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Quince

Latin Names: Cydonia oblongata, Cydonia vulgaris

Other Names: Safarjal (Arabic); Bih (Persian); Kudonia (Greek); Membrillo (Spanish); Gutui (Romanian); Mu Gua (Chinese Quince)

Taxonomy: Vegetable Kingdom; Rosaceae or Rose family.

Part Used: Fruit, juice, seeds.

Basic Qualities: Cold in the last phase of the first degree and Dry in the beginning of the second degree. (Avicenna).

Other Qualities: Astringing and binding to the tissues and channels of the body; stimulating, toning, penetrating.

Taste: Sour, sweet, astringent.

Humoral Dynamics: Quince’s drying astringency tones and firms the tissues, and cuts through dampness and phlegm. Its tartness and sourness stimulate the stomach and liver, and the flow of bile and gastric juices.

Tropism: The lungs and respiratory tract; the stomach and liver; the intestines.

Constituents and Pharmacology: The seeds contain about 10 percent mucilage, as well as protein, fixed oil, and a small amount of amygdalin. The mucilage in the seeds consists of both gum and cellulose. The pulp of the fruit is rich in malic acid.

Medicinal Properties: Seeds – demulcent, emollient, expectorant, mucolytic, aperient laxative. Fruit – astringent, tonic, stomachic, antidiarrheic.

Cautions and Contraindications: None. It may be argued that eating too much of the fruit is contraindicated in constipation because of its mild astringency, but in practice, this toning astringency is very mild and gentle, and does not usually present a problem.

Medicinal Uses: The seeds contain a soothing, demulcent mucilage that moistens dry and irritated respiratory passages and liquefies phlegm for expulsion. The mucilage from the seeds is also mildly laxative. The juice and fruit tone and stimulate the liver and stomach, stimulating the bilious and gastric secretions. The mild toning and binding astringency of the fruit stimulates the digestion and appetite, and is useful in treating diarrhea, loose stools, hemorrhoids and anal prolapse. The main medicinal uses of Quince fall in the domain of dietary therapy.

Other Uses: The other uses of Quince are mainly culinary, since Quince is a fruit of the Rose family closely related to apples.  You can juice Quinces just like you can juice apples, and the taste of Quince juice is quite similar to that of apple juice.  You can also make jams, jellies, marmalades and conserves from Quinces, as well as syrups in a more medicinal sense.  You could even bake Quinces into pies, like apples; basically, anything you can do with an apple, you can do with a Quince.  Avicenna, in his Canon of Medicine, gives us instructions on how to bake or roast Quinces:  Scoop out the seeds from the core of the fruit, and fill the cavity with honey; cover the entire fruit with clay and roast it in hot cinders in a fire.  Yummy!

Preparation and Dosage: Quince is a fruit that can be eaten, so it is very safe, mild and gentle in nature, and of very low toxicity. Two drachms or six grams of the seeds can be decocted for ten minutes in a pint or ½ liter of water, strained and drunk. The juice of the fruit can be drunk like apple juice, or it can be boiled down, even with apple cider vinegar and honey; syrups can also be made from the juice and various sweeteners boiled down and concentrated. The fruit can be cut into thin slices and dried, and these slices later boiled in medicinal decoctions along with other herbs. Or, the dried fruit slices can be ground into a powder and taken orally. Jams, marmalades and conserves can also be made from the fruit, as Quince has culinary uses as well as medicinal ones.

Herbal Formulation: The powdered dried Quince fruit, or the pulp of the fruit can be used in medicinal jams or electuaries. Quince, since it is toning and stimulating to the stomach and liver, can be combined with other pungent or aromatic spices that stimulate the digestion, with the dispersing pungent or aromatic nature of these spices being counterbalanced by the binding astringency of Quince. These pungent and aromatic spices are virtually the same as the traditional mulling spices used for hot spiced cider: Cinnamon, Cardamom, Ginger, Nutmeg and Allspice. Hotter spices like black and white pepper can also be used, with good effect.

Classic Combinations: Quince juice can be combined with Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey to make a toning and stimulating tonic drink for the stomach, liver and digestive organs.  The combined powders of Quince and Nutmeg is good for treating chronic diarrhea caused by a cold, weak, deficient digestive fire.  Quince seeds can be infused or decocted with Fenugreek seeds as an expectorant to cleanse the lungs and respiratory tract of excess phlegm.  Quince can be combined with Ginger as a stimulating tonic for the stomach and digestion.

Description:

Quince is a fruit of the Rose family that is closely related to the apple; in fact, Quinces have even been called Cydonian Apples.  The taste of the Quince fruit and its juice is very similar to that of the apple, with the main difference being that Quince has a subtle toning astringency that apples lack.  The gentle astringency of Quince is also very efficacious for toning up sagging and congested digestive organs, namely, the stomach, liver and intestines.  When included as a regular part of the diet, Quince is a therapeutic food for chronic diarrhea, usually caused by a cold, deficient digestive fire, as well as hemorrhoids and anal prolapse.  Because of its mild, nontoxic nature as an edible fruit, the best therapeutic use of it is in the field of dietary therapy.  Culinary uses of the Quince fruit are also many and legion; basically, anything you can do with an apple to cook it or prepare it you can also do with a Quince. 
Quinces can be juiced just like apples, and their taste is quite similar.  The sweet and astringent Quince juice can be mixed with Honey and Apple Cider Vinegar, and then spiced up with Ginger, Black Pepper and White Pepper to create a stimulating tonic for the stomach, liver and digestive organs; this is Galen’s Quince Juice Medicine, which he gives the recipe for at the end of his treatise on Hygiene, De Sanitate Tuenda.  Quince juice can be boiled down and mixed with honey or other sweeteners to form a syrup, which can either be taken as is, or mixed in to medicinal jams or electuaries, and other preparations.  There are many recipes out there for Quince jams, jellies, conserves and marmalades.  The mashed pulp of the fruit can also be incorporated into either culinary or medicinal preparations. 
The fruit can also be sliced thin or cut up into little pieces and dried; these pieces can then be decocted into medicinal teas, either singly or in combination with other herbs.  The dried Quince pieces can also be powdered, and either taken by itself or mixed with other herbs in medicinal powders.  As such, Quince combines well with other pungent or aromatic spices that are warming and stimulating to the stomach and digestion; the toning, binding astringency of the Quince counterbalances the dispersing tendencies of the pungent or aromatic herbs and spices.  Quince, either eaten regularly as a medicinal fruit, or blended in with other herbs and spices, can be very therapeutic for soft stools or chronic diarrhea due to a cold, weak digestion; it can also be used for hemorrhoids or anal prolapse.  Quince is one of the most gentle yet thorough and effective astringent tonics in the whole herbal kingdom, and gently astringes the tissues and channels of the body, especially the digestive tract. 

Quince seeds are a rich source of soothing, demulcent mucilage, which can either soothe dry, irritated respiratory mucosa, or have a gentle aperient laxative effect on the bowels.  In combination with other expectorant herbs like Fenugreek seeds, Quince seeds can be useful in removing excess phlegm congestion from the lungs and respiratory tract, and fluidifying phlegm for easier expulsion.  The abundance of soothing, moistening mucilage in the Quince seeds acts as a kind of counterbalance to the drying, binding astringency of the fruit.

Related Species: The Chinese have their own variety of Quince, Chaenomeles lagenaria, that they call Mu Gua, which means “Wood Melon”.  The fruit is sliced thinly and dried, then the dried slices are boiled up in medicinal herbal decoctions.  Both fruits are astringing and dry up excessive dampness and moisture, but Mu Gua is more heating and stimulating in nature than Western Quince.  Mu Gua is primarily an antirheumatic herb that eliminates wind damp obstruction, mainly in the knees, calves and lower extremities, soothing the tendons and connective tissue, and improving the circulation of Qi or vital energy in the legs and relieving edema.  It also relieves pain and weakness in the lower back, while harmonizing the stomach and calming the liver.

Sources:

The Canon of Medicine, Volume 2, by Avicenna, pp. 913 - 916. Translated and compiled by Laleh Bakhtiar.  @2012 by Laleh Bakhtiar, Published by Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., distributed by Kazi Publications, Inc., Chicago, IL USA.

A Modern Herbal, Vol. 2, by Mrs. M. Grieve, pp. 664 – 666.  @1971 by Dover Publications, New York, NY.

DISCLAIMER:  The information contained on this page is intended for educational purposes only, to inform the reader as to the traditional uses of the herb or medicinal substance, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or medical condition.  The author advises the reader to consult with his or her physician before use.