Trichosanthes kirilowii, Chinese curcumber

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Seeds of Trichosanthes kirilowii


Trichosanthes kirilowii belongs to the family of the curcurbitaceae. It is native to China and is therefore also called Chinese curcumber. T. kirilowii is an annual or perennial climbing plant and can reach a height of 6 to 10 m. The leaves alternate, and are heart shaped lobate. They can get 14 cm long and 5 cm wide. The shoot and the leaves can be cooked and eaten like vegetables. The male flowers stand in groups, the female ones stand solitary with a 6 cm long peduncle. The flowers look like stars and have long fragile fringes on their tips.
The fruits which were first used in medicine can reach 10 cm in diameter and are oval or round. They are first green and are orange when ripe. The fruits have an antibacterial effect. Traditionally the Chinese make a soup out of the fruits during winter. This shall prevent influenza and colds. The pulp is as well as the surface of the fruit, orange. It is very sticky and includes the various seeds. The seeds are flat, oval and brownish. They get 11 to 16 mm long and 7 to 12mm wide. If one crushes the seeds a nice odor fills the air. The root looks cone- like and is white to yellow when cut in pieces.
T. kirilowii is a new hope for HIV patients. Researchers isolated the substance Q (a trichosanthin) of the plant. This substance can kill cells that are infested with the HIV virus but it does not kill healthy cells. Furthermore T. kirilowii is used for patients with diabetes or cough. It has a moistening effect. It belongs to the 50 “must- have” plants in Chinese medicine.


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