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Herbs & Botanicals

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Watermelon (xi gua)

What is watermelon? What is it used for?

Watermelon is one of the most popular types of melons in the world. The typical watermelon is rather large (about the size of a basketball or larger), with a hard, deep green rind (occasionally colored yellow or yellow-brown), a sweet, red inner fruit, and black seeds. Some varieties of watermelon are seedless, however.

Watermelon is considered sweet and cold, and is associated with the Spleen and Stomach meridians. All parts of the watermelon, including the fruit, rind and seeds, are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The main active ingredient in watermelon is citrulline, a chemical that raises the level of urea in the blood and urine. The ground seeds are often incorporated with other herbs as a type of diuretic, and may also help clear up urinary tract infections. Another active ingredient in watermelon, curcubocitrin, may help to reduce blood pressure.

How much watermelon should I take?

The amount (and part) of watermelon to be taken depends on the condition being treated. Generally, many practitioners recommend 1-2 cups of fresh watermelon juice to treat a variety of ailments, or 15-30 grams of fresh watermelon fruit. The seeds may also be ground and used with boiling water as a type of decoction, usually in a ratio of 1 teaspoon of seeds to 1 pint of boiling water.

What forms of watermelon are available?

Fresh watermelon can be found at supermarkets worldwide. Some stores also specialize in selling freshly squeezed watermelon juice. Ground watermelon seeds and rind may be available at some herbal shops and Asian markets.

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

Although watermelon is considered extremely safe, it nevertheless should be avoided by people diagnosed with excess dampness, excess cold, or a combination of the two. In addition, because it promotes urination, it should be avoided by those with excessive or uncontrolled urination.

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

References

  • Gu W. Origin and spread of Chinese watermelon. Paper delivered at Second International Agricultural Archeological Conference, Nanchang, China, October 1997.
  • Mabberley DJ. The Plant Book: A Portable Dictionary of the Vascular Plants, 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • Satinsky E. The healing nature of watermelon seed tea. Available online.
  • Wiersema JH, León B. World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1999.
  • Xie Z, Yu Y (eds.) Materia Medica, Chinese Terminology, volume 1. Beijing: Renminweisheng Publishing House, 1996.

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