Nature is really wonderful. It has a solution for every problem. The challenge with humans is to deliberately find those solutions to their problems. So, when you talk of asthma, nature gives you luffa sponge for healing. Isn’t that wonderful? Sure! But that’s not all about Luffa cylindrical; there are more to learn about this wonderful but mostly neglected climbing or runner plant.
Luffa sponge plant
Growing up in the local villages in South Eastern part of Nigeria. So many of us met luffa sponge as sponge producing plant. This is because the fruit of the Luffa cylindrical plant has a spongy look and feel. And when the fruit dries up, is harvested and used for washing of plates. So from here, we gave it the name of sponge fruit.
Who would have told us that we that what we usually made fun of is a life saving plant? Well, it’s part of childhood experiences and memories.
Luffa cylindrical is a plant in the family of Curcubitaceae, just like wax gourd and cucumber. Luffa sponge is also known by different other names such as sponge gourd, ridge gourd, loofah, wild vegetable, rag gourd and vegetable sponge, among others we may not mention here.
Luffa sponge fruit
Luffa fruit is smooth skinned and cylindrical in shape. The fruit skin is thin and greenish in color. Luffa sponge fruit is made up of the thin skin, spongy, white flesh, and flat oval seeds that are black and smooth. When dry, the seeds are easily removed from the dry, spongy flesh just by shaking it.
What are the nutritional content of luffa sponge fruit?
Luffa sponge is fortified with carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals such as folates, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, pyridoxine, vitamins A and C, iron, zinc, magnesium, sodium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. There is also a high presence of fiber in the fruit a d leaves.
Is luffa sponge fruit edible?
Although luffa sponge is medicinal and highly effective, it is not eaten as wax gourd or cucumbers. The fruit possess an alkaloid, cucurbitacin, which is the reason for the bitter taste of luffa. It can really mess your fruit salads a big time. So do not eat luffa sponge like food. It can cause diarrhoea and great discomfort.
Luffa sponge seeds are black encased in a strong black skin. The seed oil can be used as vegetable oil due to its nutritional content and pharmacological potentials. For instance, luffa seed oil contains vitamin A and vitamin E, which are very important your body, and skin health. It posses no antinutritional factors like cyanide.
Another reason why you should consider luffa seed for a vegetable oil is its high unsaturated fatty acids content, making it essential for your heart and cholesterol levels.
Health benefits of luffa sponge and seeds
Aside being used as vegetable oil, defatted luffa seeds may also be a better alternative as animal feeds. It may even possess several health benefits like its oil and fruits. The seed oil is active against certain microbial infections, which are comparable to some standard drugs.
Luffa sponge for asthma
I told you from the beginning that nature gave us everything we need to face each day’s challenges. In asthma case, luffa seems to hold sway. Studies have shown that luffa sponge is a bronchial dilatory. This is a very important aspect of asthma healing. When faced with asthma attack, the bronchial and nasal cavities become constricted, thereby making it extremely difficult to breathe.
In traditional medicine among the Yoruba people of South West Nigeria, luffa sponge is used in traditional medicine to treat asthma.
How to use luffa sponge (sponge gourd) for asthma
To use sponge gourd for asthma, all you need do is collect as many fresh fruits as possible. When you do, please remember to peel off the back. After that, cut the fruits into two or more and remove the seeds. Then soak the pieces of sponge gourd fruits you just cut in a water jar and leave for two days. After that 1/4 cup of the herbal mixture in the morning, and at night.
You would start coughing out those yellow mucus substance that usually block your bronchial.
Luffa sponge for skin
Both the leaves, fruits and seeds of luffa sponge possess high amount of vitamins A, C and the seeds contain vitamin E. Vitamin C and E are usually added in skin creams due to their major roles as antioxidants, and important role in revitalising the skin, giving your skin the youthful touch you badly craved for, and allow you skin tone to glow with pride.
It could be said for certainty that luffa promotes longevity and strong health.
Sponge gourd promotes your brain health
Luffa is fortified with iron, folate and glutamate. These compounds promote brain functions and prevent the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease in older people.
Iron is especially involved in the transport of oxygen to the brain, and prevents the onset of anxiety and senility.
Folate as we all know, is very important for fetus development in pregnant women. The vitamin B component is involved in the development of neural tubes and prevents the occurrence of brain birth defects in new born children.
Luffa sponge may be used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and to restore the brain function of older people.
Studies have also shown that luffa sponge improves learning and memory. Which means it may be given to children of school age to improve their abilities to learn and memorise what they’re being taught in school.
Luffa prevents early aging
As a rich source of antioxidants, luffa sponge is also well regarded as an anti-aging plant. This plant is rich in both vitamin C and E, both have widely been used as age retarding compounds. You would remember that vitamin E is usually added to body and hair creams. This is because it has the ability to restore your skin texture, tone and remove dead cells.
The luffa seed oil can be applied topically on your skin to prevent UV damage and remove blemishes from your skin. Thus, luffa sponge delays the aging process.
Luffa for treating headache and migraine
Luffa is also filled with magnesium. Magnesium has been indicated as possessing the ability to balance the neurotransmitters in the nerve ends of the brain cells. As such, luffa can mitigate headache and migraine.
Sponge gourd for improved eyesight
You’re aware that luffa, like zobo drink, is fortified with vitamin A, C, and E. These vitamins are essential for your eyes. The iron present in the plant also ensure proper circulation of blood to your eye cells.
As antioxidants, vitamins C and E mitigate the harmful effects of oxidative stress on the retina and the muscles surrounding your eyes.
Vitamin A is essential for your eyesight. In its deficiency, you will likely face the breakdown of your retina and the onset of night blindness. When the symptoms persist without treatment or vitamin A supplementation, it may lead to cataract.
Improves your immunity
Sponge gourd is well known for improving your immunity. The zinc mineral that is present in the plant is an immune regulator. Studies has shown that Lucyoside B, a triterpenoid saponin from Luffa cylindrical, inhibits the production of inflammatory mediators via both nuclear factor-κB and activator protein-1 pathways in activated macrophages.
The antioxidants present in the plant also prevents the onset of autoimmune diseases. This is very vital for such diseases as rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Luffa for diabetes
Diabetes is one of the major cause of dead in Africa and beyond. It can occur as type 1 or type 2 variant of the main two types of diabetes.
Although high in fiber content, luffa is very low in sugar content. It also possess hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic effects.
Luffa is been used in traditional medicine for ages for the treatment of diabetes. Several studies also support the claim of its healing effect on diabetes.
The antidiabetic activities of luffa cylindrical may be due to the inhibition of alpha-amylase, and alpha-glucosidic enzymes. It could also improve the pancreatic beta cells through the antioxidant activity, which may also improve the insulin sensitivity to cells of the body.
Luffa is a source of vitamin B6 and iron. Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine is essential for the production of hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin helps in mobilising iron which is involved in the transportation of oxygen to all cells in the body.
In addition to both iron and vitamin B6, zinc supplementation is also involved involved in the stimulation of red blood cell production.
Luffa supports good digestion
Luffa sponge is a rich source of dietary and non digestible fibers. These fibers present in the spongy fruit promote good digestion, easy movement of the duodenal muscle and promote easy passage of stools. Luffa sponge prevents constipation, which is caused by bacteria, and also promotes their easy disposal off the body through the high content of water. Thus while it enables frequent urination, it also removes bacteria through same mechanism.
Through the fiber contents and antibacterial properties, luffa sponge may promote quick healing of peptic ulcer and gastritis. A study on the leaf extract of luffa cylindrical has shown that it is a potent remedy for treating ulcer. The fruit juice of luffa sponge is basic, and has been shown to have a cooling effect on the body. This may be utilized by ulcer patients also. This cooling effect is due to the alkaline nature of the fruit juice. It can neutralize acidic stomach and promote quick healing of peptic ulcer.
Promotes healthy heart
Luffa possess rich amount of vitamin B6 present in the juice promotes healthy functioning of the heart. The seed oil contain about 70%-80% of total unsaturated acids which include oleic and linoleic acids. These oil are very important for your health. Both linoleic and oleic acids promote the lowering of bad cholesterol level in your blood. They also promotes the production of high density lipoprotein (HDL). By promoting your heart and suppressing harmful effects of free radicals, luffa sponge certainly protects you from sudden heart attack.
Luffa prevents cancer cell growth
Both the leaves and fruits of luffa cylindrical possess strong anticancer bioactive compounds. A study has shown that an aqueous ethanolic extract pf the fruit is potential against three breast cancer subtypes including luminal A, luminal B and Her2/neu. Luffa also has cytotoxic effect on both bulk tumor cells as well as cancer stem cells sub population CD44+/24– which possess high tumorigenic potency.
In another study, the leaf extract of luffa also exhibited potency against acute lymphoblastic leukemia stem cells. It may also be beneficial for older adults as it may prevent the growth of prostate cancer.
Relieves muscle pains
Luffa contains high potassium, which is very useful for stabilizing the body fluids and relaxing your muscles. The deficiency of potassium can lead to muscle cramps, body pains and seizures. But with potassium and zinc in luffa cylindrical, you body will experience pain relieve due to the presence of potassium and the anti-inflammatory properties of zinc. Another useful mineral in the fruit is copper. Copper is associated with the relieve of pains and stiffness due to arthritis. These three elements are wonderful. Their being together in luffa makes it a good remedy for arthritic patients.
Can pregnant women eat luffa sponge?
There are not much information relating to luffa’s effect on pregnancy. So you should take necessary precautions when eaten luffa. I would advise you seek the consent of your doctor before proceeding. Although there are not enough information, some people have opined that luffa is good for pregnant and breast-feeding mothers. This may be due to the rich presence of Vitamins and minerals, including folate and other B vitamin complex, iron, and zinc.
However the promising of these vitamins and minerals, do not make careless use of herbal medicines without your doctor’s approval if you are pregnant of breast-feeding a child.
Luffa is one of the most neglected, less exploited herbs in the world, yet it is highly medicinal, especially with regard to treating asthma. It also improves brain function, which is useful for preventing brain degeneration in older adults. However, the purpose of this article is for academic consumption. if you must practice what is written down here, do so with the supervision of your doctor.
Dong L, Liu C. Effects of Loofah cylindrica extract on learning and memory ability, brain tissue morphology, and immune function of aging mice. Open Life Sci. 2021 Apr 23;16(1):399-407.
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