Tondli is a dietary staple throughout the West Indies and South Asia, and it is particularly popular in India and Pakistan. This gourd plant is prepared in a variety of ways that take advantage of its versatility and its subtle flavor, which goes well with healthy spices such as cumin and turmeric. But tondli has plenty of nutritional value on its own, with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can be helpful in preventing and treating disease.
Tondli is also known by the alternative spelling tendli, as well as by the common name ivy gourd and by its scientific name, Coccinia grandis. It's a climbing vine that belongs to the pumpkin family, with large leaves and flowers. The fruit is hairless with a thick, sticky skin that is green when immature and bright red when ripe. It's often prepared with potatoes and served with yogurt, or stuffed with spices and then fried in oil or used in a stir-fry with coconut milk, cashews or peanuts, and spices.
Tondli is a rich source of carbohydrates, and it contains 1.2 percent protein, 260 IU of vitamin A, and 15 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams of fruit, according to the "Handbook of Vegetable Science and Technology," by D. K. Salunkhe and S. S. Kadam. A study published in "Acta Botanica Yunnanica" compared tondli to six other vegetables and found that it was the highest of the group in potassium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.The leaves and fruit also contain the vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
Traditional Indian ayurvedic medicine uses tondli to purify blood tissue, enhance digestion and stimulate the liver. Although these claims haven't been verified in clinical trials, a study published in the "African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine" in 2008 showed that tondli leaves had strong antioxidant properties, meaning the ability to fight free radical damage to cells and DNA. In a study published in the "Global Journal of Pharmacology" in 2011, researchers in India found that tondli extracts were an effective antibiotic against several bacteria strains that commonly cause urinary tract infections. In July 2011, the journal "Experimental Diabetes Research" reported that tondli significantly lowered blood sugar in a group given tondli extracts versus those in a control group.
Avoid using tondli if you're pregnant or breast-feeding, since little is known about the effects of tondli on a fetus or infants. Because tondli does have the ability to lower blood sugar, avoid consuming tondli gourds, leaves or extracts if you have diabetes without checking with your doctor first. Stop consuming tondli for at least two weeks before scheduled surgery, due to its effect on blood sugar. If you have an allergy to other members of the Curcurbitaceae family of vegetables, avoid tondli and consult your doctor immediately if you develop signs of an allergic reaction, such as a rash, swelling or shortness of breath.