Ash Gourd is a vegetable with miraculous health benefits as well as applications in the beauty department. It’s benefits have been known to mankind long since the inception of Ayurveda (holistic and natural medical science/healing) in ancient India when rishis (Hindu sages/priests) taught them to Asia. Ash Gourd is also known as Winter Melon and it’s scientific name is Benincasa hispida. The exterior color can vary between dark green to a pale gray. Mature gourds are coated with a distinctive white ash and this powdery coating is the reason behind it’s name. It belongs to the cucumber/squash family of vegetables and grows naturally in the jungles of India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia and China, along with regions of Australia. Today, the crop is extensively propagated all over the world and other tropical regions, and not just South-east Asia – to allow the world to attain complete wellness.
In Hinduism, Yogic studies and Ayurveda, this vegetable is considered to be a part of the list of food items that are “pranic“, a sanskrit term that refers to life-giving wherein “pran” means life. Pranic foods are essential to the vitality of the human body as well as mind, which truly invigorate bodily systems and functions.
In India, winter melons are widely used in making desserts and curries that are staple to every household – both dry and with a gravy, along with being topically applied to the skin and hair. The vegetable is almost tasteless like cucumbers but that’s why it can be easily incorporated in salads, juices, smoothies or curries in Asian meals.
When consumed, the nutritional value of Ash gourd is immense – be it extreme hydration, weight loss, vitamins, minerals, detox value especially for kidneys, controlling diabetes and cholestrol, preventing hair fall and skin troubles, treating gastric disorders like acid reflux, curing liver ailments and fevers, cooling the body systems or even treating insomnia.
1. Weight Loss
Ash gourd has properties that accelerate weight loss, as it contains 96% water, high nutrition (minerals, fibre, vitamins) and low calories (86 kcal for 100g of ash gourd). The high fibre content in it keeps you away from cravings and makes you feel full.
2. Kidney detox
Ash gourd leads to waste removal from the body via both faeces and urine. Initially it may seem like you are visiting the bathroom too many times, but it’s all for the improvement of your health. The detox process of your body kickstarts almost immediately after you start consuming ash gourd in any form – be it juice or as a curry. The best part is, this vegetable hydrates your organs whilst removing toxins from them at the same time.
3. Luscious Locks and Glowing Skin
The detox juice is not only good for your kidneys, but also for your physical beauty. You’ll see glowing skin in the mirror within just 3 days of consuming ash gourd juice for the first time. The antioxidants combined with the presence of vitamins and minerals such as B, C, D, E, Carotene, Iron, Zinc, Potassium, Magnesium are just what you need to step out of home with makeup-free skin that looks fresh as a daisy. This nutrition is also beneficial for the hair, it strengthens the roots from within and promotes hair growth by stimulating hair follicles.
The first step in applying ash gourd to your skin or hair is to make a gel out of it, and not the usual juice that you drink. To make the gel, first remove it’s peel and cut it into two halves. Then scrape out the seeds entirely and use only the soft inner part of the vegetable. Blend this soft portion in a small mixer without adding water into a gel. Make sure you don’t make it too watery and stop mixing when it’s at the right gel-like consistency. You can even use a mortar-pestle for this instead of an electronic blender.
Skin: Use this gel on sunburns as well as dry skin – not only does it heal burn scars, it also moisturises the skin naturally. This is a great way to ditch expensive moisturisers laden with chemicals that also come in harmful plastic packaging. This gel acts as an astringent for inflamed skin and a cure for boils and fungal infections too.
Hair: Use this gel on bald patches on your scalp if you have alopecia. Even when applied to a normal scalp, it protects and activates follicles that allow you to have thick hair (ladies, been wanting to flip your hair?). Dandruff is another issue that this gel tackles, as it cools the scalp and removes fungal sebum through it’s anti-fungal properties. Just apply it onto the scalp for 30 minutes and rinse it with a mild shampoo after. It is recommended to be used as a natural conditioner for the shaft of your hair as well, after using a mild shampoo, as it gives a natural sheen to it.
4. Caffeine-like energy without caffeine
Ash gourd juice is extremely cooling and as mentioned earlier, it is pranic which literally means life-giving. Naturally (pun intended), it energises the body and makes you feel awake and fresh throughout the day – which is basically why you pick up a Venti from Starbucks on the way to work. Why choose caffeine that harms the body when you can have a juice that does the same thing for you, without the aftermath of jitters that may come with excess caffeine?
With the millennial lifestyle being forcibly adopted by even older adults today due to work-life imbalance, insomnia is on the rise and one of the most prevalent disorders in the world. Insomnia is seen across people of all age groups and it truly disturbs the vitality of a human body, as ‘sound sleep’ is considered to be of prime importance in maintaining vigour, age and overall health. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) in ash gourd juice helps to regulate functions of the brain and allows nerve impulses to be transmitted smoothly. A glass of ash gourd juice everyday can allow effective functioning of neurotransmitters that promote a good night’s sleep.
6. Immunity Booster
Ash gourd is packed with vitamin C and carotenes that power your immune system. Consuming it will send Vitamin C to your cells and organs directly, which allows the body to revive during illness and fatigue. As we all know, immunity is of utmost importance during a pandemic as massive as COVID-19. Say no to the virus and yes to vitality!
7. Heart, Digestive and Respiratory ailments
- Ash gourd enhances the circulation of blood to and from the heart and has zero Cholestrol. It used to be given to patients suffering from heart ailments, high blood pressure, palpitations, anxiety and irregular heartbeats even in ancient India.
- Ash gourd relieves a person suffering from constipation due to it’s fibrous value. In today’s world that thrives on a fast lifestyle, acid reflux is a common disorder amongst people of all age groups. Since ash gourd is a winter melon and alkaline in nature, it cures acid reflux, provides instant relief from gas and cools the excess acid. It also prevents bloating of your stomach (ladies, be sure you can wear that LBD for your date next time without having to worry about your belly popping out), and relieves you of both period and digestive cramps. Any gut-related discomfort is easily taken care of by this vegetable that moderates the bowel with it’s laxative touch.
- Ash gourd has the capability of removing excess phlegm that gets accumulated in the respiratory tract. You can kiss those mucus secretions goodbye during harsh winters. Naturally, this enhances the functioning of your lungs and alleviates allergies, thereby allowing you to breathe smoothly – a very important bodily function to possess during these trying times of COVID-19 and environmental pollution.
8. Fever, Jaundice and Bones
- The components found in ash gourd truly reduce the temperature of the body when consumed, from within. In ancient India, the leaves of ash gourd used to be rubbed on a person suffering from high fever which instantly reduced temperature as well as exhaustion. This is due to the presence of cucurbitacins in the leaves. When consumed, it also restores the electrolyte balance of the body that gets disturbed during a fever. The antioxidant and vitamin C content found in winter melons aid individuals suffering from Jaundice. Healers in India crush ash gourd leaves with coriander seeds and feed it to jaundice patients.
- Winter melons are anti-inflammatory and they contain the holy trinity needed to maintain bone-health: Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorous. Thus, they treat muscle or bone related problems. Their consumption is recommended to people suffering from osteoporosis, fractures and arthritis.
Thyroid is a very underrated hormone who’s fluctuating levels can destroy the body and put a human on medication for life. Elevated thyroid levels in the body cause a disorder known as Hyperthyroidism. Ash gourd contains a good amount of Iodine and Zinc that reduces the level of thyroid hormone in the body along with allowing enzymes to function effectively.
Ash Gourd in Hinduism
In Hinduism, ash gourd was considered to be a very auspicious vegetable. When Indians build or enter a new home, they always conduct a small “pooja” (prayers) involving holy fire (agni) and other rituals which cleanse the surroundings. It is an auspicious event that allows families to move into a safe home that has been rid of unwanted negative energies. In new homes, the vegetable is also worshipped and hung outside the house. The vegetable contains healing properties and positive vibrations of such a high level that it is said to trap negative physical energies that may enter your home from outside. It’s positive vibrations are the reason for ash gourd being a superfood that cures so many ailments.
Traditionally, the vegetable was also a part of the Hindu culture of providing alms to Brahmans (priests, sages, rishis) who visited a home. Brahmans were holy people who embarked on the quest for knowledge, wisdom, enlightenment, prayer and teaching – thereby renouncing all forms of material wealth. Hindus believe(d) that providing them food/water/shelter was one of the ultimate good karmas, as a mark of respect for the learned individuals who imparted their knowledge to the world. Offering (dana) an ash gourd to a Brahman was considered to be a pious act since Brahmans believed in fasting extensively and barely ate, so offering him/her such a superfood would provide rejuvenation, which would in turn yield the giver blessings from his good karma. This belief stems from the principle of karma – the good you do in this world will find it’s way back to you.
As per Hinduism, the balance in a chaotic world relied on an exchange of positive energies via food, people, karmic deeds and occupation.
How to Make Ash gourd Juice in 10 minutes
- Ash gourd, 4-5 inch sized – 1
- Lemon juice – 3 tsp
- Freshly ground pepper – 1 tsp
- Black salt – 1/2 tsp
- Cut the ash gourd, and remove it’s skin and seeds. Cut the vegetable into small cubes.
- Blend the diced vegetable pieces to a smooth puree and add a little bit of water as per the desired consistency of a juice.
- Strain it to filter out the hardness/roughness.
- Pour it in a glass and add freshly ground pepper, black salt with a dash of lemon juice.
How else you can eat Ash gourd
- Smoothie mixed with another fruit/vegetable
- Flavoured yoghurt
- Raita (Indian)
- Curry (Indian)
- Candied (Indian)
- Halwa (Indian)