Ash gourd, also known as Benincasa hispida, winter melon, wax gourd, white pumpkin, and Chinese watermelon, is a fruit native to parts of Southern Asia. It grows on a vine and matures into a round or oblong melon that’s approximately the same size and color as a watermelon. Once ripe, the fruit’s fuzzy exterior morphs into a powdery ash-colored coating that gives this fruit its name.
This plant was originally cultivated in China for food and medicine. It is now consumed throughout Southern Asia and some parts of South America and Africa, and it has been used in Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years. Modern research on ash gourd suggests that the fruit is healthy to eat. It may help people with diabetes mellitus, lower cholesterol levels, prevent the onset of stroke, and fight tumor growth. Studies have suggested it may also be beneficial for muscle health, asthma, and high blood pressure.
The fruit may have some harmful effects if excessive amounts are consumed. These effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dermatitis around the mouth, itching of the skin or eyes, liver inflammation or failure, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), renal impairment (kidney damage), and hypokalemia (decreased potassium in the blood). Consumption of ash gourd with alcohol may increase symptoms of nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or jaundice.
Ash gourd should not be consumed by children under 12, pregnant women, people with allergies to ash gourd or any of its constituents, those who have been diagnosed with hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, gallstones, pancreatitis, renal impairment, hypokalemia (decreased potassium in the blood), or those taking medications for diabetes mellitus or seizures. Ash gourd should not be consumed in large amounts.
The fruit is an excellent source of vitamins B and C, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It is also a good source of dietary fiber. Ash gourd contains cucurbitacin E, which may have chemopreventive effects against cancerous tumor cells in mice and rats. Ash gourd extracts inhibit the growth of human leukemia cells.
White ash gourd, also known as ash pumpkin, is a species of Benincasa hispida in the Cucurbitaceae family. It is native to southern Asia and has been classified into six distinct chromosomal races.