Growing up, I never really thought about how food affected me. I remember my mother making foods to cool us down, due to the ever-constant warm temperature in Malaysia. We ate and drank lots of fruit/ juice in general. I never really thought about it until I began studying Chinese Medicine. Fruit in general has a cold temperature and is often sweet in flavor, as they ripen in the heat of Summer. This means most fruit will cool down heat and influence the Spleen and Stomach, as the sweet flavor is associated with the Earth element.
One fruit that comes to mind for this season is the Watermelon, Fructus Citrullus vulgaris. It's juicy, refreshing and cooling. This is one of the most common fresh-made juices one can get when you are in Malaysia, because it cools Summer-Heat. It grows locally all-year round there and in the Summer in most warm-weathered countries. One of my teachers called it the "Chinese aspirin," as it clears heat from the body like when we experience feverishness, though I must emphasize it's not the best herb for fevers. The Chinese call it Xī Guā, 西瓜 , which translates as "Western Gourd/Squash/ Melon." This was because in ancient China, Watermelon grew in its Western regions. Interestingly, I found out that Watermelon has been found to have originated in North Africa, possibly Sudan, and even in ancient Egypt there were seeds found in the pyramids and references in carvings dated 2000 BCE. Africa is West of China and it may be that it made its way to China through trade.
Watermelon is one of those fruit that almost all parts can be eaten and act as medicinal food. The part which we all eat is the red-juicy-sweet core enters the Urinary Bladder, Heart and Stomach channels in Chinese Medicine. Hence, it functions to cool the Summer-Heat, generate fluids, expel jaundice and promote urination. The peel is used for its stronger effect on promoting urination. Watermelon seeds are eaten regularly as a snack in Asia; it is first sun-dried and roasted with salt. The skin of the seed is peeled off and the inside is eaten. This is said to help clear urinary tract infection and lower blood pressure. Watermelon is sweet in flavor and cold in temperature. Therefore, if one has blood sugar imbalances or a cool digestive system, tending to loose stools/diarrhea, then be careful to keep the Watermelon intake to a minimum, or for that matter fruit/juice as well.
Like so many of our foods, Watermelon's journey on the Earth from Africa and its transformation from a water-bearing possibly bitter/bland fruit into sweet, red nectar is a fascinating story of migration and resilience; just as us humans migrating to greener pastures, surviving and adapting. It not only nourishes and heals us but also inspires our creativity. I watched the famous jazz musician and composer, Herbie Hancock describe how and why he wrote his famous song, "Watermelon Man" in 1962. So as you eat your Watermelon next time, listen to the Mongo Santamaria's version of the song and get into the Watermelon groove.
Image Watermelon by Jorge Furber on Pixabay