Ivy gourd is a plant grown in tropical climates that are used for food and medicinal purposes. There are different species of ivy gourd, including Coccinia indica, Coccinia cordifolia, and Coccinia grandis, which are often compared to bitter melon. In addition to being a staple of Indian, Indonesian, and Thai cuisines, the fruit is believed to offer health benefits.
Ivy gourd is said to have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may aid in the prevention or treatment of a diverse range of health conditions, from diabetes and high cholesterol to high blood pressure and obesity.
Ivy gourd is rich in an orange-red pigment called beta-carotene which has potent antioxidant effects. By neutralizing free radicals in the bloodstream, antioxidants may help slow or prevent damage to cells at the molecular level. Ivy gourd also contains phytonutrients, such as saponins, flavonoids, and terpenoids,1 that are though offer heart and anti-cancer benefits.
Ivy gourd is rich in fibre, B vitamins, and iron and may help relieve occasional constipation and normalize blood sugar. Here is some of what the current research says:
There is growing evidence that ivy gourd may aid in the treatment of diabetes. A study published in Diabetes Care reported that 1,000 milligrams of ivy gourd extract taken daily for 90 days reduced blood glucose levels in adults with diabetes by 16% and 18% compared to those provided a placebo.
A 2011 study in Experimental Diabetes Research further supported these claims and showed that ivy gourd was able to reduce postprandial blood glucose (blood sugar levels immediately following meals). This suggests that ivy gourd may reduce the need for insulin injections used to control blood sugar.
With that said, the level of the effect is unlikely to control blood sugar on its own. Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that “it is premature to actively recommend the use of any particular herb to treat either glucose or other risk factors.”
Because of its effects on blood glucose (and its presumed effect on blood lipids), ivy gourd is believed by some to be an effective weight loss supplement.
A 2014 study in Lipids in Health and Disease reported that an extract made from the dried roots, stems, and leaves of ivy gourd was able to prevent pre-adipose cells from becoming full-fledged adipose (fat) cells in the test tube.
This suggests that, by preventing this biological process, ivy gourd may be able to either slow or prevent such diseases as obesity or metabolic syndrome.
Whether the same effect would occur in humans has yet to be proven, but few scientists believe that such an extract, whether injected or taken by mouth, can be distributed to cells in concentrations considered therapeutic. Further research is needed.
Ivy gourd has also fallen short in is its ability to control hypertension (high blood pressure). Most of the evidence supporting its use is hypothetical and based on such generalized models as a Disease-Consensus Index (DCI), which assesses the plant’s potential to treat disease rather than its actual effect on disease.
Despite the setbacks, studies into the use of ivy gourd in hypertension have led to the discovery that it may prevent liver toxicity in people using angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to treat hypertension.
According to a 2019 study in Clinical Nutrition Experimental, mice treated with ivy gourd three days prior and seven days after a single dose of the ACE inhibitor Vasotec (enalapril) had no signs of liver inflammation or damage unlike mice given Vasotec but no ivy gourd.
If these same effects can be replicated in humans, ivy gourd may offer protective benefits to people on long-term ACE inhibitor therapy, particularly those with co-existing liver problems.
Possible side effects
When used for food, ivy gourd is considered nutritious and has few ill effects.
Source: Verywell Health