Using Chinese Cucumber
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Rasmus Eliasen, Denmark
Posted: Before April 1998

Are you able to tell me how I prepare the roots of the Chinese cucumber, as an infusion or as a tincture? And where can I read about the research that has been made on it ? I study herbal medicine that is why I ask.

Chinese cucumber (Trichosanthes kirowlii) is a traditional Chinese remedy for conditions as varied as constipation, fever, chest congestion, anxiety, inflammation, ulcers, diabetes, and others. The roots, fruits and seeds are used. The roots are most commonly used. The most important active compound they contain is the protein, trichosanthin. This protein, in purified form, has a strong stimulating effect on the uterus and in China it is injected to terminate pregnancies. This same protein was vaulted into prominence in North America as a possible cure for AIDS. In research funded by Sandoz, Ltd., the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, trichosanthin was referred to as ‘Compound GLQ223’, and in the popular press it was referred to as simply ‘Compound Q’. Early studies indicated that the protein selectively kills cells infected with HIV. In China, the roots are dug in autumn and exposed to sulphur fumes to bleach them before drying. What role this bleaching effect has on the medicinal potency of the roots is unknown to us. Our references do not say if the dried fruit contains trichosanthin. The fruits are used in Chinese medicine to reduce "heat" and phlegm, as a laxative, and to treat angina pectoris. Water extracts are evaporated and made into tablets. It is important to know that the body can become highly sensitive to trichosanthin. Severe reactions to it are known and utmost care and skill is required when using products containing it. Chinese drugs made with the fruit seem to be more commonly and safely used. Foster’s "Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to West" has an good review of the Chinese and recent scientific knowledge on the plant. The book is available from Richters.

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