Ash gourd is one of the plants constituent of anti-cancer medicine in Ayurveda. Benincasa cerifera syn Benincasa hispida is the botanical name of this plant that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. The plant’s fruits are used as vegetables in South Asia and China.
References to the plant in Chinese medicine go back to the Tang dynasty, where it finds a mention in Materia Medica (c. AD 659). Various plants treated urinary dysfunctions, vaginal discharges, and fevers. In Ayurveda, the fruit treats respiratory ailments and urinary infections.
Experiments on animals have shown that the fruit extract helped inhibit gastric ulcers (Shetty et al., 2008). Certain flavonoids (bi-flavones) isolated from the stem and branches exhibited cytotoxic properties in the colon, non–small cell lung, breast, ovarian, and renal cell cancers (Pradhan et al., 2009).
Beyond these little experiments, scientific evidence to support the anti-cancer property of the plant appears to be tenuous.
Anecdotally though, many plants are claimed to possess miraculous medicinal properties. A 2018 survey of Chinese-speaking cancer patients found that 65% used alternative or complementary medicine. (Balneaves et al., 2018).
There is a sense of desperation in cancer sufferers and caregivers. The trauma associated with this disease is considerable, and fear and its toll on health. Treatment often contributes to this trauma. Desperate patients often look to alternatives to alleviate suffering.
Alternate medicine healers develop miraculous cures that they claim will heal a patient of pain and provide relief. Unfortunately, these claims have not been verified by scientific trials. I have been writing about natural remedies for close to six years. In my research, as I wrote my books on this subject, I have looked at a lot of scientific evidence. A few plants used in Ayurveda and TCM have been proven to possess anti-cancer properties. These have been converted and are now in use in modern medicine. Vincristine was isolated from Vinca rosea and is now a standard constituent of chemotherapy medicine. Research on other plants is taking place.
Until this research concludes, it is often unsafe to go by anecdotal evidence. I know people are desperate and will still be convinced by healers, friends, and family to try a miracle plant cure.