Bottle gourd is known by many common names such as Lauki, Ghia, dhodhi, Calabash etc. It is very nutritious vegetable and offers numerous health benefits. Lauki or bottle gourd has many medicinal uses as well. In Ayurveda, it is recommended to cure heart diseases, diabetes, constipation, urinary diseases, loose motion and many more. During cooking process there is a considerable loss of nutrients so it is better to eat bottle gourd raw. The easiest way to eat it raw is to drink its one glass juice in the morning.
Bottle gourd belongs to pumpkin or cucurbitaceae family. The other members of this family include cucumber, colocynth, bitter gourd, water melon, melon, etc. All members of this family produce trace quantity of complex substances. These substance are known as cucurbitacins, which are bitter substances, with tetra-cyclic tri-terpenoid structure. Bottle gourd contains trace amount of cucurbitacins types B, D, G, and H.
The normal level of cucurbitacins do not exceed 130 ppm, and bottle gourd has normal taste. But when level of cucurbitacins substance is increased in bottle gourd, it tastes bitter. This can be due to acidic soil, high temperature, wide temperature difference, low water for irrigation, poor soil fertility and improper storing of vegetable.
The high amount of cucurbitacins makes bottle gourd toxic. This can be toxic up to extent of lethal. This is true even for other members of pumpkin family such as zucchini, colocynth etc.
If someone takes such bitter vegetables (Bottle gourd, zucchini, and colocynth), he/she may suffer from acute gastrointestinal toxicity or poisoning. The poising can cause the following symptoms an hour after consumption of vegetable.
- Drop in blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Vomiting of blood
- Ulcers in oesophagus, stomach and duodenum
- Pain in abdomen
- The condition can be worsen by some other pathological conditions in the body such as ulcers.
Therefore always do the following before preparing bottle gourd.
- Before cooking or extracting lauki juice, always ensure that it is not bitter. This can be done simply by tasting a piece of raw bottle gourd.
- You should not mix the lauki juice with any other vegetable juice.
- Discard bitter lauki. Do not eat it or drink its juice.
- In the case of any discomfort (abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or any feeling of uneasiness), immediately go to nearby hospital. This can be case of Bottle gourd toxicity.