1.1 What is a water caltrop?
The water caltrop (botanical name: Trapa bispinosa, also known as buffalo nut; Chinese Pinyin: Ling Jiao, Simplified Chinese: 菱角), is a species of annual, aquatic, flowering, fruit-bearing, herbaceous plant in genus Trapa in the Lythraceae family. The term water caltrop can refer to the plant as well as the fruit and seeds of the plant.
The flowers are white, which bloom only at night, with 4 petals. The edible fruit looks similar to the head of a bull or the silhouette of a flying bat, usually between 5-8 cm wide with purplish red skin when young and purple-black when ripe. Native to warm temperate regions of Eurasia and Africa and extensively cultivated in China, India, Russia, Japan and Vietnam, Laos, habitats of water caltrop include muddy water, shallow water, ponds, swamps and lakes.
Other names for the water caltrop include: water chestnut, bat nut, devil pod, ling nut, lin kok, ling kio nut, or singhara.
Other simplified Chinese names for water caltrop include: 芰, 水菱, 风菱, 乌菱, 菱角, 水栗, 菱实, 芰实.
1.2 How does water caltrop taste?
Boiled water caltrop have a starchy, soft texture with a flavor that is slightly sweet, like a combo of roasted chestnut and cooked potato.
1.3 How is water caltrop used in traditional Chinese medicine?
The seeds of water caltrop are considered to be sweet, astringent, neutral and nontoxic in nature and to be associated with the stomach and spleen meridians. It is used as anticancer drug, spleen tonic, diuretic, galactagogue (promotes or increases the flow of a mother’s milk) and hangover remedy in traditional Chinese medicine (CTM) and widely adopted in treating different diseases and health problems, such as cancer.
2. Uses, Health Benefits of Water Caltrop & Medical Formulas
2.1 Boost Metabolism
Water caltrop is an excellent natural source of iodine which is needed by our body to ensure normal metabolism. Studies show that iodine regulates the working of thyroid glands by facilitating the production of certain hormones, which are directly responsible for controlling the body’s base metabolic rate. Metabolic rate affects the efficiency and efficacy of the body’s organ system and important processes, such as the intake of food, sleep cycle, as well as turning food into energy (organicfacts.net 2017). Furthermore, chronic deficiency of iodine may lead to goiter (enlargement of the thyroid), mental retardation in infants and children whose mothers were iodine deficient during pregnancy.
2.2 Bones Health
Water caltrop contain manganese, a trace mineral required by our body, in particular in the bones. A manganese deficiency may lead to weak bones (osteoporosis) in which bones weaken and fracture more easily. In the 1930s, researchers discovered that our bodies require small amounts of dietary manganese each day. Since then, it has been concluded that each adult needs about 15-20 mg of manganese to be stored in his or her body (whfoods.com 2011) to maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporotic bones.
2.3 Better Bowel And Intestine Health
Water caltrop seeds are packed with dietary fiber which is also known as roughage or bulk, it is actually parts of plant foods our body can’t absorb in our digestive tract. Dietary fiber include two types: soluble and insoluble. In particular the insoluble fiber promotes the movement of material through our digestive tract and increases stool bulk, therefore it help treat gastrointestinal disorder (including functional bowel diseases and inflammatory bowel diseases) and chronic constipation.
2.4 Treating Cancer
[Folk Prescription – NOT Testified] Boiled water with water caltrop husk and the seed of Job’s tears is taken regularly to treat various cancers (such as lung cancer, esophagus cancer) by inhibiting the tissue proliferation.
[CTM Formula] A decoction of water caltrop, terminalia chebula fruit, the seed of Job’s tears and Wisteria sinensis sweet caulis is taken twice a day to treat esophageal cancer and stomach cancer.
[CTM Formula] Dried purple water caltrop are powdered and taken orally with wine or rice soup to treat dysentery (diarrhea with viscid red or white grains).
2.6 Skin Health
[CTM Formula] Fresh water caltrop husks are powdered and applied externally to treat warts.
3. Contraindication, Side-effects & Cautions
Avoid pork when taking medicine that contains water caltrop.
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
organicfacts.net 2017 10 Surprising Benefits Of Iodine [online] Retrieved 21 August 2017. Link: https://www.organicfacts.net