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Luffa

Scientific Name(s): Luffa acutangula (L.) Roxb., Luffa aegyptiaca Mill., Luffa cylindrica (L.) M. Roem., Luffa operculata (L.) Cogn.
Common Name(s): Dishcloth gourd, Loofah, Luffa, Smooth loofah, Sponge gourd, Vegetable sponge

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Apr 1, 2019.

Clinical Overview

Use

Clinical studies in humans are limited. However, in vitro and animal models indicate hypolipidemic, antifungal, antioxidant, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory pharmacological activities of luffa plant.

Dosing

The appropriate dosage regimen of luffa depends on factors such as age, health, and other conditions. At this time, there is not enough information to determine an appropriate range of doses for luffa.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Luffa is safe when used as food. However, information regarding adverse reactions with the use of luffa in higher dosages is lacking.

Toxicology

There is no definite information regarding toxicity.

Scientific Family

  • Cucurbitaceae

Botany

Luffa is an herbaceous perennial vine bearing yellow flowers that bloom during daylight.Marr 2005 The plant is monoecious; male flowers occur in raceme formations, whereas female flowers are solitary.Marr 2005, Partap 2012 The calyxes are green and campanulate,Miller 1768 and the scabrid leaves are alternate and palmate, lobed slightly to deeply, with 5 to 7 veins.Marr 2005, Miller 1768, Partap 2012 The leaf base is cordiform, the margins are entire or serrate, and the apices are acute or acuminate. Petioles are as long as or longer than the leaf blade.Miller 1768, Partap 2012 The vine climbs by axillary tendrils, attaining 10 m in length.Miller 1768 Stems are green, slender, subcylindrical or angular, ribbed, and glabrous or puberulous. The fruit is trigonal and slightly sulcate and grows from 20 to 45 cm long, with numerous seeds that are 10 to 13 mm long, elliptical, black, and smooth. The pericarp, dehiscent by apical pores, is crustose, and the mesocarp forms a network of fibers.Miller 1768, Partap 2012 When the fruit matures and dries, the remaining mesocarp is dried, tangled vascular bundles that form a durable, dense, and stiff but compressible fibrous matrix.Marr 2005

History

L. aegyptiaca is native to South and Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, where it is known locally as "mu phuong" or "Vietnamese luffa."USDA 2000 It is common in Egypt, where it is cultivated in different areas. The German anatomist and botanist Johann Vesling first described the plant in European botanical literature in 1638 as the "Egyptian cucumber,"Vesling 1638 and because the Europeans first learned of if its cultivation in Egypt, the species was named aegyptiaca.USDA 2000 In the folk medicine of Sainai, Egypt, the seeds were reputed to have value in controlling diabetes mellitus.Vesling 1638 The young fruit of the plant resembles a cucumber and is consumed as a vegetable; the skin is usually peeled off and the remainder is either fried or curried, or eaten as a raw salad.Thayyil 2011, USDA 2000 Unlike the young fruit, the fully ripened fruit is strongly fibrous and inedible and is used to make scrubbing sponges.USDA 2000 L. aegyptiaca is also called "smooth luffa" to distinguish it from the ridged luffa (L. acutangula [L.] Roxb.), which is used for the same purposes.USDA 2000 The seeds and sponge of the old fruits are used in traditional Chinese medicine as an anthelmintic, stomachic, and antipyretic.El-Fiky 1996, Marr 2005 The fruit has been used in leprosy, spleen diseases, piles, fever, hematuria, and bronchitis.Nirmal 2009 The plant is occasionally grown as an ornamental for its large, beautiful yellow flowers.

Chemistry

L. aegyptiaca fruit has more than 100 components, including mucilage, reducing sugars, resins, alkaloids, organic acids, tannins, saponins, and proteins.Karaye 2013 It also contains monounsatuarated fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, fiber, flavonoids, niacin, and ascorbic acid, which help to reduce hypercholesterolemia.Karaye 2012 Hydrocarbons identified from the fruit of L. aegyptiaca are n-tricosane, n-tetracosane, n-hexacosane, n-heptacosane, and noctacosane; identified fatty acids are nanodecane-6-ol, eicosane-6-ol, dieicosane-6-ol, and tetraeicosane-6-ol.Nirmal 2009 Antioxidant compounds, such as p-coumaric acid, 1-O-feruloyl-beta-D-glucose, 1-O-p-coumaroyl-beta-D-glucose, 1-O-caffeoyl- beta-D-glucose, 1-O-(4-hydroxybenzoyl) glucose, diosmetin-7-O-beta-Dglucuronide methyl ester, apigenin-7-O-beta-D-glucuronide methyl ester, and luteolin-7-O-beta-D-glucuronide methyl ester, have been identified in luffa.Du 2006

Uses and Pharmacology

Limited clinical data are available. One report shows that water extracts from fresh sponge gourds exhibited more than 80% inhibition of nitric oxide generation stimulated by lipopolysaccharide.Thayyil 2011 In vitro, luffacylin, a ribosome-inactivating peptide found in luffa, inhibited Mycosphaerella arachidicola and Fusarium oxysporum, demonstrating antifungal properties.Parkash 2002 Flavonoids in the plant have been shown to have antioxidant properties.Du 2006 The edible parts of luffa have been taken orally for the treatment and prevention of colds. It is also used for nasal swelling and sinus problems and as an ingredient in over-the-counter nasal products. Luffa has been used for dyslipidemic, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antihypertensive, and diuretic purposes.Thayyil 2011

Anti-inflammatory activity

Animal data

Intraperitoneal administration of a water decoction of L. cylindrica inhibited carrageenan-induced plantar edema in rats, demonstrating anti-inflammatory activity.Muthumani 2010

Clinical data

Limited clinical data are available for the use of luffa in humans.

Diabetes

Animal data

A study investigated the effect of oral administration of ethanolic extracts of L. aegyptiaca seeds on blood glucose levels in healthy rats and rats with streptozocin-induced diabetes. L. aegyptiaca reduced glucose levels with potency similar to that of the biguanide metformin.El-Fiky 1996

Clinical data

Limited clinical data are available for the use of luffa in humans.

Hypolipidemic effect

Animal data

In 1 study, New Zealand white rabbits with induced hypercholesterolemia were fed a normal diet, supplemented with 1% cholesterol and 10% ground nut oil for 8 weeks. One group was given a methanolic extract of L. aegyptiaca fruits at a dosage of 300 mg/kg/day. The methanolic extract reduced serum total cholesterol by 29%, triglycerides by 52%, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 22%; it also increased the serum high-density lipoprotein by 38%.Thayyil 2011 Luffa has hypolipidemic activity and cholesterol-reducing activity in animal models.Thayyil 2011

Clinical data

Limited clinical data are available for the use of luffa in humans.

Dosing

The appropriate dosage regimen of luffa depends on factors such as age, health, and other conditions. At this time, there is not enough information to determine an appropriate range of doses for luffa.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

Luffa is safe for most people when used directly on the skin as a sponge. There is no evidence pertaining to interactions with oral use.

Adverse Reactions

Luffa is safe when used as food. However, information regarding adverse reactions with the use of luffa in higher dosages is lacking.

Toxicology

There is no definite information regarding toxicity. In a toxicological study in rats, L. aegyptiaca fruit extracts were administered in doses ranging from 100 to 2,000 mg without mortality.Thayyil 2011

References

Du Q, Xu Y, Li L, Zhao Y, Jerz G, Winterhalter P. Antioxidant constituents in the fruits of Luffa cylindrica (L.) Roem. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54(12):4186-4190.16756345
El-Fiky FK, Abou-Karam MA, Afify EA. Effect of Luffa aegyptiaca (seeds) and Carissa edulis (leaves) extracts on blood glucose level of normal and streptozocin diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 1996;50(1):43-47.8778506
Karaye IU, Aliero AA, Muhammad S, Bilbis LS. Comparative evaluation of amino acid composition and volatile organic compounds of selected Nigerian cucurbit seeds. Pak J Nutr. 2012;11(12):1161-1165.
Karaye IU, Aliero AA, Muhammad S, Bilbis LS. Evaluation of nutrient and anti-nutrient contents of selected Nigerian cucurbits seeds. Res J Pharm Biol Chem Sci. 2013;4(1):137-142.
Luffa aegyptiaca. In Miller P. The Gardener's Dictionary. Vol 2. 8th ed. London: Rivington; 1768.
Luffa aegyptiaca Mill. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [database online]. Beltsville, MD: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?22788. May 2000. Accessed March 2015.
Marr K, Xia YM, Bhattarai N. Allozymic, morphological, phenological, linguistic, plant use, and nutritional data on wild and cultivated collections of Luffa aegyptiaca Mill. (Cucurbitaceae) from Nepal, Southern China, and Northern Laos. Econ Bot. 2005;59(2):137-153.
Muthumani P, Meera R, Mary S, et al. Phytochemical screening and anti inflammatory, bronchodilator and antimicrobial activities of the seeds of Luffa cylindrica. Res J Pharm Biol Chem Sci. 2010;1(4):11.
Nirmal SA, Kothawade PC, Datir SB, Pal SC, Mandal SC, Pattan SR. Nonpolar compounds from Luffa aegyptiaca fruit. Phys Chem Technol. 2009;7(1):69-72.
Parkash A, Ng TB, Tso WW. Isolation and characterization of luffacylin, a ribosome inactivating peptide with anti-fungal activity from sponge gourd (Luffa cylindrica) seeds. Peptides. 2002;23(6):1019-1024.12126727
Partap S, Kumar A, Sharma NK, Jha KK. Luffa cylindrica: an important medicinal plant. J Nat Prod Plant Resour. 2012;2(1):127-134.
Thayyil AH, Surulivel MKM, Ahmed MF, et al. Hypolipidemic activity of Luffa aegyptiaca fruits in cholesterol fed hypercholesterolemic rabbits. Int J Pharm Appl. 2011;2(1):81-88.
Vesling J. De Plantis Aegyptiis Observationes et Notae. Apud P. Frambottom; 1638:48.

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This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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