What Is Ivy Gourd?

A Plant With Potential Use for Diabetes, Constipation, and Other Issues

Ivy gourd supplement tablets

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Ivy gourd is a tropical plant used as food and medicine.

There are several species of ivy gourd, including Coccinia indica, Coccinia cordifolia, and Coccinia grandis. Advocates say the plant helps prevent or treat a wide range of health conditions, from diabetes and high cholesterol to high blood pressure and obesity.

Ivy gourd often tastes like bitter melon. It can be found Indian, Indonesian, and Thai dishes. It's also available as a dietary supplement.

This article discusses the research about ivy gourd's possible benefits. It also shares information about where to find it.

Also Known As


  • Kovai fruit
  • Kunduru (Hindi)
  • Pepasan (Malaysia)
  • Pepino cimarrón (Spanish)
  • Phak khaep (Thailand)
  • Scarlet gourd
  • Telakucha (Bangladesh)

What Is Ivy Gourd Used For?

Ivy gourd is rich in an orange-red pigment called beta-carotene. Beta-carotene has antioxidant effects. Antioxidants balance free radicals in your body, which may slow or prevent cell damage.

Ivy gourd also contains phytonutrients—plant-based chemicals such as saponins, flavonoids, and terpenoids. These nutrients offer heart and anti-cancer benefits.

Alternative healthcare providers believe that phytonutrients can treat illnesses including asthma, gonorrhea, and skin infections. They may even help with weight loss. However, the clinical evidence supporting these claims is usually weak.

Right now, there is little research to support the use of ivy gourd to treat any health condition.

Ivy gourd is rich in fiber, B vitamins, and iron. It may help relieve constipation, which is a condition where bowel movements don't happen often enough. And ivy gourd may help lower blood sugar.

Here is some of what the current research says.

Ivy Gourd

 Veena Nair / Getty Images

Diabetes

There is growing evidence that ivy gourd may help to treat diabetes. A 2017 research review stated that ivy gourd extract was a "promising" treatment for lowering blood sugar levels in adults with diabetes.

A 2011 study published in Experimental Diabetes Research showed that ivy gourd lowered blood sugar levels after meals.

It's important to point out that ivy gourd is not likely to control blood sugar on its own. The researchers concluded that "it is premature to actively recommend the use of any particular herb to treat either glucose or other risk factors."

Ivy gourd did not lower blood lipid (fat) levels, including cholesterol and triglycerides, in either study. High cholesterol and triglycerides can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Weight Loss

Because ivy gourd appears to affect blood sugar, some people use it as a 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 kept pre-adipose ((fat) cells from becoming full-fledged adipose cells in a test tube.

It's hard to tell whether the same effect would occur in the human body. So far, few scientists think that an extract could make its way into cells at a level that could aid weight loss. More research is needed.

High Blood Pressure

Ivy gourd does not seem to control high blood pressure. Most of the evidence supporting its use is based on models such as a Disease-Consensus Index (DCI). The index looks at the plant's potential to treat disease rather than its actual effect on disease.

However, studies on the use of ivy gourd for high blood pressure have led to the discovery that it may prevent liver damage in people using angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These medications are used to treat high blood pressure and other disorders.

In a 2019 study, mice treated with ivy gourd several days before and after a dose of the ACE inhibitor Vasotec (enalapril) had no signs of liver damage. Mice given the same drug without ivy gourd did have signs of liver problems.

Possible Side Effects

Ivy gourd itself is considered a nutritious food with few side effects. Researchers don't know whether ivy gourd supplements are safe to use long-term.

Some people have loose stools because ivy gourd seems to have a laxative effect.

Because of the possible impact on blood sugar, be careful about using ivy gourd supplements if you take diabetes medications.

Taking this herb with diabetes medications may cause hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. People with low blood sugar often have symptoms like these:

  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Hunger
  • A sharp, sudden drop in blood pressure

For the same reason, anyone having surgery should stop ivy gourd supplements at least two weeks before the surgery date.

Health experts don't know yet whether ivy gourd supplements are safe for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children. It's a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about whether they are safe to take in your circumstances.

Always let your healthcare provider know about any medications you are taking, whether they are prescription, over-the-counter, nutritional, herbal, or recreational. Doing so can help you avoid harmful drug interactions and other side effects.

Dosage and Preparation

You can buy ivy gourd supplements online or in many natural food stores.

Most ivy gourd supplements are sold as tablets or capsules with doses ranging from to 250 milligrams (mg) to 400 mg. There are also ivy gourd tinctures (liquids) in small bottles and crude unfiltered extracts sold in larger bottles.

There are no evidence-based guidelines for how much ivy gourd to use or how often to take it. Some studies have used up to 1 gram (1,000 mg) per day for 90 days, but there is no evidence that high doses work better than smaller doses. Most manufacturers recommend between 400 mg and 500 mg per day, taken with or without food.

Do not exceed the recommended dosage on the product label. It's important to understand that the dose recommended on the label is not necessarily safe or effective. That's because the listed dosage is set by the manufacturer. It's not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Ivy gourd supplements can be stored safely in a cool, dry room. Never use a supplement past the expiration date printed on the label.

What to Look For

Since dietary supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States, look for a brand that has been safety-tested by an independent certifying body. The United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, and NSF International are well-known certifying bodies. As a general rule, avoid any supplement that claims to treat several very different diseases.

When buying an ivy gourd supplement, make sure that the species name Coccinia is printed on the product label. Avoid brands that do not say how many milligrams (mg) each capsule contains.

You may want to avoid crude, unfiltered ivy gourd extracts. They often have a layer of muddy-looking solids on the bottom of the bottle. Manufacturers may market these as "natural" and alcohol-free. But unfiltered extracts can be contaminated, and it is hard to know how long they will last on the shelf.

Other Questions

Where can I get fresh ivy gourd?
Ivy gourd is not found in most grocery stores or vegetable markets in the United States. You can sometimes find it in Asian markets. Ivy gourd is used to make such dishes as kaeng jued tum lueng (a clear Thai soup) and sambar (a vegetable and lentil-based soup from India and Sri Lanka).

How do you grow ivy gourd?
You can grow it at home using seeds you buy online. They grow best in full sun and well-drained soil. The creeping plant can grow up to 13 feet high and needs a trellis, frame, or similar support on which to climb.

The cucumber-like fruit can be harvested in around three to four months. You can tell they're ripe because they turn an orange color. They are extra beautiful if you allow them to ripen to a bright red, but they may be too bitter to eat by then. In addition to the fruit, you can also use the young shoots in stir-fried dishes.

Summary

Ivy gourd is a fruit used as food and as a health remedy. As a food, ivy gourd is a good source of plant-based fiber, iron, and nutrients.

Some people use ivy gourd to lower blood sugar, help with weight loss, control high blood pressure, and relieve constipation. At the moment, there isn't much research to support using ivy gourd to treat health conditions.

Ivy gourd is available as a fruit and as a supplement. Because the long-term effects of using the supplements aren't known, it may be better to enjoy the whole fruit rather than the supplement. Before taking any supplement, including ivy gourd, talk it over with your healthcare provider to be sure it's the right choice for you.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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