Ash gourd, scientifically termed Benincasa hispida, goes by several vernacular names such as “Petha” in Hindi, “Boodida Gummadi” in Telugu, “Neer Pooshnikkai” in Tamil and “Kumbalam” in Malayalam.
This green vegetable has been well-regarded for its significant medicinal values since ancient times and is widely documented in Ayurvedic texts. Today, it continues to be heralded for its immense health benefits and is widely incorporated, in popular local cuisine across India, as well as in alleviating illnesses of the stomach, liver and skin, to name a few.
Ash gourd naturally grows in the wilderness in South-East Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka, China, Nepal and Indonesia, as well as in the warmer southern regions in Australia.
It is a creeper which produces big yellow flowers. The leaves are long around 10 to 20 centimetres and have a hairy long stem. The fruits are usually oval in shape and grow up to 30 centimetres in diameter. Plant propagation is done by seeds.
This vegetable when immature has white thick flesh which is sweet. By the time it reaches maturity, it loses the hairs and a waxy coating is developed which provides a long shelf life.
Ash gourd is commonly considered a vegetable, which is used in cooking a variety of staple Indian dishes such as kootu, curry, sabzi and dal, besides sweets and candies called petha. The therapeutic and remedial traits offered by the vegetable, as well as ash gourd seeds and leaves are extensive. Moreover, the roots and juice of ash gourd also have applications in skin and hair care. Also Read: 7 Ultimate Vitamins To Nourish Your Skin And Hair
Ash gourd supplies plenty of nutrition, being inherently high on water content providing a cooling effect on the body, having zero cholesterol thereby augmenting heart health and abounding in a plethora of vitamins and minerals to facilitate key metabolic functions in the body.
This remarkable natural wonder, which belongs to the cucumber and squash family, like snake gourd, also provides valuable curative properties for conditions such as fever, jaundice and diabetes. This is owing to its noteworthy antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, due to the presence of beneficial plant compounds like flavonoids and carotenoids. In addition, the juice of ash gourd also heals hair and scalp disorders like dandruff and bald patches. Also Read: Snake Gourd: Health Benefits, Nutrition, Uses For Skin And Hair, Recipes And Side Effects
Ash gourd is being consumed to a great extent nowadays and not just in its native milieus in Asia and Australia. The crop is, in fact, naturalized and propagated all over the world in tropical environments, so that people can procure its marvellous merits, for complete wellness.
Nutritional Content In Ash Gourd:
Like most flora of the gourd family, the ash gourd vegetables, seeds, leaves and juice extracts are enriched with a multitude of crucial fundamental dietary components like carbohydrates, fats, proteins and fibers, vital trace compounds such as vitamins and minerals and a host of plant substances including phenolics and cucurbitacins.
The ash gourd nutrition facts for a 100 g serving are as follows:
Calories 86.2 kcal
Total Fat 3.9 g
Saturated Fat 0.5 g
Total Carbohydrate 12.5 g
Dietary Fiber 0.6 g
Protein 2.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 33.0 mg
Potassium 359.1 mg
Vitamin A 9.8 %
Vitamin B6 11.3 %
Vitamin C 30.5 %
Vitamin E 1.1 %
Calcium 5.1 %
Magnesium 6.7 %
Phosphorus 5.0 %
Zinc 7.2 %
Iron 5.7 %
Manganese 12.5 %
Iodine 5.9 %
Ash Gourd Health Benefits:
Ash gourd, being low on calories and high in essential nutrients, can be taken regularly by those people who are strictly following a diet regime to lose weight, especially in the case of those with diabetes. Ash gourd also provides dietary fibers that can be processed easily in the stomach, keeping one feeling full for longer, reducing cravings and assisting in burning fat at a quicker pace.
Augments Heart Function
Having negligible cholesterol content, ash gourd can be safely consumed in the diet regularly for promoting heart health. The boiled vegetable can be effortlessly added to many standard homemade Indian dishes, as it improves the circulation of blood to and from the heart, ensuring optimal functioning of cardiac muscles.
Detoxifies The Kidneys
Ash gourd stimulates the normal elimination of body wastes via the excretory system in the body. It boosts the secretion of fluids within the kidneys, promptly getting rid of accumulated toxins and at the same time, guaranteeing proper hydration of the internal organs in the body. Ash gourd juice supports the routine tasks of kidneys and bladder. Also Read: Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Kidney Stones
Enhances Digestive System
Ash gourd has a significant fiber content, which helps to prevent instances of constipation, bloating and cramping of the stomach, upon ingestion of a heavy meal. Moreover, its laxative nature regulates bowel movements, thereby easing any discomfort experienced in the gut.
Strengthens Respiratory Processes
Ash gourd has an intrinsic expectorant quality, which implies that it can readily loosen any excess phlegm or mucus secretions and remove them from the respiratory tract. This immensely benefits lung function and also prevents any allergies and breathing difficulties.
Complements Ketogenic Diet
Non-starchy vegetables are a constant addition to all keto diets. In this regard, ash gourd, being naturally low in carbohydrates and sugars, can be an ideal component of a keto diet, which focuses on lowering calorie intake by cutting down on carbs. A simple quick-fix recipe of boiling cut ash gourd vegetable and seasoning with salt and pepper can be incorporated on a regular basis for lunch in the ketogenic diet.
Ash Gourd Uses For Skin And Hair:
Naturally Moisturizes Skin
Ash gourd has innate content of the smoothening or emollient Vitamin E, that also has antioxidant properties. The gel extract from the vegetable, when applied on sunburns and rashes, pacifies the aggravated and dried up regions of the skin, leaving it soft and completely moisturized.
Combats Skin Infections
The residue derived from ash gourd leaves has astringent traits. This helps in neutralizing the highly enflamed spots on the skin. It also efficiently reduces any abscesses, boils, pus or carbuncles on the areas of the skin affected by allergies, fungal infections, environmental pollutants and sun rays.
Promotes Hair Growth
Ash gourd has a multitude of vitamins and minerals which provide nourishment and vigour to the hair strands. Moreover, when applied as a gel, it penetrates deep into the layers of the scalp and protects follicles, thereby maintaining the thickness and stability of hair. Ash gourd is an ideal option if you are looking to gain long and strong hair. Also Read: 7 Incredible Hair Growth Tips For Healthy, Long And Lustrous Tresses
Tackles Excessive Dandruff
Ash gourd has potent chemicals that can reduce the intensity of flakiness and dandruff on the scalp of hair. It can also shelter the roots of the hair strands, known as follicles, from the dirt and fungus particles that trigger dandruff. Ash gourd gel, when applied routinely to the itchy and peeling scalp and dry hair, can significantly revamp the appearance of dull hair, giving it an incredible sheen.
Ash Gourd Hair Gel
1 medium-sized ash gourd
Remove the peel of the ash gourd and cut it into two halves.
Now, scrape out all the seeds thoroughly and use only the soft inner portion.
Blend it into an even paste in a mixer without adding water, to obtain a slightly viscous gel.
Apply it on the scalp, leave it on for about 30 minutes and then wash it off using a gentle shampoo.
How It Works:
Ash gourd possesses moisturizing and anti-fungal properties, which acts as a balm, soothing the irritated scalp and eliminating dandruff particles. When used once a month, this simple yet highly effective homemade ash gourd hair gel prevents flaking of the scalp and ensures nourished and lustrous tresses.
Ash Gourd Healing Potential In Ayurveda:
Since time immemorial, ash gourd has been utilized in the vegetable, leaf, root and juice forms, as these are imbued with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant elements, to prepare ayurvedic concoctions and tonics, to remedy sicknesses such as fevers, jaundice, heart ailments and bone disorders.
The phytonutrients or plant compounds in ash gourd have an inherent temperature reducing potential. The leaves of ash gourd, when rubbed on a person suffering from high fever, provides immediate relief, reducing body temperature and symptoms of fatigue. Moreover, since normal metabolism is affected during fevers, ash gourd leaves also expel excess water and salts from the body, in order to help maintain ideal electrolyte balance.
The leaves of ash gourd contain substances called cucurbitacins, which play a crucial role in boosting the defence system and liver function in the body. In addition, ash gourd leaves also contain remarkable amounts of Vitamin C, which adds to the defence function and antioxidant capacity in those suffering from jaundice. The ayurvedic remedy comprises crushing the leaves of ash gourd along with coriander seeds and consuming it twice a day, to treat jaundice. Also Read: Yellow Eyes? It Could Be Jaundice
Remedies Heart Ailments
Ash gourd extract is considered as one of the best remedies for cardiac ailments such as palpitations, irregular heartbeats, chest pain, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. In traditional Indian medicine, a dose of two cups of ash gourd extract is given to those suffering from heart problems, to promote blood circulation and ameliorate the difficulties in performing normal day to day activities.
Ash gourd gel, when prepared and applied in instances of severe hair fall, invigorated the blood circulation and nerve function in the scalp, promoting rapid hair growth. Alopecia is characterized by prominent bald spots and excessive hair loss, and the high carotene content in ash gourd gel extract counters these factors, to reduce constant hair fall and enhance the strength and smoothness of hair.
Recovers Joint Illnesses
Being an effective anti-inflammatory, ash gourd juice actually reduces bone and muscle pain and heals joint disorders such as arthritis, osteoporosis, gout and fractures. In addition, it is packed with the three-essential bone-fortifying minerals namely calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, which in turn increases bone mass and helps regain flexible movement in muscles and joints.
Being a powerhouse of vitamin C and a host of flavonoids and carotenes, ash gourd is a potent agent to boost immune system function in situations of illnesses. Since the function of organs is below the optimum during disease, consuming ash gourd vegetable instils vitamin C to blood cells, which is subsequently transported to other organs to recover their peak functioning levels. It also helps to recuperate from tiredness.
The thyroid hormone levels tend to fluctuate and rise above the normal range in some people, causing hyperthyroidism. Ash gourd is profuse in iodine content, which is vital to reduce elevated thyroid hormone levels, as well as zinc, which plays a central role in facilitating enzyme function for optimizing thyroid concentrations.
The prominent vitamin B6 or pyridoxine content in ash gourd juice is very beneficial in monitoring brain functions and allowing the unobstructed conduction of nerve impulses. Hence, during instances of insomnia or severe lack of sleep, having a glass of ash gourd juice can lessen the activity of neurotransmitters and promote sleep.
Ash Gourd Recipes:
Kerala Style Ash Gourd Curry
1 medium ash gourd
½ cup grated coconut
2 Green chillies
½ tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Cumin powder
Salt, as per taste
For the seasoning:
2 dried red chilly
5 – 7 Curry leaves
2 tsp Mustard seeds
2 tsp Coconut oil
Grind the coconut well and take out the milk.
Cut the ash gourd into small pieces.
Add the chopped onion, green chilli, salt and cook it in coconut milk.
Add turmeric powder and cumin powder to it, allow it to cook in medium flame.
Once the ash gourd is boiled, add the chopped tomatoes.
Once the ash gourd is cooked add the flavoured coconut milk.
Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, allow it to splutter, add curry leaves and dry red chillies.
Add the seasoning items to the ash gourd curry.
Serve the ash gourd curry with hot rice.
Ash gourd supplies tremendous antioxidants and flavonoids for reducing inflammation during stress and infections. Coconut is an excellent natural food for augmenting heart health, apart from aiding in digestion and regulating blood sugar levels. Curry leaves are exceptional for treating anaemia, as they have high iron content and also assist in managing joint disorders, being rich in calcium and magnesium – the minerals that stimulate bone growth and development. Also Check Out: 5 Awesome Benefits Of Humble Curry Leaves-Infographic
Agra Sweet Petha With Ash Gourd
1 medium ash gourd
½ tsp limestone / chuna
1½ cup sugar
3 elaichi pods
A few strands of kesar/saffron
A few tsp of water
Firstly, slice ash gourd to cubes removing the skin and seed flesh completely.
Now poke the ash gourd pieces from all sides. keep aside.
In a large bowl take 4 cup water and dissolve ½ tsp limestone / chuna.
Now add in chopped ash gourd and stir well.
Soak for 24 hours mixing in between every 3 hours.
Rinse and wash ash gourd pieces by rubbing each and every cube.
Now in a saucepan heat 4 cup water and get to a boil.
Add in washed ash gourd pieces and cook stirring occasionally.
Boil for 12 -15 minutes.
Further, in a large kadai take 1½ cup sugar, 3 pods cardamom, few saffron strands and pinch saffron food colour.
Also, add ¼ cup water and dissolve sugar stirring well.
Once the sugar dissolves, add in cooked ash gourd.
Stir well, and boil for 10 minutes.
Now place the petha in a plate or a wire mesh to cool completely for at least 12 hours.
Finally, serve sweet Agra petha or store in an airtight container and enjoy.
Ash gourd is a rich source of dietary fibers to aid in digestion, it also has significant amounts of vitamins C and E and antioxidants, which improve skin and hair health and remove harmful free radicals from injuring the healthy cells in the body. Elaichi is abundant in calcium, magnesium and proteins, to build bone mass and perform vital biochemical functions.
Ash Gourd Side Effects:
- Always purchase only fresh produce of ash gourd from your local market or store. This is recommended because certain infectious agents and pesticide residues may be present in old stock.
- Ash gourd possesses many vital trace minerals. Hence, excessive consumption is harmful, as it may result in toxic levels of these metallic elements accumulating in the system.
- Patients with severe fever and high fluctuations in body temperature must avoid consuming ash gourd, due to its further cooling effect on the body, which could slow down healing processes.
The detailed botany, health benefits, ayurvedic applications and side effects of ash gourd have been elaborated upon, as it is important to understand all these aspects, to gain insight about its nutrition values.
In general, ash gourd is highly beneficial for promoting physical wellness and appearance of skin and hair. Besides enhancing the fitness traits in healthy individuals, ash gourd is also routinely utilised in Ayurveda, as an effective home remedy for various ailments.
In most cases, it is entirely safe to take ash gourd vegetables, leaf and juice extracts, but keep in mind to buy only fresh stock of the vegetable.
The bottom line is that ash gourd can be consumed regularly, in moderation, for effectively augmenting overall well-being.