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Trichosanthes (gua lou)

What is trichosanthes? What is it used for?

Trichosanthes is a member of the gourd family. It is an annual vine, with angular, fuzzy stems and branched tendrils. It is covered with broadly angled or lobed leaves and white flowers. The plant’s fruit resembles a cucumber, except for its length (which may reach from one to five feet) and may appear club-shaped or curved. Native to India, the trichosanthes is becoming popular in the United States not only for its medicinal properties, but its interesting appearance.

Different parts of trichosanthes are used for different ailments. In traditional Chinese medicine concepts, trichosanthes seeds (gua lou ren) are used to treat dry stools and mild forms of constipation, and to help wounds heal. Trichosanthes root (tian hua fen) treats lung heat conditions that have phlegm and dryness, and reduces toxins manifested by sores and inflammation, especially breast abscesses. Both the seeds and root can be used externally or internally as needed. Tricosanthes peel treats the stomach and aids in the circulation of qi. Many Chinese herbalists also use tricosanthes for high blood pressure and high blood lipid levels.

How much trichosanthes should I take?

Dosage varies on the type of condition being treated, but a usual dosage ranges from 6-18 grams for trichosanthes fruit and 9-15 grams of trichosanthes seeds or root. Make sure to speak with a licensed TCM professional before you begin taking trichosanthes or any other herbal remedy.

What forms of trichosanthes are available?

Trichosanthes can be found at many Asian markets and specialty stores. It is available in fresh, dried and powdered forms.

What can happen if I don't get enough trichosanthes? What can happen if I take too much? Are there any side-effects I should be aware of?

Trichosanthes, in any form, should not be taken by pregnant women, as there have been case reports that it may induce spontaneous abortions. Trichosanthes seeds and root should not be taken by patients who have diarrhea. Trichosanthes fruit and peel should not be used by patients who have a spleen deficiency. For more information, be sure to consult with a licensed health care professional or traditional Chinese medicine practitioner.

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  • Shen R. Distinguishing the uses of related medicinals. RCHM News Spring 2001, 13-15.
  • Sionneau P. Dui Yao: The Art of Combining Medicinals. Boulder, CO: Blue Poppy Press, 1997.
  • Yang SZ (translator). The Divine Farmer's Materia Medica, Boulder, CP: Blue Poppy Press, 1998.
  • Yen K. Illustrated Chinese Materia Medica. Taipei: SMC Publishing Inc., 1992.
  • Zhu YP. Chinese Materia Medica: Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Applications. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998.



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