Snake gourd, scientifically termed Trichosanthes cucumerina, goes by several vernacular names such as Chichinda or Padwal in Hindi, Potlakaaya in Telugu, Chichinga in Bengali, Pudalankaai in Tamil and Padavalanga in Malayalam.
The goodness of this green coloured vegetable has been well-regarded for its significant medicinal value 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.
Snake 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.
The snake gourd plant is a vine that has threadlike stems called tendrils. The leaves are shaped like the palm of a hand with branches called leaflets. The immature fruit is green and elongated, with a soft, fleshy texture and bland flavour, while the mature fruit is more longer, red in colour and inedible, due to its bitter taste.
The edible green fruit derives its name of snake gourd, due to its characteristic coiled appearance with light white stripes. It is commonly considered a vegetable, which is used in cooking a variety of staple Indian dishes such as kootu, curry, sabzi and dal. The therapeutic and remedial traits offered by the vegetable, as well as snake gourd seeds and leaves are extensive. Moreover, the roots and juice of snake gourd also have applications in skin and hair care.
Snake gourd supplies plenty of nutrition, being inherently high on water content vegetable, it provides 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, 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 snake gourd also heals hair and scalp disorders like various types of dandruff and bald patches.
Snake gourd is being eaten 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 Snake Gourd:
Like most flora of the gourd family, the snake 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 Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Vitamin E and minerals and a host of plant substances including phenolics and cucurbitacins.
The snake 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 %
Snake Gourd Health Benefits:
Accelerates Weight Loss
Snake gourd, being low on calories and high in essential nutrients, can be taken regularly by those people who are strictly following a diet regimen to lose weight, especially in the case of those with diabetes. Snake 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, snake gourd can be safely consumed in 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
Snake gourd stimulates the natural elimination of body wastes and kidney stones 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. Snake gourd juice supports the routine tasks of kidneys and bladder.
Enhances Digestive System
Snake 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
Snake gourd has an intrinsic expectorant quality, which implies that it can readily loosen any excess phlegm or mucous secretions and remove them from the respiratory tract. This immensely benefits lung function and also prevents any allergies and breathing difficulties such as asthma.
Complements Ketogenic Diet
Non-starchy vegetables are a constant addition to all keto diets. In this regard, snake 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 snake gourd vegetable and seasoning with salt and pepper can be incorporated on a regular basis for lunch in the ketogenic diet.
Snake Gourd Uses For Skin And Hair:
Naturally Moisturizes Skin
Snake 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 snake gourd leaves has astringent traits. This helps in neutralizing the highly enflamed spots on skin. It also efficiently reduces any boils, pus or carbuncles on the areas of the skin affected by allergies, fungal infections, environmental pollutants and sun rays.
Promotes Hair Growth
Snake 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. Snake gourd is an ideal option if you are looking to gain long and strong hair.
Tackles Excessive Dandruff
Snake 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. Snake gourd gel, when applied routinely to itchy and peeling scalp and dry hair, can significantly revamp the appearance of dull hair, giving it an incredible sheen.
Snake Gourd Hair Gel
1 medium-sized snake gourd
Remove the peel of the snake 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:
Snake gourd possesses moisturizing and anti-fungal properties, which act as a balm, soothing the irritated scalp and eliminating dandruff particles. When used once a month, this simple yet highly effective homemade snake gourd hair gel prevents flaking of scalp and ensures nourished and lustrous tresses.
Snake Gourd Therapeutic Uses In Ayurveda:
Since time immemorial, snake gourd has been utilised 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 snake gourd have an inherent temperature reducing potential. The leaves of snake gourd, when rubbed on a person suffering from high viral fever, provides immediate relief, reducing body temperature and symptoms of fatigue. Moreover, since normal metabolism is affected during fevers, snake gourd leaves also expel excess water and salts from the body, in order to help maintain ideal electrolyte balance.
The leaves of snake gourd contain substances called cucurbitacins, which play the crucial role of boosting the defence system and liver function in the body. In addition, snake gourd leaves also contain remarkable amounts of Vitamin C, which adds to immune function and antioxidant capacity in those suffering from jaundice. The ayurvedic remedy comprises crushing the leaves of snake gourd along with coriander seeds and consuming it twice a day, to treat jaundice.
Remedies Heart Ailments
Snake 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 snake 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.
Snake 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 snake 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, snake 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, snake 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 snake 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. Snake 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 snake 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 snake gourd juice can lessen the activity of neurotransmitters and promote sleep.
Snake Gourd Recipes:
Snake Gourd Kootu
2 medium-sized snake gourds
1 cup moong dal
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 dry red chilli
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp hing
1 tsp sambar powder
Salt, as required
1 tbsp sesame oil
Coriander leaves, for garnishing
¼ cup grated coconut
Wash the snake gourds, remove the seeds and cut into small pieces.
Add three cups of water to moong dal and pressure cook along with cut snake gourd, on medium flame for two whistles.
Blend the grated coconut with cumin seeds, along with a little bit of water in a mixer and set aside.
In a deep pan, heat some sesame oil, add mustard seeds and once they pop, add red chilli and hing and sauté for two minutes.
To this sautéed mix in the pan, add the cooked dal and snake gourd with some water and boil for a few minutes.
Now add the grated coconut blend along with sambar powder, turmeric powder and salt and cook for five more minutes, so the flavours soak into the kootu.
Remove from the flame and garnish the kootu with coriander leaves.
The snake gourd kootu can be had with warm rice for lunch or dinner.
Snake 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. Moong dal is abundant in proteins, to build muscle mass and perform vital biochemical functions. Coconut provides healthy unsaturated fats which are key to regulating body temperature and energy for performing daily activities.
Snake Gourd Curd Pachadi
2 cups cut snake gourd pieces
2 cups curd or yoghurt
3 green chillies, slit lengthwise
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin or jeera seeds
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp sesame oil
A few curry leaves
Salt, to taste
Boil the cut snake gourd pieces in some water in a dish, on low flame, until they become soft.
In a pan, heat the oil and add mustard seeds.
Once the mustard seeds begin to sputter, add cumin seeds and urad dal and sauté for two minutes.
Finally, add the curry leaves and green chillies and switch off the flame.
Add the snake gourd pieces and allow to cook in the heated up pan.
Once the mix cools down to room temperature, add the curd and required salt, to taste.
This snake gourd curd pachadi perfectly complements chapatis, sandwiches and rice.
Snake gourd supplies tremendous antioxidants and flavonoids for reducing inflammation during stress and infections. Curd or yoghurt is an excellent probiotic, enhancing the intestinal gut flora and aiding in smooth digestion. 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.
Snake Gourd Side Effects:
Always purchase only fresh produce of snake gourd from your local market or store. This is recommended because certain infectious agents and pesticide residues may be present in old stock.
Snake 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.
The detailed botany, health benefits, ayurvedic applications and side effects of snake gourd have been elaborated upon, as it is important to understand all these aspects, to gain insight about its nutrition values.
In general, snake gourd is highly beneficial for promoting physical wellness and appearance of skin and hair. Besides enhancing the fitness traits in healthy individuals, snake gourd is also routinely utilised in Ayurveda, as an effective home remedy for various ailments.
In most cases, it is entirely safe to take snake gourd vegetables, leaf and juice extracts, but keep in mind to buy only fresh stock of the vegetable.
The bottom line is that snake gourd can be consumed regularly, in moderation, for effectively augmenting overall well-being.