English: Snake gourd peels

Chinese: 瓜蒌皮

Parts used: Peels

TCM category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Stomach Lung

Scientific name: Trichosanthes cucumerina

Other names: Trichosanthes Peel,

Use of Gua Lou Pi (snake gourd peels) 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: Harvest the mature fruit in the fall, split it open, remove the pulp and seeds, and dry in the shade.

Dosage: 6-30g

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Phlegm Heat in the Lungs and moisten the Lungs. Regulate Qi in the chest.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Gua Lou Pi may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Clogged milk ducts Early stages of breast abscess Chest pain Dry cough with difficult-to-expectorate yellow sputum

Contraindications*: This product is not recommended for individuals with diarrhea caused by a deficiency cold in the spleen and stomach, or those with Phlegm-Cold or Phlegm-Dampness conditions.

Key TCM concepts behind Gua Lou Pi's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Gua Lou Pi belongs to the 'Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. The herbs in this category are Cold in nature so they treat the later stages of the Stagnation: Hot and Dry-Phlegm with symptoms such as cough, goiter or scrofula.

As suggested by its category Gua Lou Pi is Cold in nature. This means that Gua Lou Pi typically helps people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition Gua Lou Pi can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Gua Lou Pi 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 Gua Lou Pi 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 Gua Lou Pi is thought to target the Stomach and the Lung. 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. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.