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Wax gourd seeds (Dong Gua Zi) in Chinese Medicine

Wax gourd seeds

Chinese: 冬瓜子

Pinyin: Dōng Guā Zǐ

Parts used: The seeds, dried

TCM category: Herbs that drain Dampness

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Stomach Large intestine Lung Small intestine

Scientific name: Benincasa hispida

Other names: Dong Gua Ren, Winter melon seeds

Use of wax gourd seeds (Dong Gua Zi) 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: Extract the seeds from the fruits and dry

Dosage: 3-20g

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Heat, expels Phlegm, expels pus and moistens the Lungs. Clears Heat and drains Dampness.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which wax gourd seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Edema Vaginal discharge Abcesses Bronchitis Sputum

Contraindications*: Use caution for those with edema due to malnutrition. Use caution for those with Damp-Cold or loose stools.

Common TCM formulas in which wax gourd seeds (Dong Gua Zi) are used*

Wei Jing Tang

Source date: 627 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears heat from the Lungs. Transforms Phlegm. Drives out Blood-Stagnation. Discharges pus.

Conditions targeted*: BronchitisBronchiectasis and others

Dong Gua Zi is a deputy ingredient in Wei Jing Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Wei Jing Tang, Dong Gua Zi clears and transforms Phlegm-Heat, resolves Dampness and eliminates pus. 

Read more about Wei Jing Tang

Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Stagnant Heat in the intestines. Reduces swelling and disperses lumps.

Conditions targeted*: AppendicitisPelvic inflammatory disease and others

Dong Gua Zi is an assistant ingredient in Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang, Dong Gua Zi expels pus, eliminates Heat and reduces abscesses, especially in the Intestines.

Read more about Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

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

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), wax gourd seeds are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that drain Dampness' category. These herbs are typically diuretics, meaning that they promotes the increased production of urine in order to remove Dampness that has accumulated in the body. According to TCM Dampness accumulates first in the lower limbs, causing edema and impaired movement. From there, if unchecked, it can move upward and impair digestion and eventually the respiratory system.

Furthermore wax gourd seeds are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that wax gourd seeds 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 wax gourd seeds can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Wax gourd seeds 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 wax gourd seeds 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 seeds are thought to target the Stomach, the Large intestine, the Lung and the Small intestine. 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. The Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. 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. Like the Stomach, the Small Intestine has a digestive role, extracting the "pure" part of what we injest to the Spleen and the "impure" down to the Large Intestine.

Use of wax gourd seeds (Dong Gua Zi) as food

Wax gourd seeds are also eaten as food.