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Friday, April 13, 2007

Luffa for Health

Remove the skin, pulp, and seeds from ripe old fruits of Luffa cylindrica (L.) Roem. and Luffa acutangula Roxb. (Family Cucurbitaceae) and the remains are what we know as the luffa sponge. Among luffa's many properties, it can be used to promote blood circulation, to disperse fever, to break up phlegm, as a detoxicant, as an antiinflammatory, as an analgesic, and as a tranquilizer.

The most common traditional uses of the luffa sponge are rheumatism, arthritic pain, muscle pain, chest pain, amenorrhea, swollen and painful testicles, hemorrhoids, and inadequate milk flow in nursing mothers. A more recent use is in the treatment of shingles.

Apart from its usefulness as a bath sponge to remove dead skin tissue and to stimulate the skin, I bet you have never heard of luffa having so many medicinal properties and uses. It doesn't look like it conatins more than fibers to do anything to the body besides physical cleansing and stimulation of one's skin. But it has been used in Chinese medicine for at least a thousand years! And some of its uses have recently been substantiated by laboratory findings showing its decoction to have antiinflammatory, analgesic, and tranquilizing effects in mice.

Even though we normally associate luffa sponges only with physical actions on the skin, it is perhaps not too far-fetched to envision that some transfer of beneficial ingredients can occur during the physical contact to give the skin extra benefits other than just physical cleansing and stimulation. Thus, its detoxicant and antiinflammatory properties seem to offer some justification for the use of its powder and extracts in facial scrubs and skin cleansers.

Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Better Health with (mostly) Chinese Herbs and Food discusses the use of 60 different herbs as healing foods, including Luffa on page 59.

For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit www.earthpower.com.

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