Coccinia aka Ivy gourd, is a plant grown in tropical climates that is used for food and medicinal purposes. There are different species of ivy gourd, including Coccinia indica, Coccinia cordifolia, and Coccinia grandis, which are often compared to bitter melon. In addition to being a staple of Indian, Indonesian, and Thai cuisines, the fruit is believed to offer health benefits. Available as a dietary supplement, ivy gourd is said to have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may aid in the prevention or treatment of a diverse range of health conditions, from diabetes and high cholesterol to high blood pressure and obesity. Ivy gourd is rich in an orange-red pigment called beta-carotene which has potent antioxidant effects. By neutralizing free radicals in the bloodstream, antioxidants may help slow or prevent damage to cells at the molecular level. Ivy gourd also contains phytonutrients, such as saponins, flavonoids, and terpenoids, that are though offer heart and anti-cancer benefits. Alternative practitioners believe that these plant-based compounds are potent enough to treat a variety of illnesses (including asthma, gonorrhea, and skin infections) and even stimulate weight loss. However, the clinical evidence supporting these claims is almost invariably weak. With that said, ivy gourd is rich in fiber, B vitamins, and iron and may help relieve occasional constipation and normalize blood sugar. Possible Side Effects When used for food, ivy gourd is considered nutritious and has few ill effects. By contrast, little is known about the long-term safety of ivy gourd supplements. Side effects appear to be minimal, although loose stools may occur as a result of the plant's laxative effects. Because of its impact on blood sugar, ivy gourd supplements should be used with caution in people on anti-diabetes medications. Taking them together may cause an abnormal drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia), characterized by shakiness, dizziness, anxiety, sweating, hunger, and a precipitous drop in blood pressure. For this same reason, ivy gourd supplements should be discontinued at least two weeks prior to scheduled surgery. The safety of ivy gourd supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children has not been established. As such, it is best to avoid ivy gourd unless under the direct supervision of a qualified physician.