1.1 What is a watermelon?
The watermelon (botanical name: Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus; Chinese Pinyin: Xi Gua, Simplified Chinese: 西瓜, literally western melon), is a species of annual, flowering, fruit-bearing trailing vine in genus Citrullus in the cucumber family, Cucurbitaceae. The term watermelon can refer to the plant as well as the fruit of the plant. The flowers are white to yellow, 2.5 – 3 cm in diameter, with 5 petals. The edible fruit is nearly round, oval or elongated, usually big in size with some cultivated varieties exceeding 60 cm in diameter, the fruits are usually with dark green smooth skin. Native to north and west Africa and extensively cultivated in tropical or subtropical regions around the world, habitats of watermelon include mountainous regions, sandy soil, fields, orchards and flatlands (usually found from between 0 to 1,500 meters in elevation). Characteristics of watermelon include tolerance for drought and adaptations to different growth conditions.
Other simplified Chinese names for watermelon include: 寒瓜.
1.2 How does watermelon taste?
Good watermelons have a crisp, juicy, easily digestible, firmed texture with a flavor that is highly sweet and refreshing.
1.3 How to tell if a watermelon is ripe?
Watermelons start to ripen usually in May and are available throughout the summer. Most ripe watermelons are found in July and August, depending on the weather conditions. A ripe melon should have a pale yellow spot on the rind, suggesting that it was left on the ground to ripen in the sun, also it should have a dull, deep sound, similar to the sound of knocking on a door.
1.4 Why watermelon is called 西瓜 (literally western melon) in Chinese?
Watermelon was originated from Africa and introduced into China from the west during the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), since then the fruit has been known as western melon (西瓜).
1.5 How is watermelon used in traditional Chinese medicine?
The rind of watermelon is considered to be sweet, cool and nontoxic in nature and to be associated with the heart, stomach and bladder meridians. It is used as heat-clearing drug, antidipticum, diuretic and discutient in traditional Chinese medicine (CTM) and widely adopted in treating different diseases and health problems, such as sunstroke.
2. Uses, Health Benefits of Watermelons & Medical Formulas
2.1 Reduce The Risk of Breast Cancer
Statistics show that about 12.4 percent of women will be diagnosed with female breast cancer at some point during their whole life (cancer.gov 2014). Watermelons contain rich dietary fiber that increases frequency of bowel movements (bowel motility), which in turn reduces breast cancer risk by increasing estrogen excretion. Circulating estrogen levels are an established risk factor for breast cancer. A study found out that there was a 34% reduction in breast cancer risk among women who consumed the most fruit fiber, compared to those who ate the least (mercola.com 2017). Therefore, eating watermelons may help to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer.
2.2 Secure Brain And Nervous System
Watermelons also contain a high level of Vitamin C which is also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), watermelons contain 8.1 mg Vitamin C (equivalent to 10% RDA) per 100 g (3.5 oz) serving. Vitamin C is not absolutely required for any specific action in a cell, studies show that Vitamin C is 100% needed for proper function of many organs, in particular the brain and central nervous system (CNS) (James 2013). Thus, eating Vitamin C rich fruits like watermelons can help to secure our brain and nervous system.
2.3 Aid Conception
Watermelons also contain Vitamin A (Retinoidwhich) which is a fat soluble vitamin and it is good for our vision, immune system as well as reproductive system. Vitamin A is known to be important for the maintenance of the male genital tract and spermatogenesis. Researches found out that vitamin A participates in a signaling mechanism to initiate meiosis in the female gonad during embryogenesis, and in the male gonad postnatally (Margaret 2011). Vitamin A also helps with the follicles in maturing properly, both in the maturation of an egg and in the process of producing the hormones needed to aid the fertilized egg into the uterus.
2.4 Mouth Sores
[CTM Formula] The rind of watermelon is burned and powdered, and can be used to treat mouth sores.
2.5 Reduce Swelling And Pain
[CTM Formula] Watermelon cream, or mirabilitum praeparatum (西瓜霜) made with watermelon rind and mirabilite is used externally to treat sore throat, mouth sores, gingival swelling or bleeding, pediatric thrush, mild burns, traumatic bleeding, acute and chronic pharyngitis, tonsillitis, stomatitis as well as oral ulcers.
[CTM Formula] Dried watermelon rind is powdered and taken orally with wine to relieve back pain.
The Ben Cao Medical Book (also known as Compendium of Materia Medica or Ben Cao Gang Mu; Chinese: 本草纲目) is the most famous and comprehensive medical book ever written in the history of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Compiled and written by Li Shi-zhen (1518~1593), a medical expert of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) over 27 years.
The Ben Cao Medical Book records and describes all the plants, animals, minerals, and other objects that were believed to have medicinal properties in TCM. The book reflects the pharmaceutical achievements and developments of East Asia before the 16th century. On the basis of his predecessors’ achievements in the pharmacological studies, Li contributed further by supplementing and rectifying many past mistakes and misconception in relate to nature of many medicinal substances and causes of various illnesses. Charles Darwin, originator of the biological theory of evolution, regards the book as the “ancient Chinese encyclopedia”.
Disclaimer: The Ben Cao Medical Book is translated by ChinaAbout.net. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of CTM knowledge and information from the research and experience from the author Li Shi-zhen. Kindly be alert that the CTM knowledge and ancient formulas given above are likely NOT medically proven and may contain misconceptions.
List of reference
cancer.gov 2014 Cancer Stat Facts: Female Breast Cancer [online] Retrieved 21 August 2017. Link: https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html
James, M. M. 2013 Vitamin C transport and its role in the central nervous system, Subcell Biochem. 2012; 56: 85–103.
Margaret Clagett-Dame, Danielle Knutson 2011 Vitamin A in Reproduction and Development, Nutrients 2011 Apr; 3(4): 385–428.