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Watermelon as tasty medicine

Most of us enjoy a slice of watermelon in the heat of summer. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is part of the herbal medicine cabinet along with the seeds and rind. The melon portion is considered sweet and cool (well, duh). What you may not know is that watermelon is a vasodialator – that is it opens up blood vessels. Consequently, it shows an ability to reduce high blood pressure. Citrulline, an amino acid, is thought to be the effective agent. Watermelon is also a great dietary source of the anti-oxidant, lycopene, recently the source of fame for tomatoes. Although heating helps our bodies access the lycopene and most of us do not cook watermelon. Finally, in one study daily watermelon consumption demonstrated to reduce “body weight, body mass index (BMI), and blood pressure…which also improves some factors associated with overweight and obesity.”

TCM practitioners generally believe that food is medicine and on its own can foster wellness or illness. As the above indicates, watermelon may be mostly water but the rest of it can have some pretty great health benefits. In Traditional Chinese Medicine foods have therapeutic characteristics just as herbs do. The phrase a “well balanced meal” then takes on special meaning in that the properties of the foods balance out. For instance, watermelon can be too cool for some people to effectively digest. To offset this then, some warm foods would be consumed at the same time. I especially like this recipe for Watermelon Sparkler with Jicama, Lime and Ginger by Mollie Katzen for just this reason. By adding in a fairly hot food, ginger, she has made watermelon’s delicious nutrition easier for many to digest. Plus, it is scrumptious.


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