Intshungu herbs and health benefits.

Intshungu herbs and health benefits.

Momordica balsamina, African pumpkin (Cucurbitaceae), is a tendril-bearing, wild climber containing wide spectrum of medicinal and nutritional values and has been used as a traditional folk medicine in many countries.

The leaves, fruits, seeds, and bark of the plant contains resins, alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides, steroids, terpenes, cardiac glycoside, saponins having various medicinal importance viz. anti-HIV, anti-plasmodial, shigellocidal, anti-diarrheal, anti-septic, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, hypoglycemic, antioxidant, analgesic and hepatoprotective properties.

The therapeutic agent ‘Momordin’ is capable of inhibiting the growth of HIV and other viruses. The leaves are also important source of nutrients having 17 amino acids with adequate mineral composition like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, sodium, zinc, manganese and iron. It also helps to combat the problem of micronutrient deficiencies in soil and high value of protein and fat with low fibre content. High potassium content is a good source for the management of hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions.

This plant is being promoted as a protein supplement for cereal-based diets in poor rural communities. The commercial exploitation of this plant for biopharmaceuticals and neutraceuticals are some of the prospective future potential of this wild herb. This review discusses the potential of medicinal and nutritional importance of this wild herb for health care management.

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