Chinese winter melon, as its name suggested, is native to China. It is juicy, big in size and low in calories so that its thick white flesh is often made into winter melon soup during summer in order to quench thirst and induce diuresis. So, how do you deal with the winter melon seeds (Dong Gua Zi) and other remaining parts after the cooking? Of course you will throw them away without a second thought, won’t you? However, it is that thing you thought as waste is a very good Chinese herb and has awesome medicinal value. In other words, you may not know that you are casting away some of the best essence available in this fruit. As a matter of fact, this melon is a treasure inside out – all its constituent parts, including pruina, peel, flesh, pulp, seed, even vine, leaf, and flower, can be used medicinally.
What are winter melon seeds?
Let’s first take a look at its plant. This is an annual rambler in the genus Benincasa, namely Benincasa hispida (Thunb.) Cogn. in Latin name. Stems are covered with brown bristles and pubescence. Pepo, better known as winter gourd, is large, fleshy, long cylindrical or nearly spherical, 25 to 60cm in length, 10 to 25cm in diameter, and with surface having waxy powder and bristles. Seeds are numerous, about 1cm long and about 6mm wide. Skin is yellowish white, sometimes with cracks, one circular end, and one pointed end, which has 2 small projections and the smaller one is the hilum. After stripping the seed coat, the milky, oily kernel thus shows. The seeds have slight odor and slightly sweet taste. Flower season is from May to June and fruit season is from June to August.
Winter melons have a variety of common names, such as white gourd, white fuzzy vegetable, winter gourd, and ash gourd. As a result their seeds come with a few different titles like Semen Benincasae in Latin, waxgourd seed, Benincasa Seed, Dong Gua Ren, and so on. So, how did this fruit get its name? Actually it is quite simple. When it is ripe, there is a layer of white powder coating on its skin, which looks like winter frost. And that is why the reason it is called as winter gourd, as well as white gourd. In addition, the mature melon generates a waxy covering layer, which can protect and keep it fresh as long as 12 months. Hence, it is often known as wax gourd.
The seed contains 14% oil, among which triglyce-ride accounts for 72% to 96% and essential fatty acids are linoleic acid, oleic acid, stearicacid, palmitic acid, octadecadienoic acid, octdecatrienoic acid and so on. It contains lipid, which has phosphatidyl choline, pholphatidyl ethanolamine, phosphatidyl serine, phosphatityl inolitol, sphingomyelin, and cerebroside. It also contains sterols, including β-sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, 24-ethylcholesta-7, 25-dienol, 24-ethylcholesta-7, 22, 25-trienol, 24 – ethylcholesta-7-enlo, 24-ethy-lcholesta-7, 22-dienol, 24β-ethyl-5α-cholesta-8, and 24β-ethyl-5α-cholesta-8, 22, 25 (27)-simiarenol. What’s more, fat-free seeds contain active ingredients of protease and other inorganic elements such as selenium, chromium, and more.
Health benefits of winter melon seed
As you know, winter melon provides you with high nutrition and sweet taste. That’s why today it has been developed into a variety of foods, such as tea, juice, candy, soup, and so on. And there are tons of relevant recipes out there you can find easily. But when it comes to its seeds, it is totally different and probably you would ask something like can you eat winter melon seeds? The answer is quite simple – they are edible but usually inadvisable to be eaten directly, instead they should be used in the form of decoction for better medical benefits. Now let’s look into what health benefits they could do to us.
Modern pharmacological actions
Now a lot of modern researches have been done to unlock its medicinal value. And the following will tell you the fact about this amazing herb.
Its dialyzate, dialyzed from its hot water extract, showed dose dependence on mitogen-induced mice’s lymphocyte activity. The dialysis fluid is a B-cell mitogen agent, which has PBA (clonal B-cell activators) activity and adjuvant activity, significantly increases the number of PFC (Plaque-forming cells), and helps support immune health.
Inhibition of trypsin
Its isolated and purified trypsin inhibitor contains 4 trypsin-inhibiting dynamic components, among which 2 belong to small molecule trypsin inhibitor.
Proven winter melon seed related herbal remedies
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) believes that the melon seed is sweet in taste and cold in properties. And it covers meridians of lung and large intestine. Its chief functions are clearing lung, eliminating phlegm, discharging pus, and inducing diuresis. Its key uses and indications include cough with lung heat, lung abscess, appendicitis, gonorrhea, morbid leucorrhea, beriberi, edema, and stranguria. Recommended dosage is from 10 to 15 grams in decoction.
Qian Jin Wei Jing Tang
Qian Jin Wei Jing Tang comes from Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer). This formula is basically formulated for pulmonary abscess, manifested as cough with low-grade fever, dysphoria, and squamous and dry skin on chest. Other herbal ingredients include Wei Jing (Reed stems), Yi Yi Ren (Coix Seed), and Tao Ren (Peach Seed).
Da Huang Mu Dan Tang
Da Huang Mu Dan Tang is from Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer too. This prescription is mainly designed for peri-appendicular abscess without pus, accompanied with symptoms like a lump in the abdomen, pain like stranguria when touching, normal urination, constant fever, spontaneous perspiration, and so on. The rest other herbs include Da Huang (Rhubarb), Mu Dan Pi (Tree Peony Root Cortex), Peach Seed, and Mang Xiao (Mirabilite).
Potential winter melon seeds side effects and contraindications
Based on experiment results, no toxicity was found in Winter melon seeds. TCM wise, long term consumption of this herb is inadvisable as it may freeze the middle burner.