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Watermelons (Xi Gua) in Chinese Medicine


Chinese: 西瓜

Pinyin: Xī Guā

Parts used: The fruit

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire and/or clear Summer Heat

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Bladder Stomach Heart

Scientific name: Citrullus lanatus

Use of watermelons (Xi Gua) 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: This is typically the fruit eaten fresh

Dosage: 9 - 30 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Treats Summer-Heat and thirst. Brings on urination.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which watermelons may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Excessive thirst Urinary difficulties Jaundice Scanty urination

Contraindications*: Watermelon should be avoided by those who have either Damp or Cold conditions or a combination of both.

Common TCM formulas in which watermelons (Xi Gua) are used*

Qing Luo Yin

Source date: 1798

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Resolves Summer-Heat. Clears the Lungs.

Conditions targeted*: HyperthermiaHeatstroke and others

Xi Gua is a deputy ingredient in Qing Luo Yin. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Qing Luo Yin, Xi Gua relieves Summer-Heat, stops thirst, and generates fluids.

Read more about Qing Luo Yin

Key TCM concepts behind watermelons (Xi Gua)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), watermelons are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire and/or clear Summer Heat' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Internal Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an Excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire treat the latter and as such tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category watermelons are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that watermelons 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 watermelons can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Watermelons also taste 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 watermelons 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 watermelons are thought to target the Bladder, the Stomach and the Heart. In TCM the impure water collected by the Kidneys that cannot be used by the body is sent to the Bladder for storage and excretion as urine. The Stomach on the other hand 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 regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality.

Use of watermelons (Xi Gua) as food

Watermelons are also eaten as food.