Crescentia Cujete

Photo © Dan Skean, 1985, Albion College Plant Image Database.

Authors: Lana Dvorkin PharmD, Julia Whelan MS

*Also referred to as Lagenaria Siceraria. Information on calabash will be found under Lagenaria and Cucurbitaceae family. However, Lagenaria is a smaller gourd that grows on a vine while Crescentia Cujete grows on a tree. As far as the authors can determine, Crescentia Cujete is the correct botanical name of this plant belonging to the Bignonia family)

Tree with large fruits up to 10" in diameter, simple, lobe shaped leaves, and gourd like fruits. Flowers develop from buds that grow out of the main trunk and limbs. Small bats pollinate the flowers. Since scores of large fruits can grow on one tree, it is probably not a good idea to sleep under this tree when it is bearing fruit! Many people use the dried shell of the fruit to make bowls and food storage containers. Some of these are highly decorated with paintings and carvings in many intricate patterns. (See links for images of these creations.)
Historical Uses
Antihelmintic, urethritis, headache, toothache, ear ache, asthma, boils, burns, cough, fever, laxative, litholytic, menstrual irregularity, prostate disorders. Used in Haiti and St Lucia for inflammation, trauma, diarrhea. Juice is used in Mexico for prevention of diarrhea. Costa Rica used as a purgative. Venezuela used to treat tumors. Used as analgesic, anti-inflammatory to treat trauma throughout the Caribbean. In the Dominican Republic and Venezuela used to treat hematomas.
Native to Caribbean region, Mexico and Central America. Cultivated in the American tropics.
Active Ingredients
Tartaric acid, cianhidric acid, citric acid, crescentic acid. Tannins, Beta-sitosterol, Estigmasterol, Alph and Beta amirina, estearic acid, triacontanol, Palmitic Acid, Flavonoids-quercetin, apigenin. Flavonoids produce anti-inflammatory activity, antihemorraghic and anti platelet aggregation and inhibit the metabolism of araquidonic acid.
Proven Scientific Evidence
Some anti-arrhythmic activity, chronotropic and antiviral Anti-herpes, antioxidant, capillary protective, prevents plaque aggregation. Hypotensive Some antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis and Staphyllococus aureus Inhibits in vitro Salmonella typhi, Streptococcus pneumonia. For more information see Hacia una Farmacopea Caribeña
Dosage Information
Must be carefully determined due to toxicity. In animal studies a dose equal to or greater than 1,200 mg/kg of an 80% ethanol extract produced anti-inflammatory action superior to a prescription drug.
Fruit pulp has carcinogenic activity inducing possible neoplasms related to leukemia and lymphoma. Can also produce severe diarrhea. The juice and infusion are considered safe if taken properly.
Where Sold
Botanicas and fruit markets
Wild and Wonderful World of Gourds
Carribean Poetry: Barbados. Images: The Calabash
Rainforest Conservation Fund

1. Germosén-Robineau L, Enda-Caribe, Universidad de Antioquía. Hacia Una Farmacopea Caribeña : Investigacion Cientifica y Uso Popular De Plantas Medicinales En El Caribe. Santo Domingo; Enda-Caribo: Republica Dominicana; UAG & Universidad de Antioquia; 1995.

2. Armstrong WP. The wild and wonderful world of gourds. Available at: http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ww0503.htm. Accessed 11/26/04, 2004.

3. Plants database. Available at: http://plants.usda.gov/. Accessed 2/16, 2004.

4. Morton J, F. Atlas of Medicinal Plants of Middle America : Bahamas to Yucatan. Springfield IL: Charles C. Thomas; 1981.

5. Melendez EN. Plantas Medicinales De Puerto Rico. Vol 1. 1st ed. Rio Pedras, PR: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico; 1982.



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