This climber plant is seen on fence tops in construction sites. It appears to be saying; “hey, here am I strategically positioned on top of your walls, will you use me?. I am a sponge extraordinaire, I am created for this purpose to sanitise your environment and provide other health benefits only if you are willing to draw a little nearer”.
Any location that man nurses the ambition to erect a building, as soon as the block walls are set in place, the sponge plant would spring up. It rank tops amongst plants that will first register their presence in that vicinity.
Known commonly also as sponge gourd or Loofah plant, this peculiar plant is classified by botanists as Luffa aegyptica, Luffa aegyptiaca or Luffa cylindrica. In Nigeria we have many local names for it such as asisa, kaanka-oyibo, ihion-oyibo, baska etc.
Loofah matured fruits yield that fibrous sponge-like fibers good for skin scrub and useful also as scrubbing pads for pots and other kitchen utensils.
I had a wonderful discussion with a practitioner of herbal medicine on the topic; herbs, society, culture and healing a couple of months ago. It was an informal meeting, we deliberated and came to the vital conclusion that all the herbs that man needs for healthy living move or draw closer to him. In fact, the closer a herb moves towards men habitation, the greater its import to mankind s welfare. It is as simple as that.
If we now situate this line of thought in the context of our plant for discuss today, you will not be left in doubt as to the relevance of sponge plant in our daily living.
When the fruits are immature and tender about 10cm they can be eaten as food but when they mature they become fibrous, bitter and inedible. In some cultures, the young shoot and leaves are also consumed as vegetables. The seeds yield oil that can serve as a cooking oil.
Oil extract from the seeds of the sponge plant is extremely healing. I have utilized that to my greatest satisfaction especially on clients with skin infections and other skin challenges.
In this write up we consider the health benefits of the seeds and immature fruits..
According to www.healthbenefitstimes.com, Loofah fruit contains “various antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, nutrients and lipids. It is an excellent source of Vitamin A and carbohydrates. It is also a very good source of Vitamin B5, Manganese, Potassium, Copper, Total dietary fiber, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Magnesium”.
Stating some of the health benefits of Loofah fruits and leaves (http://healthybenefits.info), we derive that;
“Luffa offers many health benefits, and that women use luffa to restore absent menstrual periods. Nursing mothers use it to increase milk flow”.
“That it contains insulin-like peptides, alkaloids and charantin, all of which act together to lower blood and urine sugar levels without increasing blood insulin levels and is also beneficial for weight loss’.
“That Luffa is great for liver problems and helps with jaundice and anaemia. The juice of the leaves is used as an external application to sores and the bites of venomous animals.”
In addition, many cultures have employed Luffa to address the following health conditions;
Low Back Pain
Medicinal actions of Luffa aegyptiaca include;
Anthelmintic, Emollient, Anticatarral, Galactagogue, Laxative, Tonic, Carminative, Demulcent, Diuretic and Expectorant.
Start paying closer attention to plants in your immediate environment.
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Dr Gilbert Ezengige is a licensed natural medicine practitioner, lecturer and writer on health and social issues.