Xi Gua, known to most of us simply as watermelon, is a delicious fruit both adults and children love to eat. It is not coincidental that it is commonly eaten during the summer as it has great cooling properties.

In Chinese Medicine, the watermelon fruit clears heat, relieving both thirst and irritability. It is one of the few with the ability to help relieve heat exhaustion, also known as “summerheat”. To relieve heat exhaustion, the outermost layer of the rind is used as opposed to the sweet, juicy part of the fruit. In addition to clearing heat, watermelon promotes urination and reduces jaundice. In fact, it is currently being used as an assistant in the treatment of icteric hepatitis. 

Those with weakened digestive systems should be careful not to eat too much watermelon as it can create more damage since it is cold.

Da Zao, jujube or Chinese date, is not only a medicinal herb in Chinese medicine but also a tasty fruit. Its sweet and warm properties make it a favorite among many. The jujube can be consumed alone as a snack or added to foods. Be careful not to use too much though, as an excessive amount can bring about diarrhea and digestive discomfort.

Still, this herb is very special because it can replenish the substance that provides our bodies with warmth and energy (Qi). Thus it is used in cases of weakness, fatigue, and poor appetite. It builds blood and calms the spirit/mind, treating irritability and insomnia. Finally, Da Zao harmonizes formulas, reducing the undesired and harmful effects of harsh herbs and helping the herbs in a formula work together more effectively. It is often used as an alternative herb to Gan Cao (licorice root) to harmonize when licorice root is unavailable or when it is incompatible with the herbs being used.

Gui Zhi Tang is a formula that was developed around the year 220 C.E. and recorded in the Shang Han Lun (“Discussion of Cold Damage”). However, it is just as relevant today—especially in cool climates such as northern New Mexico—and is used for a wide array of conditions ranging from simple colds and flu to psycho-emotional instabilities. In TCM terms, Gui Zhi Tang is primarily used to treat “Wind-Cold invasion with Wei Qi deficiency and disharmony of Ying and Wei Qi,” which presents as sweating, chills and fever that are not relieved by sweating, aversion to wind, headache, stiff neck, nasal congestion, fatigue, and sometimes dry heaves. The tongue presentation is not much different than normal in this condition, but the pulse is floating and weak. This translates as a common cold or influenza in western terms.

Cang Er Zi San

Photo by Dr. Shen's, a TCM resource

Springtime instills dread in many New Mexicans who suffer from seasonal pollen - especially juniper allergies. Although it is best to treat allergies while symptoms are in latency, there is hope. Many Chinese herbs can treat the various manifestations of seasonal allergies, and Cang Er Zi San is one formula that can alleviate sinus congestion.