English: Pumpkin seeds

Chinese: 南瓜子

Parts used: Dried seeds

TCM category: Herbs that expel parasites

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Stomach Large intestine

Scientific name: Cucurbita moschata

Use of Nan Gua Zi (pumpkin seeds) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove shells to extract the seeds and dry them.

Dosage: 60 - 120 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Expels parasites

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Nan Gua Zi may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Intestinal parasites Diabetes Edema

Key TCM concepts behind Nan Gua Zi's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Nan Gua Zi belongs to the 'Herbs that expel parasites' category. Herbs in this category are used to treat roundworms, tapeworm, hookworm and other intestinal parasites. In most cases, these herbs should be combined with other herbs to assist their action such as 'Purgative herbs that drain downward' or Qi tonics. Typically these herbs should only be prescribed for a short period as they often have some level of toxicity.

Furthermore Nan Gua Zi is Warm in nature. This means that Nan Gua Zi tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Nan Gua Zi can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Nan Gua Zi also tastes Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like Nan Gua Zi tends to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Nan Gua Zi is thought to target the Stomach and the Large intestine. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces.

Research on Nan Gua Zi

A combination of pumpkin seeds and areca nut extracts is effective in the expulsion of Taenia spp. tapeworms in over 89% of cases.1


1. Ito, Akira; Li, T.; Chen, X.; Long, C.; Yanagida, T.; Nakao, M.; Sako, Y.; Okamoto, M.; Wu, Y.; Raoul, F.; Giraudoux, P.; Craig, P. S. (2013). "Mini Review on Chemotherapy of Taeniasis and Cysticercosis Due to Taenia Solium in Asia, and a Case Report With 20 Tapeworms in China" (PDF). Tropical Biomedicine. 30 (2): 164–73. PMID 23959481.

Use of Nan Gua Zi as food

Nan Gua Zi is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Pumpkin Seed Brittle or Sweet and Salty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.