Annual vine climbing to 49 ft (15 m). Has large lobed leaves, tendrils, and yellow female flowers producing long cylindrical marrow-like fruit.
Habitat & Cultivation
Loofah is native to the tropics of Asia and Africa. It is now grown as a fruit in tropical regions around the world. It is harvested when ripe in summer.
Loofah contains polysaccharides, xylan, xylose, and galactan.
History & Folklore
Loofah was brought from India to China in the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE). It is best known in the West as a bathroom accessory—the fibrous skeleton makes a good skin scrubber.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
In Chinese medicine, the inner skeleton of the dried fruit is used to treat pain in the muscles, joints, chest, and abdomen. It is prescribed for chest infections accompanied by fever and pain, and is used to clear congested mucus. Loofah is also given to treat painful or swollen breasts.
Chinese research indicates that the fresh vine has a stronger expectorant effect than the dried fruit. German research (1999) using a homeopathic preparation of the plant showed it to be as effective as a standard nasal spray for relief of hay fever.