KUSMANDA (Benincasa hispida)
The Sanskrit word kusmanda literally means that, fruit, which does not contain heat at all. It has various synonyms in ancient Ayurvedic scriptures, delineating its peculiarities, like sthiraphala – the fruit lasts for longer duration, paspaphala – which blooms and bears fruits at the same time, pitapuspa has yellow flowers, amrta – ambrosia, samaka – has cold potency etc. It is mentioned in various Samhitas that Kusmanda has asmarighna urolitholytic property and mutrakrcchraghna – alleviates dysuria. Maharsi Caraka has categorized it as rasayana – the rejuvenative for muscle tissue (mamsa dhatu). Vagbhata has mentioned its preparation Kusmanda rasayana to be beneficial in numerous diseases like tuberculosis, general debility, mental debility, hiccup, asthma, raktapitta and fever. Another formulation of kusmanda with cow’s milk, sugar and amalaki is cited as the remedy for hyperacidity. This formulation is called as Kusmanda khanda.
The plant is cultivated throughout India in plains and hills. It is a perennial, large trailing gourd climbing with tendrils. The leaves are large, 10-15 cm in diameter, heart-shaped, covered with rather rough bristly hair beneath. The flowers are pale yellow in color, unisexual, male peduncle 7-10 cm long and female peduncle shorter. The fruits are large, broadly cylindrical, 0.33-0.5 meter long, covered with whitish hair throughout. The plant flowers in November and later on fruiting occurs. Each plant yields nearly 50-60 fruits.
The botanical name of kusmanda is Benincasa hispida, (synonym – benincasa cerifera) and it belongs to family Cucurbitaceae. It contains cucuribitine a bitter resin, myosin, vitelin, sugar etc. The seeds contain stable oil and fruits 96% moisture. Detection of sitosterol, lupeol, triacontanol, mannitol, arginine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, asparagines, glutamine, praline, hydroxyproline, isoleucine, cysteine, L-leucine, glucose and rhamnose in fruits by TLC.
Kusmanda is sweet in taste, sweet in the post digestive effect and has cold potency. It has a special potency as a nervine tonic. It alleviates vata and pitta doshas, but aggravates the kapha dosha. The properties of its fruit changes according to stages of ripening. The tender fruits alleviate pitta dosa. Medium – riped fruits alleviate kapha dosha whereas, fully ripened fruits alleviate all the three doshas. There is an ancient Sanskrit saying- Vrntakam bahubijanam kusmandam komalam visam meaning, over mature fruit of brinjal and very tender fruit of kusmanda is like a toxin to the body . Kusmanda is a refuvenative, diuretic and aphrodisiac in properties and is used in urinary disorders, urinary calculi, general debility etc.
The fruits and seeds are used for medicinal purpose. Externally, the pulp of fruit is applied on wounds and burns to alleviate the burning sensation. The seeds mashed with water, serve the same purpose. In headache the seed oil is massaged for relief.
Internally, kusmanda is used in vast range of diseases. In thirst due to vitiated pitta, it is used with great benefit. In flatulence, it is beneficial because of its mild laxative property. The pulp of the fruit along with laxative is an effective remedy for tapeworm infestation. The seed oil facilitates the stools smoothly as well as renders styptic action, hence beneficial in bleeding piles. The fruit juice, mixed with sugar ameliorates hyperacidity. In tuberculosis with cavitation and haemoptysis, kusmanda is highly recommended, as it bestows rejuvenative, styptic and tonic properties. The root powder is given with water to alleviate the bronchospasm in asthma. The fruit juice, mixed with yastimadhu, is the best panacea for epilepsy. In hysteria, it works well with the powder of kustha, along with honey. The combination of its fruit juice, asafetida and yavaksara is extremely valuable in the treatment of urinary calculi and dysuria. Kusmanda is rewarding in cardiac debility as an adjunct. The seeds mashed with milk or the various preparations from the pulp of fruit in the form of sweetmeats, like Kusmanda paka and petha are commonly used as a general tonic, aphrodisiac, rejuvenative and also a brain tonic. Kusmanda inhibits mental instability, agitation and induces sound sleep. It nourishes the tarpaka kapha, which in turn, augments the memory and intelligence. The fruit juice of kusmanda is said to be an antidote for lead poisoning.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
- Kusmanda paka
- Kusmanda ghrta
- Kusmanda curna
- Kalyanaka ghrta
- Kusmanda rasayana
- Kusmanda khanda etc.