Snake gourd or serpent gourd is a member of the cucumber family. It is used as a vegetable in many parts of the world. The is the fruit of a climber which grows up to 20 meters high. It has hairy and lobed leaves and unisexual white flowers which open late in the evening. The fruit itself is long, growing up to 1-2 feet in length. It has a green waxy surface with greyish white strips. It has a mucilaginous flesh with many edible seeds. It is native of South East Asia and grows in sub-tropical regions of Sri Lanka, China, Australia and Thailand.
Part used: Fruit and leaves.
Chemical composition: Protein, carbohydrate, fibre, fat, minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin A, B1 and riboflavin, and lot of water.
Medical benefits: Snake gourd is used as vegetable and added to curries and soups. It is a natural coolant and a diuretic, hence an ideal food for summer. It has low calorie and fat content and hence extremely beneficial in obesity and diabetes. It improves glucose tolerance in diabetics and can be used as a heart tonic. A decoction made from snake gourd reduces fever and acts as a thirst reliever.
A juice made from the leaves is beneficial for heart problems. It can also be applied to the body to reduce fever. If applied on hair and scalp, it controls partial baldness, loss of hair and dandruff.
Snake gourd seeds are laxative and can help with constipation.
Contraindications: Bitter tasting snake gourd should not be consumed. People suffering from cold and diarrhoea should avoid consuming this fruit. To improve its taste, it is recommended that the seeds be removed before cooking because excessive consumption of seeds can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and other digestive problems.