Snake gourd is a climbing herb with white male and female flowers and cylindrical, slender, tapering fruits with a waxy surface. Its fruits are orange in color when ripe and pulpy red at maturity. It has hairy, angular or 5 to 7 lobed leaves which emit a foetid odor when bruised.
Snake gourd consist of substantial amount of moisture and little protein, fiber, fat and carbohydrate. Its mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, iron, phosphorus, substantial amount of carotene, little thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
Botanical Name: Trichosanthes anguina
Indian Name: Chachinga
Below are some of the medicinal properties of Snake gourd:
- Infusion of the snake gourd leaves is useful in the treatment of jaundice, if given in 30 to 60 gram doses with a decoction of coriander seeds thrice daily.
- The juice of the fresh leaves is beneficial in heart disorders like palpitation and pain in the heart on physical exertion. It should be taken in doses of 1 to 2 tablespoons thrice daily.
- A decoction of snake gourd is effective in bilious fevers, as a febrifuge or thirst reliever and laxative. Its efficacy increases provided it is given with chiratta and honey. In obstinate cases of fevers, a combined infusion of this plant and coriander is more beneficial. About 30 grams of each should be infused in water overnight. The strained liquid should be given in two doses the next day. A decoction of the leaves with the addition of coriander is also useful in bilious fever. The leaf juice is used to induce vomiting. The latter is also applied locally as liniment in cases of liver congestion. In remittent fevers, it is applied over the whole body.
- The root of snake gourd serves as purgative and tonic. Whereas its juice is a strong purgative, an infusion of the dried fruit is a mild purgative. It also aids digestion. Its leaves are useful as an emetic and purgative in children suffering from constipation. A teaspoon of the fresh juice can be given early in the morning for the ailing children.
- The leaf juice is useful in the treatment of alopecia, a disease of the scalp resulting in complete or partial baldness.
The ripe fruit and its seeds are laxative and may cause indigestion, and should not be consumed as food.