Leaves and young shoots - cooked and used as a vegetable. An edible starch is obtained from the root. It requires leeching. 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. The starch is mixed with wheat or rice flour and made into crackers, dumplings, noodles etc.An edible oil is obtained from the seed.
This plant is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs. Recent research has isolated a protein called 'trichosanthin' in the roots and this is undergoing trials as a possible remedy for AIDS. 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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