Luffa (Luffa operculata)

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • AirDefense®, angled loofah, buchinha-do-norte (Portuguese – Brazil), cabacinha, Cucurbitaceae (family), dammarane-type triterpene glycosides, esponjilla (Spanish – Latin America), esponjuelo (Spanish – Latin America), glucosides, isocucurbitacine B, loofa, loofah, Luffa quinquefida, Luffaschwamm (German), luperosides, Momordica operculata, neocucurbitacin A, neocucurbitacin B, opercurin A, opercurin B, pashte (Spanish), Poppya operculata, saponins, sigualuo, SinuFix Mist®, Sinusin®, wild loofa.

  • Note
    :
    Luffa aegyptiaca, also known as Luffa cylindrica (common name synonyms include dishcloth sponge, silky loofah, smooth loofah, sponge cucumber, vegetable sponge, and water gourd; the dried fruit is popularly used as a bath sponge) is another species of Cucurbitaceae that is not covered in this monograph.

Background

  • Luffa operculata is a plant in the family Cucurbitaceae. In some cultures, young luffa fruits are eaten as vegetables.

  • Traditionally, an infusion from the dried fruit is taken into the nose, where it causes the release of mucus, thereby relieving many nasal symptoms.

  • Well-designed clinical trials in support of Luffa operculata for any use are lacking. Further research is required.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)

Limited research reports that a combination of herbs and minerals that contained Luffa operculata lessened symptoms of hay fever. Additional research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.

Sinusitis

There is a lack of high-quality scientific evidence on the use of Luffa operculata for hay fever. Additional research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Abortion inducing, amenorrhea, arthritis, asthma, chest pain, chronic cough, chronic rhinitis, common cold prevention (general), common cold treatment, constipation (laxative), dry mouth (xerostomia), lactation stimulation, migraine, muscle pain, nasal discomfort, nasal inflammation, respiratory problems, snake bites, sneezing, sore throat, ulcers (mouth), wheezing.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is a lack of safety or efficacy information regarding the use of Luffa operculata in adults.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is a lack of safety or efficacy information regarding the use of Luffa operculata in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid with known allergy/hypersensitivity to Luffa operculata or other members of the Cucurbitaceae family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • One gram of Luffa operculata extract taken by mouth may be lethal for a 70 kilogram adult.

  • Chronic use of Luffa operculata in a nasal spray may produce changes in the lining of the nose and sinuses. Other side effects include headaches, light sensitivity, lack of concentration, absent-mindedness, irritation, nasal irritation, nosebleeds, or inability to smell.

  • Use cautiously in patients who suffer from nosebleeds, nasal irritation, or necrosis of the nasal pyramids, because Luffa operculata may cause nosebleeds.

  • Avoid in patients taking agents via inhalation, as Luffa operculata may produce changes in the lining of the nose and sinuses and thereby alter the effect of the medicines or herbs in the nasal spray.

  • Avoid with known allergy/hypersensitivity to Luffa operculata or other members of the Cucurbitaceae family.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Not recommended due to lack of sufficient data.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Luffa may interact with anticancer agents, bisphosphonates, intranasal agents (nose sprays), or respiratory agents.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Luffa may interact with anticancer agents, intranasal agents (nose sprays), or respiratory agents.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Adler, M. Efficacy and safety of a fixed-combination homeopathic therapy for sinusitis. Adv.Ther. 1999;16(2):103-111. View Abstract
  2. Kawahara, N., Kurata, A., Hakamatsuka, T., Sekita, S., and Satake, M. Two novel cucurbitacins, neocucurbitacins A and B, from the Brazilian folk medicine “Buchinha” (Luffa operculata) and their effect on PEBP2alphaA and OCIF gene expression in a human osteoblast-like Saos-2 cell line. Chem.Pharm.Bull.(Tokyo) 2001;49(10):1377-1379. View Abstract
  3. Kawahara, N., Kurata, A., Hakamatsuka, T., Sekita, S., and Satake, M. Two new cucurbitacin glucosides, opercurins A and B, from the Brazilian folk medicine “Buchinha” (Luffa operculata). Chem.Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 2004;52(8):1018-1020. View Abstract
  4. Kloss, P. [On the bitter substance from Luffa operculata Cogn.]. Arch Pharm Ber.Dtsch.Pharm Ges. 1966;299(4):351-355. View Abstract
  5. Menon-Miyake, M. A., Saldiva, P. H., Lorenzi-Filho, G., Ferreira, M. A., Butugan, O., and Oliveira, R. C. Luffa operculata effects on the epithelium of frog palate: histological features. Braz.J Otorhinolaryngol. 2005;71(2):132-138. View Abstract
  6. Menon-Miyake, M. A., Carvalho de, Oliveira R., Lorenzi-Filho, G., Saldiva, P. H., and Butugan, O. Luffa operculata affects mucociliary function of the isolated frog palate. Am J Rhinol. 2005;19(4):353-357. View Abstract
  7. Matos, F. D. J. and Gottlieb, O. R. Isocucurbitacine B Cytotoxic Constituant of Luffa Operculata. So Anais Da Acadamia Brasileira De Ciencias 1967;39(2):245.
  8. Weiser, M., Gegenheimer, L. H., and Klein, P. A randomized equivalence trial comparing the efficacy and safety of Luffa comp.-Heel nasal spray with cromolyn sodium spray in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Forsch.Komplementarmed. 1999;6(3):142-148. View Abstract
  9. Wiesenauer, M., Gaus, W., Bohnacker, U., and Haussler, S. [Efficiency of homeopathic preparation combinations in sinusitis. Results of a randomized double blind study with general practitioners]. Arzneimittelforschung. 1989;39(5):620-625. View Abstract
  10. Wiesenauer, M., Gaus, W., Bohnacker, U., and Haussler, S. [Efficiency of homeopathic preparation combinations in sinusitis. Results of a randomized double blind study with general practitioners]. Arzneimittelforschung. 1989;39(5):620-625. View Abstract
  11. ZIEGLER, E. [ON THE PROBLEM OF SUPPORTIVE HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT OF THROAT, NOSE AND EAR DISEASES, DISCUSSED WITH LUFFA OPERCULATA AS AN EXAMPLE.]. HNO 1963;11:351-352. View Abstract
  12. ZIEGLER, E. [LUFFA OPERCULATA AS A HOMEOPATHIC DRUG IN THROAT, NOSE AND EAR DISEASES.]. Landarzt. 1-20-1964;40:78-79. View Abstract

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.