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Petha or Ash Gourd: Winter Melon - Nutritional and Health Benefits

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

Petha or Ash Gourd

Petha or Ash Gourd

Latin Name: Benincasa hispida

Ash Gourd

Known by several other names like winter melon, wax gourd, white gourd, winter gourd, ash pumpkin, white pumpkin and more. In India it is called safed petha and Kashiphal, but, more commonly as, petha kaddu.

Ash gourd was and is traditionally grown in India, Japan, and South-east Asia although it is native to China. "Raja Nighantu" one of the ancient Indian books on therapeutic describes a long list of medicinal benefits of this plant.

Ash Gourd Fruit

Ash gourd is an annual, crawling and climbing vine, grown for its oblong to round very large waxy skinned, pale green-colored fruit with white mild-tasting pulp and yellowish-brown seeds and can weigh over 40 pounds and a foot long if allowed to grow.

The fruits are hairy when young with the coating getting waxy and whitish as they mature although the skin remains green in color culminating in a whitish bloom that occurs only on the fully mature fruit. This bloom enhances the keeping quality of the fruit.

The immature fruit is prepared into a curry, made into a soup and the pulp ground to extract its health-promoting juice.

The mature fruit is used to make petha, an Indian candied sweet, a type of soft translucent candy which was first prepared in the Indian city of Agra.

In Indian cuisine, ash gourd is used to make a variety of dishes like stir-fries, stews, and soups. The younger leaves, stems, and buds are also cooked.

Since its juice is bland in taste it is not consumed widely in spite of its excellent nutritive and therapeutic value.

Ash gourd has been used both as a food and medicine for thousands of years in the Orient Traditional Oriental medicine has used it to treat respiratory, gastro-intestinal, heart and urinary issues, diabetes and as a vermifuge.

Petha - The Soft Translucent Candy

The Nutritional Benefits of Ash Gourd

Over 95% of ash gourd's weight is water, the carrier of several vitamins and minerals, making it a natural energizing food. It is low in calories, contains no saturated fat or cholesterol. It is a good source of thiamine, iron, magnesium and manganese and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, riboflavin and zinc. However, it is a little high in sodium.

Since it reduces body heat and cools the body it can be added to salads, smoothies, and juices in the summer months. The seeds and seed oil too are equally beneficial. In Southeast Asia, winter melon tea is very popular.

Ash gourd is easy to digest and balances the Pitta and Vata doshas of the body. It especially improves intelligence.

The uncut fruit stores well for a long time, in fact as long as a year without refrigeration.

Nutrients & Levels in Wax Gourd

Source: USDA Database

Waxgourd, RawQuantity% Daily Value

 

Nutrients per 100 g (3.5 oz)

 

Energy 54 kJ

54 kJ/13 kcal

 

Carbohydrates

3 g

 

Dietary fiber

2.9 g

 

Fat

0.2 g

 

Protein

0.4 g

 

Vitamins

 

 

Thiamine (B1)

0.04 mg

3%

Riboflavin (B2)

0.11 mg

9%

Niacin (B3)

0.4 mg

3%

Pantothenic acid (B5)

0.133 mg

3%

Vitamin B6

0.035 mg

3%

Vitamin C

13 mg

16%

Minerals

 

 

Calcium

19 mg

2%

Iron

0.4 mg

3%

Magnesium

10 mg

3%

Manganese

0.058 mg

3%

Phosphorus

19 mg

3%

Sodium

111 mg

7%

Zinc

61 mg

6%

Lore Around Ash Gourd

As it is considered an auspicious vegetable in India, it is hung outside a newly built house.

When self-grown it is not supposed to be eaten but is to be given to a Brahmin as a donation to get Punya.

In olden times a Shudra (one of low caste) was not supposed to eat it as it sharpened the intellect.

Health Benefits of Ash Gourd According to Ayurveda

According to various ayurvedic texts like Bhav Prakash, Raj Nighantu, Charak Samhita, and Sushrat Samhita Ash gourd provides the following health benefits.

  • makes the passing of urine easier
  • benefits in diabetes and urinary tract disorders
  • provides relief in dysuria
  • helps to break urinary calculi
  • relieves thirst and tiredness
  • provides nourishment, improves body mass and weight
  • relieves weakness, improves strength & boosts immunity
  • provides aphrodisiacal benefits
  • controls bleeding due to Pitta imbalance and balances Vata
  • cleanses the bladder

    The unripe ash gourd balances Pitta, mid ripe ash gourd is cooling but increases Kapha while the fully ripe ash gourd although not so cooling is alkaline, easier to digest and also strengthens digestion.

Some classical Ayurvedic medicines prepared with ash gourd are:

  1. Kushmand Avleha
  2. Kushmand Khanda
  3. Kushmand Rasayan- a tonic, useful in bleeding disorders and improves body weight
  4. Sri Gopala Taila - improves the strength of nerves and muscles
  5. Kushmanda Ghrita

How To Make Petha Juice | Ash Gourd Juice | Winter Melon Juice

Some Medicinal Uses of Ash Gourd Leaves, Seeds & Juice

Although ash gourd and its juice is not much popular because of its bland taste and pale color, it has some excellent therapeutic benefits. All parts of this plant, especially the fruit, are used to get relief and tret various health issues. Some of these are listed below.

  • Ash gourd juice diluted with an equal amount of water taken everyday morning on an empty stomach is useful in treating peptic ulcers. Nothing should be consumed for 2-3 hours after consuming this juice. It also relieves inflammation in the alimentary canal.
  • The juice is also useful in insanity, epilepsy and other nervous disorders. It is an antidote for mercury and alcohol poisoning.
  • The raw flesh relieves prickly heat, cures facial eruptions, softens the skin and delays wrinkles. Its ash is applied to painful wounds.
  • Petha, it's candied fruit, is used as medicine to increase weight in tuberculosis, strengthen the heart, thicken the semen and remove anemia.
  • Coconut oil in which the seeds are boiled helps prevent dandruff, scalp dryness and increases hair growth.
  • It stops internal bleeding, in fact, bleeding of all types. Because of its blood coagulating properties, in ancient times, its fresh juice mixed with a tsp of amla or lime juice stops bleeding from the nose and lungs, the presence of blood cells in the urine and provides relief in piles and hematuria.
  • Since it is cooling in nature it reduces heat in the body. Its diuretic action increases urine output thus helping flush out toxins as well.
  • Shelled seeds of ash gourd promote tissue growth and when consumed with coconut milk help remove worms, including the stubborn tapeworms, from the intestine.
  • To relieve general weakness boil ash gourd pulp in water. Add sugar syrup to make it sweet. It helps to increase weight, strengthens the heart, provides warmth to the body and controls tuberculosis and anemia.
  • To relieve mouth ulcers gargle with its juice. This also stops bleeding from the gums and strengthens the gums and teeth.
  • Regular intake of ash gourd juice reduces cough, cold, relieves bronchitis, chronic asthma, and other related respiratory disorders.
  • To relieve dandruff boil the seeds and peel in coconut oil and apply it to the hair. It removes scalp dryness and increases hair growth too.
  • The ground seeds when applied on chapped lips provides relief.

Ashgourd Juice Vs Coffee

Ash gourd keeps one alert by providing a lot of energy while keeping the nerves very calm making it an excellent substitute for coffee which though it provides energy does so at the expense of making one jittery

Some Culinary Uses of Ash Gourd

  1. Moon cakes prepared on the occasion of the Chinese moon festival use ash gourd as filling.
  2. Petha, the Indian sweetmeat is prepared from its pulp.
  3. Curries, stews, soups, smoothies, and juice are prepared from its pulp.
  4. Winter melon tea, an Asian drink, is prepared from it.

Petha Halwa | Ash Gourd Halwa Recipe

Some Precautions/Side Effects of Ash Gourd

  1. Obese people should use it for a limited period of time and in a small dose.
  2. As it increases Kapha, it must not be used in winter and also when one is suffering from cold, asthma or bronchitis.
  3. If the fruit is sweet it should be avoided in indigestion.
  4. Those prone to colds, asthma, and bronchitis should add honey or black pepper to its juice before consuming it to lessen its cooling effect.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Rajan Singh Jolly

Comments

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 25, 2019:

I don't think that I have ever seen an ash gourd but enjoyed learning about it. Your articles are always filled with good information.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 14, 2019:

Thank you, Devika. If you manage to get it, give it a try.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 14, 2019:

Thanks Umesh.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 14, 2019:

Absolutely, Nithya!n Not may calories/fat and a lot of fiber. Thank you for giving the article a read.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 13, 2019:

Different and I had not had Ash Gourd. You created a unique hub informative and I have learned from this well researched hub of everything in detail of this melon.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 10, 2019:

Excellent article on Ashguard and it's usage. Thanks.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on December 10, 2019:

An interesting and informative article about the ash gourd thanks for sharing. The best part is that we can eat a lot of ash gourd without putting on weight.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 10, 2019:

Thank you, Pamela. Ash gourd is definitely superior to the watermelon and an excellent detoxifier. In fact, naturopaths recommend its juice for detoxification

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 10, 2019:

Thank you, my friend, for always being here. Much appreciated.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 09, 2019:

Thank you for reading this article. Good to see you.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 09, 2019:

Thanks for the sharing the nutritional benefits of this gourd which I don't think I know, the information is worth having. Thanks for including the warnings.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 09, 2019:

I'm probably a little strange,, but I enjoy learning about things like this. It's always a good thing to expand one's knowledge, so thank you.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 09, 2019:

I have never had Ash gourd, but it sounds delicious and very nutritional. I like water melon but I don't know if it as healthy as ash gourd. I would like to try it after reading your very well-written article.

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