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Trichosanthes Fruit (Gua Lou)

Trichosanthes Fruit (Gua Lou)

What is Trichosanthes Fruit (Gua Lou)?

Trichosanthes Fruit (gua lou, 瓜蒌), also known as Snake Gourd Fruit or Fructus Trichosanthis, is the fruit of Trichosanthes, a member of the gourd family Curcubitaceae. This plant is often grown in Chinese courtyards for the purpose of landscaping.

Trichosanthes Fruit has a Chinese name that carries the word (gua), which translates as ‘gourd’, referring to the fruit’s shape that resemble a gourd. Classified as one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Trichosanthes Fruit has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Traditionally, Trichosanthes Fruit is often used in herbal formulas with other herbs to treat various lung complaints.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Trichosanthes Fruit falls under the category of ‘Cool herbs that transform phlegm and stop cough’. Such herbs can treat phlegm, which is a condition of Stagnation of fluids, which tends to start in the Spleen and goes to the Lungs.

Cold in nature, Trichosanthes Fruit can help individuals with too much Heat in their body, such as those experiencing a Yang Excess or a Yin Deficiency, to restore a harmonious yin-yang balance. Sweet in taste, Trichosanthes Fruit can slow down acute reactions, detoxify the body and has a tonic effect on the body by replenishing qi and blood. In particular, Trichosanthes Fruit targets the large intestines, the Lungs and the stomach.

Functions and Benefits of Trichosanthes Fruit (Gua Lou)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Trichosanthes Fruit has the following health benefits.

Trichosanthes Fruit can clear Heat in the lungs and relieve dryness in the Lungs to resolve Heat-phlegm and dry-phlegm. This helps to address symptoms such as cough, bad breath, niggling throat pain and dyspnea. For exuberant phlegm manifested as cough, dyspnea, yellow phlegm, difficulty in expectoration, stuffiness and fullness in chest, Trichosanthes Fruit can be combined with other Heat-phlegm-clearing and resolving herbs to enhance its effectiveness.

Trichosanthes Fruit can resolve phlegm and promote the flow of qi to ease discomfort in the chest and dissipate nodulation. This herb is thus frequently indicated for fullness, oppression and distending pain in the chest caused by the obstruction of phlegm and qi. Also, Trichosanthes Fruit can address abscess and swelling caused by Heat-toxins.

In addition, Trichosanthes Fruit can moisten intestines and relax bowels as well. This herb is indicated for constipation too.

Today, Trichosanthes Fruit can be used to treat diabetes. Studies have shown that 76% of patients who were given Trichosanthes Fruit in doses of over 40g per day experienced improved sugar tolerance and elevated serum insulin levels.  Jade Sugar Pill (Yu Quan Wan, 玉泉丸), a common formula that is used to treat diabetic patients, includes Trichosanthes Fruit in it.

Trichosanthes Fruit is also known for its potential to treat breast abscesses and breast cancer. It has been developed into an antiviral therapy used to treat HIV infections. In the 1990s, it was viewed by many as the most promising treatment for AIDS due to its ability to block viral reproduction. Extracts have also shown promise for damaging the protein coat on the RNA of the AIDS virus in vitro. Since then, newer drugs have been developed that have taken its place for HIV and AIDS treatment.

Close up of Trichosanthes Fruit (Gua Lou)
Trichosanthes Fruit (Gua Lou) can help to ease coughs with yellow oral discharge.

How to Use Trichosanthes Fruit (Gua Lou)

The recommended daily dosage of Gua Lou is 10 – 20g, when consumed as a decoction.  The herb is also often cooked in boiling water with other herbs to make tea or soup. Please consult your healthcare provider on which herbs are suitable to add into your Gua Lou decoction, depending on your condition.

Gua Lou and its supplements may be found in herbal stores, Asian markets and selected specialty stores.

Cautions and Side Effects of Trichosanthes Fruit (Gua Lou)

Gua Lou should not be used by individuals who are experiencing diarrhoea caused by Spleen or Stomach Deficiency, Phlegm-Cold or Phlegm-Dampness.

Also, Gua Lou should not be consumed together with Wu Tou, Gan Jiang (Dried Ginger) and Niu Xi (Radix Achyranthis Bidentatae).

We strongly encourage you to consult your healthcare provider before deciding to add Gua Lou to your healthcare routine!


Here is a summary for Trichosanthes Fruit (Gua Lou):

  • Herb name (Chinese): 瓜蒌
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): guā lóu
  • Herb name (English): Snakegourd Fruit
  • Herb name (Botanical): Fructus Trichosanthis
  • Origin of species: Trichosanthes kirilowii Maxim.; Trichosanthes rosthornii Harms
  • Part(s) of herb used: Fruit
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Hebei, Henan, Anhui, Zhejiang, Shandong, Jiangsu
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Sweet, slightly bitter; Cold; Administrates the Lung, Stomach and Large Intestine Meridians
  • Actions: Eases coughs with yellow oral discharge; Relieves symptoms related to tightness in chest and constipation

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