Did you know?
Ivy gourd is claimed to be useful for diabetics, due to its hypoglycemic activity.
Ivy gourd is a fast-growing, tropical vine that is native to regions that extend from Africa to Asia. Apart from its culinary uses, the plant has also been attributed with certain health benefits. However, ivy gourd can turn invasive, as the plant overgrows as dense blankets, thereby, smothering other vegetation in the area. In fact, this plant flourishes in humid, tropical regions, where it is often found to cover trees, fences, hedges, and poles. Ivy gourd is also grown for ornamental purposes, for its white flowers and red fruits. The scientific name of the plant is Coccinia grandis. It is also known as Cephalandra indica and Coccinia indica. The plant has different names in different locations. It is known as gherkin, baby watermelon, rashmati, tendli, kovakkai, calabacita, little gourd, scarlet-fruited gourd, tindola, etc.
Ivy Gourd - The Plant
Ivy Gourd Plant
Ivy Gourd
Ivy gourd is an aggressive vine that can be seen trailing on the ground, or climbing the fences, trees, rooftops, and poles. The ivy-like leaves are triangular or pentagonal in shape. While the leaves are hairy on the upper surface, the stems are usually hairless. The flowers of this plant are mostly solitary, bell-shaped, and white in color. Roughly oval in shape, the green fruits turn scarlet red in color as they ripen. Propagation is through stem cuttings and seeds. The plant may turn invasive, as it establishes readily, once the seeds on stem cuttings touch the ground. In fact, ivy gourd is listed as an invasive plant in many regions.
Culinary and Nutritional Aspects
Ivy gourd shoots
The tender shoots
Coccinia grandis
Fruits of ivy gourd
The fruits and tender shoots of ivy gourd are used for culinary purposes in different parts of the world. The tender leaves of this plant are said to be a rich source of beta-carotene. 100 gm of ivy gourd leaves amounts to 32 kcal. It has around 3.6 gm protein, 2.7 gm fiber, 57 mg calcium, 1.4 mg iron, 13 mg vitamin C, 4036 mcg beta-carotene, etc. The calorific value of 100 gm of ivy gourd fruit is 18 kcal. The protein content is around 1.2 gm. The other nutrients include calcium - 40 mg, iron - 1.4 mg, vitamin C - 1.4 mg, and dietary fiber - 1.6 mg.
Medicinal Properties
It is claimed that the plant has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anthelmintic, and anti-ulcer properties. Animal-based studies have revealed that the leaves of the plant have hypoglycemic property. According to these studies, ivy gourd extract may prove effective for lowering cholesterol levels. The plant is also used for treating gonorrhea and constipation. The leaves are applied on wounds in the form of poultice, for faster healing. However, there is insufficient scientific evidence to prove the therapeutic properties of ivy gourd.

Side Effects: Is it safe to use ivy gourd for medicinal purposes? Though the plant is used as an herbal remedy for a host of medical conditions, there is no evidence to prove its rate of effectiveness, or safety. Oral intake of ivy gourd is found to be safe with very few reports of side effects. However, there is no information about the adverse effects of long-term treatment using ivy gourd. As it is claimed to lower blood sugar levels, diabetics under medication and those who are preparing for any kind of surgery, must avoid use of ivy gourd.
As an Invasive Plant
Ivy gourd can grow and spread fast, especially in regions with a warm, humid climate. While stem cuttings can easily establish as new plants, seeds are dispersed by birds, animals, and even humans. These plants can also regrow from roots. You may find the name of this plant among those listed as invasive, in many regions. The Hawaii State Noxious Weed List has ivy gourd as one of the highly invasive plants. Manual removal of ivy gourd may not be effective, as the roots and cut stems can regrow, if not disposed properly. Even the fruits have to be disposed in plastic bags. Though certain chemicals are found to be useful for killing these plants, multiple application may be required. As far as biological control is concerned, certain types of weevils and moths have been used to get rid of ivy gourd. They are found to be effective to a certain extent.
In short, ivy gourd is a plant that is beneficial for its nutritional as well as therapeutic benefits. It can be grown in well-drained, humus-rich soil. The location must have full to partial sun. These plants can also be grown in greenhouses. However, never allow the plant to become invasive. In that case, remedial measures must be taken at the earliest, to check its spread.