International Journal of Nutrition, Pharmacology, Neurological Diseases

: 2012  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 276--277

Bitter bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria): Healer or killer?

Anupama Sukhlecha 
 Department of Pharmacology, M.P. Shah Medical College, Jamnagar, Gujarat, India

Correspondence Address:
Anupama Sukhlecha
Department of Pharmacology, M.P. Shah Medical College, Jamnagar - 361 008, Gujarat

How to cite this article:
Sukhlecha A. Bitter bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria): Healer or killer?.Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2012;2:276-277

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Sukhlecha A. Bitter bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria): Healer or killer?. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis [serial online] 2012 [cited 2022 May 24 ];2:276-277
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Health benefits of fresh vegetables have been known since time immemorial and are even recommended by naturopaths. Fresh bottle gourd juice can treat hyperlipidemia, diabetes, constipation, urinary problems, depression, and so on, as reported in literature and various studies. [1],[2],[3],[4]

Cooked bottle gourd is a calming, soothing food that acts as a diuretic. It is extremely low in calories, high in dietary fiber, and makes an excellent food for people who are dieting. Half a cup or 58 grams of cooked bottle gourd contains only eight calories. [5]

 Case Report

In a recent magazine, an article reported the death of a well-known scientist of Delhi, who consumed fresh juice of bitter bottle gourd. [6] Similar cases were also reported at Dehradun, Mehasana, other parts of India, and the globe. An article in a leading journal reports of fifteen such cases. [7]

The above-mentioned patients developed severe hematemesis, dizziness, and sweating, and collapsed. However, timely management saved some of them. [7],[8],[9]


Although vegetables and fruits are considered as nutritious and healthy food, they can occasionally become toxic, which can be known by their taste. Some mushrooms, which are rich in protein, also turn toxic. Bottle gourd, which belongs to the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae) can also turn toxic and dangerous like mushrooms. Cucurbitacins are complex compounds found in plants belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family. The tetracyclic triterpenoid Cucurbitacin compounds are responsible for the bitterness in vegetables like cucumber, squash, eggplants, melon, pumpkin, and gourds. The molecular formula is C32-H48-O8 [Figure 1]. [10] {Figure 1}

High levels of Cucurbitacin compounds are triggered by high temperature, wide temperature swings, low pH, very little water, low soil fertility, and also due to improper storage of vegetables or over-matured vegetables. These compounds are highly toxic to mammals. These toxins, when absorbed into the blood could cause hepatitis, pancreatitis, cholecystitis, and renal damage. This in turn can lead to multiorgan dysfunction, which could be fatal. [4],[6],[7],[8],[9]

The amount of bitter juice that is consumed decides the level of toxicity. In the case mentioned earlier, while 50 ml of bitter bottle gourd juice produced complications, over 200 ml proved to be fatal. [6],[7],[8],[9] An intraperitoneal lethal dose for pure Cucurbitacins reported in mouse is 1.2 mg / kg. [9] The intravenous lethal dose reported in cat is 1 mg / kg, and in rabbit 6 mg / kg, respectively. [11] Juices of some vegetables like bitter gourd, neem (Azadirachta indica), and so on, are naturally bitter. Mixing them with untasted bottle gourd juice can mask the taste of bitter bottle gourd juice leading to poisoning.

Management of bitter bottle gourd juice poisoning

Any patient with symptoms of discomfort, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal bleeding after consumption of bottle gourd juice should be put on intravenous (IV) fluids and a detailed examination of the vital organs should be carried out. Details of the quantity of the juice consumed and its taste should be recorded. [7],[8]

Laboratory investigations

Prothrombin time, platelet counts, serum amylase, blood sugar, X-Ray chest, echocardiogram (ECG), ultrasound, and endoscopy


As there is no specific antidote available, general supportive care such IV fluids / crystalloids / blood products / fresh frozen plasma have to be given to maintain the hemodynamics and electrolyte balance, and injection Ranitidine can be given to control gastritis and bleeding.


The Union Health Ministry of India has advised people to avoid drinking bottle gourd juice if it is bitter. The advisory is based on the report of an expert committee of the Indian Council of Medical Research, chaired by S.K. Sharma, Head of the Department of Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, which was set up to investigate the safety of consuming bottle gourd juice. [8],[12]

'Raw bottle gourd juice' has been promoted as a miracle drink for weight loss. It is advisable to consume cooked bottle gourd because raw vegetable could harm the stomach and digestive system, causing ulcers and rarely multi-organ damage. The bitter taste should let people know that it is poisonous. Drinking uncooked bottle gourd juice or eating raw bottle gourd is dangerous to health. [5]


It is advisable to consume cooked bottle gourd. Once cooked, the bottle gourd becomes harmless, offering health benefits. A small piece of bottle gourd should be tasted (from both ends); to make sure that it is not bitter. Bitter bottle gourd should be discarded and not be used even after cooking. Only bottle gourd juice which is not bitter in taste may be consumed and that too in a limited quantity (i.e. less than 100 ml). It should not be mixed with any other juice. Medical help should be sought immediately if one gets discomfort, nausea, vomiting or any feeling of uneasiness after consuming bottle gourd juice.


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