A creeper from the family of gourds, the snake gourd, is packed with myriad nutritional benefits, but it is lesser known to consumers when compared with bottle gourd and bitter gourd. These climbers can grow up to 150 cm in length and 8 cm in breadth and would require a heavy object to be leashed to its ends to avoid it from curling up, hence the name snake gourd.
Snake gourd is cultivated in Asian countries and across Australia and Nigeria. Snake gourd is a popular vegetable that is widely available in India, in the southern regions both longer and smaller sizes are available throughout the year in the market and in the northern regions it’s mostly grown in home gardens. Only the smaller varieties of snake gourds are found in the Indian groceries in the west. Its popularity lies in the dish called aviyal, a vegetarian gravy dominated by a variety of vegetables and curd served in the southern restaurants.
The nutritive value of snake gourd is unbeatable compared to other vegetables. The gourd comprises of protein, fat, carbohydrate and soluble fiber. Its mineral and vitamin content are calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin and carotene.
Snake gourd acts as an excellent anti-inflammatory. Inflammation if left ignored can result in serious illnesses like, diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, cancer, mood disorders, sleep disorders, arthritis and Alzheimer's. Snake gourd is gaining popularity for being an integral part of the anti-inflammatory diet chart. The use of snake gourd in alternative medicine is increasing because of its curative properties.
Following are some other health benefits of snake gourd:
- A decoction of snake gourd leaves and coriander leaves soaked in water overnight, strained and served in small portions is a home remedy to help reduce bilious fever. When coriander leaves are replaced with coriander seeds, the decoction is said to help fight jaundice.
- A tablespoon or two of the juice extracted from its leaves consumed everyday helps fight heart disorders like palpitation.
- Due to its high water and low- calorie content, the gourd is treated as an excellent remedy for diabetes.
- The gourd is fiber- rich and makes digestion easy, wards off constipation with ease.
- It’s an excellent expectorant as it helps remove phlegm and mucus from the respiratory tract serving as a natural antibiotic.
- The gourd helps with lung and breast tumors and can promote lactation according to practitioners of Chinese remedies.
Besides medicinal benefits, the snake gourd has also been recognized for cosmetic benefits.
- The juice of snake gourd massaged on the scalp helps cure dandruff and alopecia - a hair fall problem that could lead to partial or complete baldness.
- Its high water content acts as a coolant for the body and helps beat the summer heat.
- It helps in clearing the toxic matter from the body; hence, it serves as a good detox agent.
The only precaution that needs to be taken while consuming snake gourd is to avoid over consumption of its seeds. If consumed in excess the seeds can cause nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, and gastric discomfort.
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