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Herbs & Botanicals

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Trichosanthes Seed (gua lou ren)

What is trichosanthes seed? What is it used for?

Trichosanthes seed comes from the trichosanthes, a gourd-like fruit found in China and other parts of Asia. All parts of the trichosanthes (fruit, roots, and seeds) are used in herbal preparations. However, different parts of the fruit are used to treat different conditions.

According to traditional Chinese medicine precepts, trichosanthes seed has sweet and cold properties, and is associated with the Large Intestine, Lung and Stomach meridians. Trichosanthes seed has mild laxative properties, and is typically used to treat cases of mild constipation or dry stools. It can also be used internally or externally to help facilitate wound healing, and to help dispel parasites. It is also one of the most common herbs used in herbal medicine; dozens of well-known formulas incorporate trichosanthes seed or some other form of trichosanthes.

How much trichosanthes seed should I take?

The typical dose of trichosanthes seed is between 9 and 15 grams per day, usually boiled in water and drunk as a decoction. Higher amounts of trichosanthes seed are sometimes used to treat difficult cases of constipation. When applied externally, the seeds are crushed and powdered, then applied to the skin as a type of poultice.

What forms of trichosanthes seed are available?

Whole, dried trichosanthes seed can be found at some Asian markets and herbal shops. Trichosanthes seed is also available in powder and capsule forms.

What can happen if I take too much trichosanthes seed? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

The American Herbal Products Association has given all forms of trichosanthes a class 1 rating, meaning that it can be safely consumed when used appropriately. However, some evidence suggests that large doses trichosanthes may cause problems during pregnancy. As a result, it should be avoided by women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. In addition, because of its laxative properties, trichosanthes seed should not be used in patients who have diarrhea, or instances in which there is no heat.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions associated with trichosanthes seed. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking trichosanthes seed or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Dharmananda S. Trichosanthes. Institute for Traditional Medicine. Available online. Published May 2001.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 116.
  • Shen R. Distinguishing the uses of related medicinals. RCHM News Spring 2001, pp. 13-15.
  • Yang SZ (translator). The Divine Farmer's Materia Medica. Boulder, CO: Blue Poppy Press, 1998.
  • Zhu YP. Chinese Materia Medica: Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Applications. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998.

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