Presently, there has been an increasing awareness on the need for including more vegetables in our diet in order to maintain healthy body. To this date, several researchers have unraveled numerous reasons why increasing the rate of producing vegetables and fruit should increase tremendously, the need to include more fruit and vegetables in our diet and the unending benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables on a daily basis otherwise popularly known as 5-A-DAY.

One of such important vegetables is Fluted Pumpkin, which is botanically known as Telfairia Occidentalis Hook F. and of the cucurbitacase family. The tropical fluted pumpkin is a dioecious and perennial plant that originated from the West African continent precisely from the Southern part of Nigeria before spreading to other places such as Ghana, Cameroon and Sierra Leone.

This creeping vine looking plant is characterised by greenish leafy vegetables and fleshy fluted gourds with hard edible seeds. When cultivated, the fluted pumpkins develop tendrils that usually creep and spread on the surface of the ground if left unattended to and coiled through stakes. Characterised by broad lobed leaves, the fluted pumpkin leaves (Telfairia Occidentalis) is locally referred to as ugu leaves and culinarily used for cooking stews, soups, yam and vegetables, sauces and even for medicinal purposes.

The ugu seeds are also edible however, they ought to be properly cooked before consumption. The cooked fluted pumpkin seeds can be dipped in palm oil or local sauces before eating and can also be used for making soaps as well as local spices known as ogiri or ogili. Fluted pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of protein and oil thus are highly beneficial to human health. Interestingly, the seeds can last for months or up to a year in the gourd if left uncut and whole. There has been an overwhelming increase in the consumption of fluted pumpkin leaves, seeds and shoots over the past years due to all the nutritive benefits obtainable from them.

Some of the fluted gourds are quite big, however some are medium and quite small. The seeds in each gourds can approximately count between 10-200 depending on the size of the gourd. Fluted pumpkin flowers are usually dioecious, however only few tends to be monoecious. The flowers usually grow in a set of 3, 4, 5 or 6.

Fluted pumpkin has been associated with several healing properties for treating and alleviating certain diseases and illnesses. The fluted pumpkin leaves are usually washed and squeezed for the juice, which is used as a herbal treatment. The fluted pumpkin leaves juice can be drank immediately after juicing or refrigerated and consumed within 3 days, however the juice is not ideally meant to be boiled or heated before consumption. Both the leaves, shoots and seeds of fluted pumpkin are an excellent source of protein, fat, β-carotene, carbohydrate, ascorbate, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, dietary fiber, copper, potassium, zinc, iron and calcium.

The fluted pumpkin plant is also rich in saponins, glycosides, phytic acid, tannin, flavonoids, alkaloids, resins, hydrocyanic acid and oxalic acids. The fluted pumpkin seeds contain a high proportion of edible oil, which has a lower saponification value when compared to other types of oil such as palm oil and vegetable oil. The fluted pumpkin oil is also an excellent source of iodine due to its high content of unsaturated fatty acids.

Hematological Properties
The aqueous extract of fluted pumpkin leaves (Telfairia occidentalis) can be used for treating anaemia due to the haematinic properties of the leaf. This is as a result of the high content of protein and iron in the plant. This suggests why the herbal medicine serves as a antianemic and blood tonic for increasing the haemoglobin levels.

Preparing the aqueous extract of fluted pumpkin leaves requires plucking the leaves from the tendrils, thoroughly washing the leaves in clean water with salt and then squeezing the leaves in sizable quantity of water to obtain the leaf extract. Afterwards, the squeezed extract is then filtered with sieve before consuming. It is always recommended to drink the juice immediately after the preparation or refrigerate it and consume within 3 days.

Anti-malaria Properties
From time immemorial, plants and herbs have been considered a better treatment option for malarial attacks. One of such malaria-treatment plant is fluted pumpkin. Fluted pumpkin roots possess antiplasmodial and schizonticidal properties thus capable of treating parasitic malaria infection. However, the mean survival time have been reported to remain low unlike the usual malarial drugs.

Reduction of Kidney Diseases
Fluted pumpkin contains high phosphorus level thus can be used for keeping off the onset of kidney diseases such as kidney stone.

Treatment of Infertility
Fluted pumpkin seed oil (FPSO) can be used for treating infertility in male by boosting the functionality of the testicles for an increased sperm count. This is as a result of the high level of anti-oxidative properties such as oleic acid, vitamin A, alkaloids, tannins and linoleic acid in the oil that restrains the lipid peroxidation activities thereby boosting fertility. Moreover, vitamin A is a powerful vitamin for safeguarding the testis against lipid peroxidation, thereby improving spermatogenesis and structural differentiation of epithelial cells of the epididymis.

Stress Reduction
Studies reveal that consuming fluted pumpkin is capable of protecting human beings from oxidative stress. This is as a result of the present of antioxidants like tocopherol, dismutase, catalase, glutathione reductase and ascorbic acid in the plant, which protect the body from free radicals.

Anti-diabetic activity
Researchers reveal that the seeds and leaves of fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis) contain anti-diabetic activities. The aqueous leaf extract of the plant is capable of reducing and regulating the glucose level of diabetic patients due to the ethyl acetate content of the leaf. Also the polysaccharides content of the plant contains anti-diabetic properties.

Lactating Properties
The oily seeds of the fluted pumpkin is markedly known for its lactating properties thus highly recommended for nursing mothers.

Anti-inflammatory Properties
The fluted pumpkin leaf is known for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, which has been proved to prevent Carrageenan-induced oedema. This is achieved by inhibiting the neurogenic, non-neurogenic and narcotic pains affecting the inflamed body part.

Antimicrobial activity
Studies reveal that the fluted pumpkin plant possesses antibacterial properties that make it capable of inhibiting the growth of intestinal pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, S. faecalis, Salmonella typhi.

Toxicity Properties
Fluted pumpkin roots have been reported to be toxic and poisonous with biochemical activities. Researchers reveal that the roots of fluted pumpkin is harmful on the mucosa lining of the stomach.

Treatment of Cardiovascular Diseases
Fluted pumpkin can be used to prepare herbal medicine, which can be used for maintaining healthy working heart as well as for treating cardiovascular diseases.

Anticancer Properties
Cancer has been reported as the leading cause of death all over the world and this menace has been projected to remain on the rise if not tackled. Despite the orthodox medicine in use for tackling cancer, it has been reported that these medicines and chemotherapeutic treatment can pose long-term side effects on the patient. Due to this, researchers have recommended the use of plants and herbs for treating cancer and one of such plants is fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis).

Studies reveal that the fluted pumpkin leaves and seeds contain anticancer, antioxidative and superoxide properties, which help to prevent oxidative burst in the blood. The Telfairia occidentalis leaves contain chlorophyll, phenolic compounds, saponins, tannins, flavonoids, glycosides and phytosterols, which possess chemo-suppressive properties.

This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.

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