English: Wax gourd
Parts used: Dried whole fruit
TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity
TCM nature: Cool
TCM taste(s): Sweet
Organ affinity: Bladder Gallbladder Lung
Scientific name: Benincasa hispida
Other names: Ash gourd, White gourd, Winter gourd, Tallow gourd, Ash pumpkin, Winter melon or Chinese preserving melon
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 in summer. Cut into pieces and dry.
Dosage: 60 - 120 grams
Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Promotes the generation of Fluids. Removes phlegm and promotes urination.
Primary conditions or symptoms for which Dong Gua may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Edema Wheezing Summer Heat Restlessness Hemorrhoids Phlegm Strangury Carbuncles Food poisoning from seafood
Contraindications*: Not suitable for Yin deficiency and someone with a weak stomach and spleen.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Dong Gua belongs to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity' 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 relieve Toxicity treat the latter while, at the same time, removing infectious toxins from the body. As such they tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.
As suggested by its category Dong Gua is Cool in nature. This means that Dong Gua tends to help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. 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 Dong Gua can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.
Dong Gua 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 Dong Gua 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 Dong Gua is thought to target the Bladder, the Gallbladder and the Lung. 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. Similar to modern medicine, in TCM the Gallbladder stores and releases bile produced by the Liver. It also controls the emotion of decisiveness. 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.
Different extracts of B. hispida significantly reduced the ulcer index produced by various ulcerogens. Wxtracts of B. hispida may thus be considered to be a drug of natural origin possessing anti-ulcer activity.1
Seed extract of Benincasa hispida has an anti-angiogenic effect by inhibiting the proliferation of endothelial cells induced by basic fibroblast growth factor (a potent angiogenic factor found in various tumors).2
1. J.K Grover, G Adiga, V Vats, S.S Rathi (2001). Extracts of Benincasa hispida prevent development of experimental ulcers. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 78, Issues 2–3, Pages 159-164. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-8741(01)00334-8.
2. Keyong-Ho Lee, Hye-Ran Choi, Chang-Han Kim (2005). Anti-angiogenic effect of the seed extract of Benincasa hispida Cogniaux. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 97, Issue 3, Pages 509-513. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2004.12.008.
Dong Gua is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Wax gourd soup with pork.