to Consume Kiwi

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsFruit
  • Edible usesBeverage
  • TasteSweet

Although kiwi is popularly eaten as is - and its many health benefits can be obtained this way - there are also a few medicinal preparations available as options as well.


Main preparations: Raw, powder, capsules

  • Raw. Eating kiwi raw is the most common way to consume it, and this preparation provides all of its many health benefits: improving digestion, inducing sleep, protecting heart health, and strengthening the immune system.

  • Powder. Kiwi powder can also be taken as a dietary supplement, and it is most useful in aiding digestion.

  • Capsules. Capsules are a fast and easy way to consume kiwi, and they both assist digestion and boost the immune system.


Kiwi is also extremely popular for its taste, and it is usually consumed fresh and peeled. It's a popular addition to fruit salads, desserts, and smoothies.


Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySupermarkets, Farmers' markets, Online herb stores

Fresh Kiwi

Kiwi enjoys worldwide popularity, so it can be found in most grocery stores. In some places, it may be available at local markets as well.

Kiwi Supplements

Kiwi supplements are most widely available online, but can also be found in health stores and capsules may be in vitamin stores.


Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Harvested partsFruit
  • Light requirementsFull sun, Partial shade
  • SoilLight (sandy), Loamy sand, Clay loam
  • Soil pH5.6 – 6.0 (Moderately acidic), 6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic)
  • Growing habitatMountain regions, Woodlands
  • Plant spacing average3 m (9.84 ft)

The kiwi vine is typically cultivated in mountain rainforests at an altitude range of 2,600 - 4,600 feet (800 - 1400 m). However, there are many varieties adapted to different climates. That being said, kiwi can be cultivated in a home garden as long as some basic requirements are met.

Growing Guidelines

  • Kiwis need lots of space to grow. They need to be planted 10 - 15 feet (3 - 4.5 m) apart in a sheltered, sunny position.
  • For successful pollination, the male plant should be located two feet (60 cm) away the female one. Using this technique, up to eight females can be pollinated by one male.
  • When young, kiwi plants are vulnerable to frosting during the spring, so protection against the elements is needed.
  • To optimize their growth, they need fertile, well-drained, and slightly acidic soil with plenty of organic matter.

  • Some level of moisture is required for optimal development, as well as full sun or partial shade.

More detailed information about growing kiwi can be found in the herb garden section.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesCosmetics

Plant Biology

The kiwi plant is a deciduous climber and can grow up to 30 feet (9 m) tall. It has heart-shaped leaves that may grow to be as large as 10 inches (25 cm) across, and it grows white, fragrant flowers. The fruit is a berry that has brown, fuzzy skin and it grows in a round to oval shape. The interior of the fruit is bright green with small, black, edible seeds.

Kiwi is officially called kiwifruit in New Zealand to distinguish it from the kiwi bird, and it may occasionally still be referred to by its old name, Chinese gooseberry.

  • Classification

    The kiwi fruit, Actinidia deliciosa, belongs to the Actinidiaceae family, which is composed of woody vines, shrubs, and trees that typically grow in Asia, Central America, and South America. It is cultivated in mountain forests. Its genus name is derived from the Greek akinos, which means “ray” and was given to describe the radial appearance of the inside of the kiwi fruit.

  • Varieties and Subspecies of Kiwi

    Most kiwi cultivars comes from China, where there are wild-growing populations of A. deliciosa. One of the most important and globally-traded kiwi cultivars is "Hayward". However, others like "Qinmei" - from the Qinling Mountains - aren't commercialized outside of the country due to their mild flavor and comparatively short shelf life.

    In addition, "Hayward" has been used to pollinate the "Koryoku" variety in Japan, and is also cultivated in southern California, mixed with New Zealand selections, like "Abbott" and "Allison".

Historical Information

Kiwi is native to eastern China, where it still grows in the wild, but it began to be produced commercially for the first time in New Zealand in the early 20th century. It became popular with Americans during World War II, when American servicemen were stationed in New Zealand, and they brought their love of the fruit back to America with them, expanding the kiwi's global reach. The kiwi only received its current name in 1962, as part of an effort to improve the market appeal of the fruit.

Economic Data

The four largest producers of kiwi worldwide are China, Italy, New Zealand, and Greece. China is the number one producer; the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) does not have exact data on Chinese agriculture, but estimates the amount of kiwi produced in China in 2014 to be 1,840,000 tons. Italy was second with 506,958 tons, New Zealand produced 410,746 tons, and Greece produced 171,510 tons of kiwi.

Other Uses

Kiwi is used as a meat tenderizer and for sports drinks. It can be found as an active ingredient in creams, soaps, and other skincare products. It can also be used fresh and crushed as an exfoliating agent. Kiwifruit's fragrant flowers have ornamental uses.

Kiwi's popularity and widespread commercial production make it an easy fruit to find, and its medicinal properties, especially its digestive, sleep-inducing, and cardioprotective abilities, make it a wonderful addition to any fruit lover's diet.


  • FAOSTAT, Kiwi Production
  • Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Actinidia deliciosa (kiwi fruit)
  • Royal Horticultural Society, Kiwi fruit
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information, Effects of kiwifruit on innate and adaptive immunity and symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections
  • Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems, 2011
  • Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, Influence of kiwifruit on protein digestion, 2013 | Effects of kiwifruit on innate and adaptive immunity and symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, 2013