Snake gourd roots (Tian Hua Fen) in Chinese Medicine

Snake gourd roots

Chinese: 天花粉

Pinyin: Tiān Huā Fěn

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): BitterSourSweet

Organ affinity: Stomach Lung

Scientific name: Trichosanthes kirilowii or Trichosanthes rosthornii

Use of snake gourd roots (Tian Hua Fen) 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: Wash, remove the skin, cut into sections or longitudinally into petals and dry.

Dosage: 9 - 15 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Heat in the Lungs and moistens Dryness, especially when there is Phlegm that is aggravating the condition. Brings down inflammation and reduces pus.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which snake gourd roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Dry cough Bloody sputum Inflammation of the stomach Inflammation of the lungs Sores Carbuncles

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by pregnant women, by those without Heat or by those with diarrhea.

Common TCM formulas in which snake gourd roots (Tian Hua Fen) are used*

Xia Ru Yong Quan San

Source date: 1840 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Blood. Increases breast milk supply.

In Xia Ru Yong Quan San, Tian Hua Fen nourishes Body Fluids

Read more about Xia Ru Yong Quan San

Key TCM concepts behind snake gourd roots (Tian Hua Fen)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), snake gourd roots are plants that belong 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 snake gourd roots are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that snake gourd roots typically help 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 snake gourd roots can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Snake gourd roots also taste Bitter, Sour and 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. Bitter ingredients like snake gourd roots tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Sour ingredients help with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of Fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating. Lastly Sweet ingredients tend 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 snake gourd roots are 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.