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Chinese Cucumber

What is Chinese Cucumber?

The Chinese cucumber is a member of the gourd family, and the root, fruit, seeds, stems, and peel are used medicinally. While T. kirilowii is the plant most often referred to in Chinese traditional medicine, a number of related species are often used as false additives.

Scientific Name(s)

Trichosanthes kirilowii Maxim. Family: Cucurbitaceae

Common Name(s)

Chinese cucumber also is known as Chinese snake gourd, gua-lou, tian-hua-fen, compound Q, Radix trichosanthis, Tolidostena japonica .

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The Chinese cucumber has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine and has been used to reduce fevers, swelling and coughing. A starch extracted from the root is used for abscesses, menstrual problems, jaundice, and abnormally large amount of urine production. Modern Chinese medicinal uses include the management of diabetes and to induce abortion. The plant has been used for centuries in the treatment of tumors.

Other uses

Laboratory studies have shown that Chinese cucumber inhibits replication of the HIV virus. Trichosanthin was reported to have been used to treat malignant tumors of the uterus and cervical cancer, but clinical studies are lacking. However, there is limited clinical evidence to support these uses.

What is the recommended dosage?

In traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese cucumber is most commonly is administered as part of a preparation with other herbs. In a clinical trial in HIV patients, intravenous trichosanthin 1.2 mg weekly and then monthly, was used. In another clinical study, T. kirilowii seeds (20 g of seed kernals per day for 28 days) were eaten as a dietary source of linolenic acid.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Avoid use. Documented adverse effects.


None well documented.

Side Effects

Side effects include muscle pain or tenderness, fever, elevated liver function tests, and allergic reactions.


Extracts of the Chinese cucumber are extremely toxic (death has occurred), particularly with injections. Extracts of the root can cause abortion and are toxic to the fetus.


1. Chinese Cucumber. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons eAnswers [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; July 2015. Accessed April 27, 2015.

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