Smooth Loofah

Luffa aegyptiaca

Cucurbitaceae

Location in our garden

Section C (Vegetable)

Habitus

Climbers. An annual herb, monoecious, vigorous climbing to a length of 15 m.

Part Used

  • Leaves
  • Flowers
  • Fruit
  • Roots
  • Stem

Growing Requirements

  • Drought Resistant

Habitat

  • Terrestrial

Overview

Smooth loofah is native to Tropical Africa and Asia. It is the major source of the loofah sponge or skin brush, widely used for cleaning the body. The plant is also sometimes used for food and has a range of traditional medicinal uses. It is often cultivated in tropical regions of the world.

Vernacular Names

Shui gua (Chinese), Loofah (Dutch), Bhatkakrel (India), Hechima(Japanese), Courge cylindrique de chine (French), Luffa-gurke (German), Ketola manis(Malaysia).

Agroecology

Smooth loofah grows best in the low humid tropics, up to 500 m altitude, prefers rich soilswith high organic matter content, good drainage and pH values of 6.5-7.5. Sandy loams may beused if sufficient essential nutrients aresupplied.

Morphology

  • Stem - green, densely hairy, furrowed, 2-3-fidtendrils, and slender quadrangular.
  • Leaves - alternate, large, broad ovate inoutline, or reniform, cordate base, scabrous,hairy, punctate, 5–7 lobed, lobes acute anddentate, 6–25 cm by 7–27 cm wide, petiolehispid, 5–10 cm long.
  • Flowers - yellow, 5–7 cm across, axillary,unisexual (Plates 1–2). Male inflorescence, 4–20 flowered crowded into a globe, 3–5 cmdiameter, calyx tube cylindrical, 5-lobed corollarotate, yellow, stamens 5. Female flowersolitary or in raceme, pentamerous, staminodes5, ovary smooth, cylindrical.
  • Fruit - fusiform, ellipsoid-cylindrical, clavate,elongate-cylindrical, smooth with numerous longitudinal streaks or broken long it udinalstreaks 10–50 cm by 5–10 cm wide containing many seeds.
  • Seeds - flat ovate, smooth, black, 1–12 cm long with wing-like margin.

Chemical Constituents

  • Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid,anthocyanins, glycosides, tannins, flavonoids,triterpenoid, cardiac glycosides, saponins,alkaloids, and mucilage.
  • Spongy fibre: cellulose, xylan, mannan,galactan and lignin.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

  • Treatment of haemorrhage from bowels or bladder, haemorrhoids,toothache, smallpox and scarlet fever.
  • The fresh fruit is considered to be cooling, demulcent and beneficial to theintestines, warming to the stomach, and tonic to the genital organs.
  • The more mature or ripe fruit is purgative.
  • The dried fruits are used as abrasive sponges in skin care to remove deadskin and stimulate the peripheral circulation; used as an emetic.
  • In Java, leaf juice has been reported to be used for amenorrhea.
  • In India, for snake bites and dysentery.
  • In the Philippines, the leaves used for skin diseases and orchitis.

Cultivation

  • By seeds - can be sown in situ or incontainers. When sowing in containers, place2 - 3 seeds in each container, thinning to the best plant once they have germinated. Keepthe plants growing quickly and plant out oncethey are 15 cm or more tall.
  • Transplanting is sometimes practised.

Snapshot of Part Used

Reference Sources

  1. Al-Snafi, A.E. (2019). Constituents and pharmacology of Luffa cylindrica - A review. IOSR Journal Of Pharmacy. Vol.9: 68-79.
  2. CABI, Invasive Species Compendium. Luffa aegyptiaca . https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/31693. 20-07-2020
  3. Ken Fern. 2014. Tropical Plants Database. Luffa aegyptiaca . http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Luffa+aegyptiaca. 20-07-2020
  4. Lim, T.K. (2012). Edible Medicinal And Non-Medicinal Plants: Vol. 2, Fruits. Springer. pp.320-330.
  5. Stuart Xchange. (2014). Philippines Medicinal Plants: Patolang bilog Luffa cylindrica (Linn.) M. Roem.http://www.stuartxchange.org/PatolangBilog.html. 17-12-2020