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Luffa Gyptiaca

The root is a hydragogue cathartic even in minute doses.

NOM. VULG.—Probably bears the same names as the Trichosanthes.

USES.—The root is a hydragogue cathartic even in minute doses. The fruit is emollient by virtue of the large quantity of mucilage it contains, but it is more interesting for other properties. When cut in two, deprived of epidermis and seeds, and washed until none of the mucilage remains, there is left a fibrous skeleton, a sort of skein of interwoven nets that constitutes the so-called vegetable sponge. It serves the same purpose as a sponge and has the advantages that its fibers do not rot and that they are easily kept clean. In view of its cheapness and plentifulness in the Philippines the above advantages should suffice to bring it into universal use for the toilet, for surgical purposes and for cleaning in general.

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—A vine with square, glabrous stem. Leaves alternate, cordate, 3–5-lobulate, dentate, rough, 5–7-nerved. Petioles short. Flowers monoecious. Staminate in axillary panicles; calyx bell-shaped; corolla yellow, 5 oval petals, borders entire; stamens 3; filaments short; two thick ones divide high up in 2 parts, thus giving the appearance of 5 stamens in all. Pistillate axillary, calyx adherent, 5 pointed sepals; corolla, 5 nearly triangular petals, finely dentate; style thick, short, the base encircled by 3 glandules; stigma cordate.

Ovary, 3 pseudo-locules formed by the central union of the placentas; pluriovulate. Fruit oblong, terminating at the apex in a deciduous lid or cover, marked with 8 or 10 black longitudinal lines; the interior reticulate, 3 compartments with many seeds, oval, black, flat with thin borders. The natives do not distinguish between this specimen and the Trichosanthes, but it is to be noted that the corolla of the former is not ravelled or fringed.

HABITAT.—Common in Luzon and Panay. Blooms in January.

Reference book: The Medicinal Plants of the Philippines

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