Family • Bignoniaceae - Crescentia cujete Linn. - CALABASH TREE - Hu lu shu

Scientific names

Crescentia cuneiflora Gardn.
Crescentia cujete Linn.

Common names

Ayale (Engl.)
Cujete (Span., Tag.)
Calabash tree (Engl.)
Kalebas (Engl.)

Other vernacular names

CHINESE: Hu lu shu.
DUTCH: Kalebasboom.
FRENCH: Calebassier.
GERMAN: Kalebassenbaum.
ITALIAN: Calebassa Guiana, Icara.
PORTUGUESE: Coité, Cuieira, Cuité, Cujeté.
SPANISH: Calabacero, Crescencia, Guacal, Guiro, Jicara, Morro, Cujete.

Cujete is a smooth, much-branched tree growing to a height of 4 to 5 meters. Branches are arching with close-set clusters of leaves. Leaves are alternate, often fascicled at the nodes, oblanceolate, 5 to 17 centimeters long, glossy at the upper surface, blunt at the tip and narrowed at the base. Flowers develop from the buds that grow from the main trunk, yellowish and sometimes veined with purple, with a slightly foetid odor, occurring singly or in pairs at the leaf axils, stalked and about 6 centimeters long, and opens in the evening. Calyx is about 2 centimeters long, and split into two lobes. Fruit is short-stemmed, rounded, oval or oblong, green or purplish, 15 to 20 centimeters in diameter.


– Occasionally cultivated for ornamental purposes.
– Recently introduced from tropical America.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Bioactive furanonaphthoquinones from Crescentia cujete /

(2) Uses of medicinal plants by Haitian immigrants and their descendants in the Province of Camagüey, Cuba./ J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2009 May 18;5:16

(3) The Calabash (Crescentia cujete) in Folk Medicine / Julia F Morton / © 1968 New York Botanical Garden Press.

(4) IN VITRO ANTIBACTERIAL ACTIVITY of Crescentia cujete and Moringa oleifera / Khandaker Rayhan Mahbub, Md. Mojibul Hoq, Monzur Morshed Ahmed, Animesh Sarker / BANGLADESH RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS JOURNAL ISSN: 1998-2003, Volume: 5, Issue: 4, Page: 337-343, July -August, 2011

(5) Antioxidant activities of ethanol extracts and fractions of Crescentia cujete leaves and stem bark and the involvement of phenolic compounds / Nandita Das, Md Ekramul Islam, Nusrat Jahan, Mohammad Saiful Islam, Alam Khan, Md Rafikul Islam and Mst Shahnaj Parvin* / Das et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:45/

(6) Antivenom activity of ethanolic extract of Crescentia cujete fruit / Shastry, C. S.; Bhalodia Maulik, M.; Aswathanarayana, B. J. / International Journal of Phytomedicine; January 2012, Vol. 4 Issue 1, p108

(7) Anti-angiogenesis Effect of Calabash Fruit (Crescentia cujete Linn.) Pericarp Fruit via Choriollantoic Membrane Assay: A Potential Agent against Tumour Vascularisation / R. J. I. Tambole, M. J. K. Peteros, J. J. / Alegado Bayugan National Comprehensive High School

(8) CNS depressant properties of the crude extract of Crescentia cujete in mice / AO Aderibigbe, T Olufunmilayo, OI Agboola / Planta Med 2013; 79 – PE4 / DOI: 10.1055/s-0033-1352023

• Phytochemical studies of the fresh fruit pulp report the presence of crescentic acid, tartaric acid, citric, and tannic acids, two resins and a coloring matter than resembles indigo.
• Studies yielded tartaric acid, cianhidric acid, citric acid, crescentic acid, tannins, beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, alpha and beta amyrins, estearic acid, palmitic acid.
• Study yielded flavonoids quercetin, apigenin with antiinflammatory, antihemorrhagic and anti-platelet aggregation activities.
• Leaves have yielded naphthoquinone, iridoid glycosides, aucubin, plumieride, and asperuloside.
• Phytochemical study of the fruit yielded eight new compounds, along with four known compounds, acanthoside D, ß-D-glucopransoyl benzoate, (R)-1-0-ß-glucopyranosyl-1,3-octanediol.
• Fruit yielded four new 11-nor-iridoids: 6-O-p-hydroxybenzoyl-10-deoxyeucommiol, 6-O-benzoyl-10-deoxyeucommiol, 6-O-benzoyl-dihydrocatalpolgenine (a mixture of 3 and 4) with two known iridoids, ningpogenin and 6-O-p-hydroxybenzoylaucubin.
• Phytochemical study on the fruit yielded saponins, flavonoid, cardenolides, tannins, and phenol, as well as the presence of hydrogen cyanide. Results also showed relatively low mean concentrations for heavy metals, but high mean concentrations for manganese, iron, zinc, and copper. Values for fat, protein, nitrogen, crude fibre, moisture content, sucrose, fructose, galactose and energy content are quite high viz; 1.13, 8.35, 1.34, 4.28, 84.92, 59.86, 25.09, 18.24 and 88.69%, respectively.

• Fruit considered aperient, laxative, expectorant.
• Considered anthelmintic, analgesic, antiinflammatory, febrifuge, laxative.

Parts used
Fruit, bark, leaves.


• In India, used as a pectoral, the poultice of pulp is applied to the chest.
• In the West Indies, syrup prepared from the pulp used for dysentery and skin diseases; also used as pectoral.
• In Rio de Janeiro, the alcoholic extract of the not-quite ripe fruit used to relieve constipation
• For erysipelas, the fresh pulp is boiled in water to form a black paste, mixed and boiled with vinegar, spread on linen for dermatologic application.
• The bark is used for mucoid diarrhea.
• Fruit pulp used as laxative and expectorant.
• In the Antilles and Western Africa, fruit pulp macerated in water is considered depurative, cooling and febrifuge, and applied to burns and headaches.
• In West Africa, fruit roasted in ashes is purgative and diuretic.
• In Sumatra, bark decoction used to clean wounds and pounded leaves used as poultice for headaches.
• Internally, leaves used as diuretic.
• Throughout the Caribbean, used as analgesic and anti-inflammatory
• In the Antilles, fresh tops and leaves are ground and used as topicals for wounds and as cicatrizant.
• In Venezuela, decoction of bark used for diarrhea. Also, used to treat hematomas and tumors.
• In Costa Rica, used as purgative.
• In Cote-d’Ivoire, used for hypertension because of its diuretic effect.
• In Columbia, used for respiratory afflictions.
• In Vietnam, used as expectorant, antitussive, laxative and stomachic. Fruit decoction used to treat diarrhea, stomachaches, cold, bronchitis, cough, asthma, and urethritis.
• In Haiti, the fruit of Crescentia cujete is part of the herbal mixtures reported in its traditional medicine. In the province of Camaguey in Cuba, is considered a panacea.
• In Panama, where it is called totumo, the fruit is used for diarrhea and stomachaches. Also for respiratory ailments, bronchitis, cough, colds, toothaches. headaches, menstrual irregularities; as laxative, antiinflammatory, febrifuge. The leaves are used for hypertension.

• In some countries, the dried shell of the fruit is used to make bowls and fruit containers, decorated with paintings or carvings.
• Used in making maracas or musical rattle..
• In Brazil, the fibrous lining of the fruit is sometimes used as a substitute for cigarette paper.
• A favorite perch for orchids.

 Study Findings
• Phytochemicals / Fruits: Previous studies have yielded naphthoquinones and iridoid glucosides. The fruits yielded 15 new compounds, 3 iridoid glucosides, five iridoids, 3 2,4-pentanediol glycosides, along with known compounds.
• Iridoids and Iridoid Glucosides / Fruits: Study fruit constituents yielded 16 iridoids and iridoid glucosides. Eight compounds were new, named crescentins I-V and crescentosides A, B, and C. Another eight known compounds were identified as ajugol, 6-O-p-hydroxybenzoylajugol, aucubin, 6-O-p- hydroxybenzoyl-6-epiaucubin, agnuside, ningpogenin, 5,7-bisdeoxycynanchoside and a degradation product of glutinoside.
• Nutritive and Anti-Nutritive Composition of Calabash Fruit: Pulp was found to have high mineral concentrations; sodium, highest; calcium, lowest, with high values of thiamine and found to be free from HCN toxicity and suggests useful contributions to human health and nutrition.
• Bioactive Furanonaphthoquinones : Study isolated new and known bioactive compounds showing selective activity toward DNA-repair-deficient yeast mutants.
• Antibacterial: In a study of extracts against E. coli and S. aureus, Crescentia cujete showed activity against S. aureus.
• Antibacterial: Among several solvents used, only the ethanol extracts showed significant antimicrobial activity against Shigella dysenteriae, Bacillus cereus, B. subtilis, B. megaterium and Staphylococcus aureus.
• Snake Venom Neutralizing Effect: In a study of t5 plant extracts used by traditional healers in Colombia for snakebites, 31 had moderate to high neutralizing ability against the hemorrhagic effect of Bothrops atrox venom. C cujete (unripe fruits) was one of 19 that showed moderate neutralization.
• Antidiabetic: In a non experimental validation for antidiabetic activity, study yields cyanhidric acid believed to stimulate insulin release.
• Crude Oil from Calabash Seed: Crude seed oil was found to have the following composition: saturated acids 19.7%, oleic acid 59.4%, linoleic acid 19.3%, linolenic acid 1.6%. Calabash oil is similar to peanut and olive oils except for its content of linolenic acid, which is an unusual constituent for an oil of low iodine number.
• Antioxidant / Leaves and Stem Bark: Study evaluated leaves and bark crude ethanol extracts for antioxidant activity using DPPH, FRP, and TAC assays. Phytochemical screening yielded steroids, flavonoids, tannins, glycosides, and terpenoids. The leaves showed significant free radical scavenging properties compared to the stem bark. There was a clear correlation between antioxidant activity and phenolic content.
• Antivenom Activity / Leaves and Stem Bark: Study evaluated the antivenom activity of ethanolic extracts of Crescentia cujete fruit in experimental animals. Results showed significant neutralizing capacity of snake Vipera russelli venom which may be beneficial in the treatment of snake bites.
• Anti-Angionesis Effect: Study of Calabash fruit epicarp showed dose-dependent (100% concentration) antiangiogenic effect on chick embryo. Results suggest a potential for halting tumor revascularization.
• CNS Depressant Effect: Study evaluated the CNS depressant properties of a crude extract of pulp of fruit of C. cujete. There was significant dose dependent reduction in rearing, grooming, locomotor activity and head dips in mice with an anxiogenic effect on the elevated plus maze test.. Results showed the fruit possess central depressant properties.