Wax gourd (Dong Gua) in Chinese medicine

Wax gourd

Chinese: 冬瓜

Pinyin: Dōnɡ Guā

Parts used: Dried whole fruit

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: BladderGallbladderLung

Scientific name: Benincasa hispida

Other names: Ash gourd, White gourd, Winter gourd, Tallow gourd, Ash pumpkin, Winter melon or Chinese preserving melon

Use of wax gourd (Dong 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 practitionner, 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 wax gourd 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.

Common TCM formulas in which wax gourd are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind wax gourd (Dong Gua)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), wax gourd are plants that belong 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 '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 wax gourd are plants that are Cool in nature. This means that wax gourd tend 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 wax gourd can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Wax gourd also taste Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like wax gourd 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 wax gourd are 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 Gall Bladder stores and releases bile produced by the Liver. It also controls the emotion of decisiveness. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on wax gourd (Dong Gua)

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

Sources:

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.

Use of wax gourd (Dong Gua) as food

Wax gourd are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Wax gourd soup with pork.