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

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 22, 2023.

Clinical Overview


In vitro and animal models suggest hypolipidemic, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory activities of luffa plant. However, clinical trial data are lacking to recommend use for any indication.


Information is insufficient to determine an appropriate dosing range for luffa preparations.


Luffa should not be used in pregnancy. Certain luffa species have been associated with abortifacient activity.


Luffa should not be used in pregnancy; certain luffa species have been associated with abortifacient activity. Reduced fetal weight was reported in one study in pregnant rats administered L. acutangula fruit tea.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Luffa fruit is commonly consumed as a vegetable and is generally considered safe when used as food. Information regarding adverse reactions with use of luffa at doses higher than those typically consumed as food is lacking.


No data.

Scientific Family

  • Cucurbitaceae (cucumber)


Luffa spp. are native to Asia (mostly South and Southeast Asia) and are widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical countries.Kumari 2019 L. aegyptiaca 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 plant is occasionally grown as an ornamental for its large yellow flowers. The calyxes are green and campanulate,Miller 1768 and the scabrid leaves are alternate and palmate and 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 in length, 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 The young fruit of the plant resembles a cucumber and is commonly consumed as a vegetable; the skin is usually peeled off, and the remainder is either fried or curried, or eaten as a raw salad.Hlel 2017, Jiang 2014, Marr 2005, Swetha 2016, Thayyil 2011 When the fruit matures and dries, all that remains of the mesocarp are the dried, tangled vascular bundles, which form a durable, dense, and stiff but compressible fibrous matrix, which is the source of luffa scrubbing sponges.Jiang 2014, Marr 2005 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.Jiang 2014 L. cylindrica is considered a synonym of L. aegyptiaca.


L. aegyptiaca is common in Egypt, where it is cultivated in various areas. The German anatomist and botanist Johann Vesling first described the plant in European botanical literature in 1638 as the "Egyptian cucumber," and because Europeans first learned of its cultivation in Egypt, the species was named "aegyptiaca." In the folk medicine of Sainai, Egypt, the seeds were reputed to have value in controlling diabetes mellitus.Vesling 1638

Unlike the young fruit, the fully ripened fruit is strongly fibrous and inedible and is used to make scrubbing sponges.

The edible parts of luffa have been taken orally for the treatment and prevention of colds. Luffa is used for nasal swelling and sinus problems and as an ingredient in over-the-counter nasal products. L. operculata (buchinha-do-norte) extracts have reportedly been used to relieve symptoms of sinusitis but can cause severe nasal irritation and bleeding.Alves 2018, Scalia 2015, Thayyil 2011 It should be noted that L. operculata is known to have abortifacient properties.Alves 2018 However, among pregnant women in Sierra Leone, L. acutangula has been named as useful in urinary tract infections and edema during pregnancy.James 2018

The seeds and sponge of the mature fruits are used in traditional Chinese medicine for anthelmintic, stomachic, and antipyretic purposes.El-Fiky 1996, Marr 2005 The fruit has also been used in leprosy, spleen diseases, piles, fever, hematuria, and bronchitis.Nirmal 2009 Other luffa uses include for dyslipidemic, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antihypertensive, and diuretic purposes.Thayyil 2011


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 monounsaturated 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 have also been identified and include 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-D-glucuronide methyl ester, apigenin-7-O-beta-D-glucuronide methyl ester, and luteolin-7-O-beta-D-glucuronide methyl ester.Du 2006

Uses and Pharmacology

Clinical data evaluating luffa use for any indication were not identified.

Anti-inflammatory activity

Animal data

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

Antimicrobial effects

Animal and in vitro data

L. operculata alcoholic extracts showed antibacterial activity in bacterial cell cultures of upper respiratory tract infection staphylococcal and streptococcal pathogens.Scalia 2015 Luffacylin, a ribosome-inactivating peptide found in luffa, inhibited Mycosphaerella arachidicola and Fusarium oxysporum in vitro.Parkash 2002

A study evaluated the effect of topically applied (intranasal) aqueous extract of L. operculata in bacterial rhinosinusitis in rabbits. L. operculata treatment showed better clinical evolution than the control group, with a statistically significant difference reported based on symptomology, histological evaluation of inflammation, and bacterial (ie, Streptococcus pyogenes) growth.Silva 2018

Antioxidant activity

In vitro data

Antioxidant activity has been reported in studies using L. cylindrica seedArise 2019 and L. acutangula and L. cylindrica gourd peel extracts.Du 2006, Swetha 2016, Yadav 2016 In one report, water extracts from fresh sponge gourds exhibited more than 80% inhibition of nitric oxide generation stimulated by lipopolysaccharide.Bor 2006, Thayyil 2011

Anxiolytic effects

Animal data

A lyophilized aqueous extract of L. operculata fruit was reported to be anxiolytic in one study in rats.Alves 2018

Bone formation

In vitro data

L. cylindrica fruit fiber has been evaluated for use as a nanofiber scaffold with bone regenerative applications.Mary Stella 2019


In vitro data

In vitro studies have reported on apoptotic and other cytotoxic effects on cancer cell lines, including with aqueous-ethanol L. cylindrica leaf extract,Abdel-Salam 2018, Abdel-Salam 2019, Abdel-Salam 2019 L. cylindrica seed protein,He 2018 methanol L. cylindrica fruit extract,Hlel 2017 aerial parts of L. acutangula,Ramar 2016, Vanajothi 2015, Vanajothi 2016 and a methanolic extract of the wild luffa species Luffa echinata.Shang 2016


Animal and in vitro data

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

An in vitro study reported alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity of an L. cylindrica seed extract.Arise 2019


Animal data

Luffa has shown hypolipidemic and cholesterol-reducing activity in animal models.Thayyil 2011 In a study of rabbits with induced hypercholesterolemia, a methanolic extract of L. aegyptiaca fruits (300 mg/kg/day) reduced serum total cholesterol by 29%, triglycerides by 52%, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 22%; it also increased serum high-density lipoprotein by 38%.Thayyil 2011

Similarly, a study of mice fed a high-fat diet supplemented with fermented green luffa fruit showed positive effects on dyslipidemia.Shikano 2019 In another study of a mouse model of obesity and associated metabolic disorders (induced by a high-fat diet), L. cylindrica supplementation resulted in improvements in hyperlipidemia, insulin resistance, and GI inflammation.Zhang 2019

Hepatoprotective activity

Animal data

Hepatoprotective activity of fruit and leaf extracts has been reported in rats.Shendge 2018


Information is insufficient to determine an appropriate dosing range for luffa.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Luffa should not be used in pregnancy. Certain luffa species, including L. operculata and L. acutangula, have been associated with abortifacient activity.Alves 2018, Shendge 2018 However, among pregnant women in Sierra Leone, L. acutangula was named as useful in urinary tract infections and edema during pregnancy.James 2018

Preclinical models suggest the plant is fetotoxic; reduced fetal weight was reported in one study of pregnant rats administered L. acutangula fruit tea.Shendge 2018


An in vitro study reported angiotensin I–converting enzyme inhibitory activity of an extract from L. cylindrica seeds; however, the clinical significance of this finding is unknown.Arise 2019

Adverse Reactions

Luffa fruit is commonly consumed as a vegetable and generally considered safe when used as food, or when used directly on the skin as a sponge (fully developed fruit).Jiang 2014 However, information regarding adverse reactions with doses higher than those typically consumed as food is lacking.

A case report describes GI bleeding, altered liver function, and shock following consumption of dried fruits of L. echinata that had been soaked overnight in water.Giri 2014


In a toxicological study in rats, L. aegyptiaca fruit extract doses ranging from 100 to 2,000 mg did not result in mortality.Thayyil 2011

Most studies evaluating toxicity of L. acutangula (including histological studies and laboratory indices) report safety of extracts. The median lethal dose of fruit extracts ranges from 350 mg/kg of body weight (ether extract) up to 2 g/kg (ethanolic) and 4 g/kg (aqueous and methanol extracts).Shendge 2018

Reduced fetal weight was observed in one study of pregnant rats administered tea made from L. acutangula fruit.Shendge 2018

L. operculata fruit aqueous extract produced changes in seminiferous tubules and Leydig cells of rats, indicative of testicular toxicity.Alves 2018 No histological toxicity (liver, kidney, spleen, heart, brain, or lungs) was observed in rabbit models of rhinosinusitis given L. operculata aqueous extract for 30 days.Silva 2018



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

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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Abdel-Salam IM, Abou-Bakr AA, Ashour M. Cytotoxic effect of aqueous ethanolic extract of Luffa cylindrica leaves on cancer stem cells CD44+/24- in breast cancer patients with various molecular sub-types using tissue samples in vitro. J Ethnopharmacol. 2019;238:111877.30995545
Abdel-Salam IM, Ashmawy AM, Hilal AM, Eldahshan OA, Ashour M. Chemical composition of aqueous ethanol extract of Luffa cylindrica leaves and its effect on representation of caspase-8, caspase-3, and the proliferation marker Ki67 in intrinsic molecular subtypes of breast cancer in vitro. Chem Biodivers. 2018;15(8):e1800045.29874411
Abdel-Salam IM, Awadein NE, Ashour M. Cytotoxicity of Luffa cylindrica (L.) M.Roem. extract against circulating cancer stem cells in hepatocellular carcinoma. J Ethnopharmacol. 2019;229:89-96.30287196
Alves CDS, Frias HV, Kirsten TB, Cordeiro F, Bernardi MM, Suffredini IB. Luffa operculata fruit aqueous extract induces motor impairments, anxiety-like behavior, and testis damage in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2018;222:52-60.29727732
Arise RO, Idi JJ, Mic-Braimoh IM, Korode E, Ahmed RN, Osemwegie O. In vitro angiotensin-1-converting enzyme, α-amylase and α-glucosidase inhibitory and antioxidant activities of Luffa cylindrical (L.) M. Roem seed protein hydrolysate. Heliyon. 2019;5(5):e01634. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e0163431193002
Bor JY, Chen HY, Yen GC. Evaluation of antioxidant activity and inhibitory effect on nitric oxide production of some common vegetables. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54(5):1680-1686.16506819
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 streptozotocin diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 1996;50(1):43-47.8778506
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