Leaves and young shoots - cooked and used as a vegetable. An edible starch is obtained from the root. It requires leeching, which probably means that it has a bitter flavour[K]. The root is harvested in the autumn, cut into thick slices, soaked for 4 - 5 days in water, changing the water daily until the root disintegrates and can be mashed into a fine pulp. It is then steamed into cakes or used for making dumplings.An edible oil is obtained from the seed.
Skin, vulnerary. The leaf and the stem are febrifuge. The fruit is antibacterial, anticholesterolemic, antifungal, depurative, emollient, expectorant and laxative. It is used in the treatment of pulmonary infections with yellow and thick sputum, chest pains, stuffy feelings in the chest, constipation and dry stool. It has an antibacterial action against E. coli, Bacillus dysenteriae, B. typhi, B. paratyphi, Pseudomonas, Vibrio cholerae, V. Proteus etc. The fruit is traditionally prepared as a winter soup to ward off colds and influenza. The fruit is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The rind of the fruit is used to treat a number of ailments, including cancer, jaundice, retained placenta, bronchial infections with thick phlegm and sore throat. The seed is antitussive, emollient and expectorant. The root is antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, febrifuge, galactogogue, laxative, oxytocic, sialagogue and uterine tonic. The fresh root has been noted for centuries as an abortifacient - a sponge soaked in its juice was placed in the vagina and induced an abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy. The root is taken internally in the treatment of diabetes, dry coughs, and to assist in the second stage of labour. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use.The root and/or the seed is powdered and used in the treatment of mammary cancer.
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Sometimes cultivated in China for its edible fruit and medicinal uses. Male plants are favoured for root production. This species is not winter hardy in Britain and usually requires greenhouse cultivation. However, it may be possible to grow it as an annual in a very warm sheltered bed outdoors. A climbing plant, supporting itself by means of tendrils.Dioecious, male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
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- ? A Barefoot Doctors Manual. Running Press ISBN 0-914294-92-X ()
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- F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
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