Modern scientific studies have shown the important therapeutic value of melons, fruits and vegetables for the treatment of diseases and their high nutritive value for the preservation of human health.
Pumpkins, watermelons, white gourds, bitter gourds, loofahs, ficus tikauas and cucumbers have great importance for clinical therapy. Pumpkins and watermelons contain an average of 4 mg % and 3 mg % of vitamin C, and 2.4 mg % and 0.17 mg % carotin, respectively. Pumpkins also contain 20.9 mg % of citrulline and small amounts of vitamin B and glucose.
According to modern studies, pumpkin seeds can expel tapeworms and ascaris, and kill blood fluke. As proved by experiments, a 40 % decoction of seed powder of pumpkin or a 30 % extract can paralyze the middle and posterior segments of beef and pork tapeworms.
Besides vitamin C and carotin, watermelons also contain apple sugar, glucose and some minerals, and the skin and pulp of watermelons can produce a diuretic and hypotensive effect.
The content of vitamin C in white gourds is as high as 16 mg %, and they also contain a small amount of protein, sugar and sodium salts. Because of the low content of sodium salts, it can be used to promote urination and resolve edema in patients of nephritis. This is similar to the experience obtained in the clinical practice of traditional Chinese medicine.
Bitter gourds contain glycoside, 5-serotonin and many amino acids. A reducing blood sugar effect produced by bitter gourds was found in animal experiments, but the blood sugar level of diabetic patients could not be reduced in clinical trials.
As proved by pharmacological studies, ficus tikauas contain poisonous substances, a group of derivatives of rotenone, which can kill fish and insects. The seeds and leaves of ficus tikauas contain another similar poisonous substance, glycoside of pachyrhizus erosus. Both rotenone and this glycoside are toxic to the central nervous system, more remarkably to the respiratory center in the brain. The administration of this gourd in a large quantity may directly attack the heart and cause bradycardia, and the patient may suffer from nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, fever and even convulsions, coma and respiratory failure in severe cases. Cucumbers contains glucose, fructose, xylose, rutin, vitamin B2 and vitamin C. the bitter taste in cucumbers is due to the presence of cucurbitacin A, B, C and D. Cucurbitacin C, with a low toxicity, shows an antitumorigenic effect in animal experiments, so that it is useful for the preparation of antineoplastic.
The medical application of melons has been profoundly studied, and experiments on loofahs and sweet melons have achieved certain valuable results.
Fruits can be divided into the fresh and preserved varieties. Fresh fruits, such as apples, pears, peaches, haws, grapes, pineapples and bananas are the ones most commonly used in clinical practice; and the fruits of the latter group are prepared from the fresh fruits, including candied dates, dried persimmons and raisins.
The important nutritive components of fresh fruits are the vitamins (chiefly vitamin C) and inorganic salts. As analyzed by nutriologists, the content of vitamin C in fresh dates is as high as 540 gm %, and it can be 30-100 times this amount in other fruits and ordinary vegetables. The content of vitamin C is even higher in wild jujubes, sometimes reaching 850-1170 mg %. The absorptive ratio of vitamin C in the intestines may reach 86.3%. Haws, tangerines and lemons are also rich in vitamin C. Red and yellow fruits, like apricots, oranges and tangerines, contain more carotin and inorganic salts, including calcium, phosphorus and iron.
Through the process of manufacture, preserved fruits may lose many of their vitamins, but the relative contents of proteins, carbohydrates and inorganic salts are increased after the marked loss of water from fresh fruits. For example, the contents of protein and carbohydrate in grapes are 0.7 % and 11.5 %, but in raisins they are raised to 4.1 % and 78.7 % respectively.
The iron and copper in fruits are useful for the production of hemoglobins in anemic patients. The high content of potassium and low content sodium in fruits can produce a diuretic effect. Organic acids such as malic acid and citric acid can stimulate secretion of gastric acid and improve the digestion. Succinic acid contained in unripe fruits can produce a strong stimulation effect in the stomach and intestines.
Fruits can have a remarkable therapeutic effect. For example, haws can dilate blood vessels, lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol level, improve the heart function, inhibit and kill bacteria and improve the digestion. According to pharmacological studies, haws contain many flavone glycosides and complicated di- or polyflavanoids. The toxicity of polyflavanoids is low, and it can produce an apparent hypotensive and cordial effect. Flavone and derivatives of flavanoid can dilate coronary arteries and produce a sedative effect. The fresh fruits and leaves of haws contain the precursor of diflavanoid, anthocyanidin, and catecuric acid and anthocyanidin may be produced after hydrolysis to improve contraction of the myocardium, increase blood flow in the coronary artery and prevent arrhythmia. According to in vitro bacteriostatic experiments, haws can produce a strong inhibitory effect on Flexner’s coli and Bacillus pyocyaneus. Recently, it has been discovered that haws can increase secretion of amylase and lipase in the stomach, and promote digestion.
Apples can both stop diarrhea and promote bowel movement mild diarrhea (except bacillary dysentery) can be stopped a few days after the intake of apple paste alone. The organic acids and tannic acid in apples can produce an astringent effect, and the pectine and cellulose in apples can absorb bacterial toxin to stop diarrhea; but the organic acids and cellulose can stimulate intestine and promote the motility of the stomach and intestines to treat constipation.
According to clinical observations, the increase of urine sugar in diabetic patients after eating bananas is not a remarkable as after the intake of other fruits. The ratio of glucose and fructose in banana is 1:1, making them suitable for treating fatty diarrhea and intoxic indigestion. The abundant minerals in bananas are useful for correcting the disturbance of water and electrolyte metabolism. The 5- serotonin in bananas can reduce gastric acid and protect gastric mucosa from the stimulation of gastric acid. However, the overeating of bananas may cause dysfunction of the digestive system. Pears contain vitamin C, sugar, calcium, phosphorus and sodium, and they can be used with the correspondent specific medicines to treat pulmonary tuberculosis, acute or chronic bronchitis and upper respiratory infection with dryness and pain in throat, expectoration of profuse yellow sticky sputum and discharge of dark urine in short streams.
Ripe fruits contain more digestible sugar, like glucose, and are beneficial for the liver. Patients with liver disease should eat more sweet fruits. Sour fruits, like plums, apricots, oranges and tangerines can cause spasms in the biliary tract, so patients with diseases of the liver or gallbladder should avoid eating sour fruits.
(1) Leaf vegetables: Chinese cabbages (green and white), amaranths, spinach, shepherd’s purse, leeks, celery and caraways are included in this group of vegetables. They are rich in carotin, vitamin C and vitamin B2. Green Chinese cabbage, amaranth, spinach and shepherd’s purse are rich in carotin and vitamin C. For example, spinach contains 3.87 mg % of carotin, and amaranth from Sichuan Province contains 8.98 mg % of carotin. Leaf vegetables also contain minerals such as iron, which is not only rich in content but also easily absorbable. Therefore, they are an important part of the diet of anemic patients, pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers. The contents of protein, carbohydrate and fat are low in leaf vegetables, less than 2 %, 5 % and 0.5 % on average, respectively.
Leaf vegetables also contain folic acid, choline, calcium and phosphorus, but the high content of calcium in amaranth, spinach and bamboo shoots is combined with oxalic acid, making it difficult for the body to absorb. The high content of oxalic acid in vegetables can not only interfere with the absorption of calcium but also disturb the calcification of bones after soluble oxalates in food are absorbed by the body. Therefore, infants, pregnant women and bone fracture patients should not take too many vegetables rich in oxalic acid.
(2) Root and rhizome vegetables: Radishes, Chinese yams, lotus roots, potatoes, taros, sweet potatoes, garlic, green onions, asparagus, lettuce and bamboo shoots belong to this group of vegetables containing different nutrients. The starch in potatoes, taros, lotus roots and sweet potatoes is as high as 15-30 %, and it is 29.5 % in sweet potatoes. The content of carotin in carrots is as high as 3.62 mg %. The contents of protein and fat in this group of vegetables are low, and the protein in potatoes and taros is slightly higher (2 %) than that of other root and rhizome vegetables.
Different from leaf vegetables, many root vegetables can be taken as staple foodstuffs, because they contain a great deal of sugar. Although the content of vitamin C in radishes and asparagus is not rich, the uncooked dishes of these vegetables can also supply lots of vitamin C because it is not destroyed in uncooked vegetables. According to pharmacological studies, the lignin in radishes can produce an anti-cancer effect. In addition, the potassium succinate in carrots can produce a hypotensive effect. The juice of fresh carrots is a health-giving drink.
(3) Fresh beans: Lentils, young soya beans, peas, broad beans, cowpeas and kidney beans are included in this group of vegetables. They have higher contents of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals than leaf vegetables. The iron in fresh beans is easily absorbed. Therefore, they are all highly nutritive vegetables.
In brief, vegetables contain small amounts of plant protein and fat, but the content of sugar varies greatly in different vegetables. Fresh vegetables contain various vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin B2 and carotin) and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, iron and potassium). They also contain pectine, organic acids and a large amount of cellulose to stimulate peristalsis of the intestines.
Some vegetables can produce a good therapeutic effect. For example, caraways can promote sweating and eruption of measles because they can promote peripheral blood circulation. The eruption of measles is induced by the promotion of peripheral blood circulation, invasion of viruses into the capillaries of the skin, proliferation of endothelial cells of capillaries and exudation of serum.
The capsicine in chilies (red peppers) can stimulate gastric and intestinal secretion, improve the appetite and digestive function, inhibit Bacillus cereus and hay bacillus (ineffective against Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus coli), stimulate the taste receptors on the tongue and reflectively elevate blood pressure (especially diastolic pressure). The external application of chili ointment may cause reflective dilation of local cutaneous blood vessels and improve local blood circulation, and tincture of chili can be used to treat frostbite. Carrots rich in carotin can be used to treat night blindness, dryness of the eyes and rickets in children. They can also produce a cordial, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effect. As proved by pharmacological experiments, carrots with a hypoglycemic substance can be used to treat diabetes mellitus.
(Soruce: Diseases Treated with Melons, Fruits and Vegetables, Foreign Languagues Press, 2002)