What Is A Natural Loofah Plant?

We’ve all heard the term “loofah” before. It’s the fluffy, spongy thing that you use to wash up in the shower! Well, at least that’s what I thought it was…

Turns out, the loofah, or more properly spelled, luffa, is actually a naturally occurring plant! Yes. A plant!

More specifically, the luffa is a genus of vine related to the cucumber family.

3 green luffas on wooden surface

When the plant is still in its early stages of development, it can be harvested and eaten as a vegetable.

However… in this post I am going to be talking about all the non-edible uses of the loofah plant.


History of The Loofah

As I said previously, this naturally occurring plant is a vegetable belonging to the cucumber family. It looks more like a big zucchini or squash, and is primarily consumed in India, China, and Vietnam.

However, this plant was originally used by Ancient Egyptians as a body sponge and was one of the first plants to be domesticated in America around 9-10,000 years ago.

Since then, the loofah has had many uses, including insulation in helmets and pillows and was used for ship filters during World War II.

However, now loofahs are generally sold as big, fluffy pieces of plastic.

Many people have gotten away from the idea of natural loofahs since the introduction of man-made ones. But I think it’s time to reconsider adopting this wonderful plant back into our lives.


Loofah Plant Uses

When I first saw a video on luffa harvesting, I was amazed.

An older gentlemen had a whole trellis of vines that had bright green vegetables dangling from them.

When he cut the skin open, inside was a perfect, fibrous loofah that looked just like one you would buy from the Bath and Body section of a store!

The loofah can be used several ways.

1. Dish Scrubber

Ditch your old, plastic sponge for a natural loofah! Plastic sponges are bad for the environment and often harbor a whole host of bad bacteria inside of them.

I never liked using sponges simply because I knew they would ultimately end up in the landfill, so I tried other alternatives. I got a biodegradable cloth, but it mostly worked as a paper towel replacer, and couldn’t scrub off any of the grime on my dishes.

The fibrous texture of a natural loofah is great for scrubbing and washing dishes…and better yet, it doesn’t retain heaps of moisture (which is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria in a normal sponge).

The loofah’s normally come in fairly long sizes, so it’s best to cut it to the size you want when using this as a household product.

2. Shower Loofah

You guessed it…. the loofah can be used as a loofah in your shower!

Store-bought loofahs, again, are made of plastic and store a bunch of bacteria in them (which isn’t very clean). The natural loofah plant can be used as a body scrubber and can safely be used with water and soap.

3. Dry Brush

The loofah plant can also be used as an effective dry brush.

Dry brushing is the technique of massaging your skin with soft, dry bristles.

This practice has been linked to many health benefits including:

legs crossed up against blue wall

  • Increased circulation
  • Aids in digestion
  • Skin exfoliant
  • Promotes lymph flow/drainage

4. Homemade Soap/Soap Dish

If you don’t already have a soap dish or tray, simply cut off a slice of your loofah and use it as an all-natural soap dish! I’ve also seen videos where people make homemade soap, and cut little chunks of the loofah into it for a good exfoliating scrub.

Some other natural exfoliants for soap are oatmeal or ground almonds/walnuts. Either way, try to buy soap that doesn’t contain any harmful microplastics.


Your Next Zero Waste Swap

Overall, the loofah has some amazing uses. Especially when used as a dish scrubber for pots and pans. It’s so great to see that there are natural products that you can literally make in your own backyard to replace plastic cleaning items.

man peeling loofa husk

When the loofah has run its course, you can safely dispose of it in your green yard waste bin and cut off a new piece!

I hope that you found this information interesting/informative. I know that when I first learned about natural loofah’s I was absolutely amazed.

Hopefully we can all get back to our roots and start using the things that nature intended for us to use!

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever used a natural loofah before and how you liked it!

12 Replies to “What Is A Natural Loofah Plant?”

  1. Wow! I’ve seen this “sponge” around since a lot of time but I never knew what it really was! Understanding what is behind it and the potential of it in order to reduce waste and have a more sustainable habit is very useful! Nature seems to have already what we used years to build up in an artificial way… it’s amazing!

    Miche says:
    1. That’s so cool that you’ve seen the natural loofah before! It definitely is a good way to reduce waste in the bathroom and kitchen. 

      Ashley says:
  2. I’ve never heard of loofah before and I’m guessing that many folks haven’t either.This appears to me as it is a very beneficial plant.

    I’m always interested in plants that can be used for natural treatments for different things.This is a pretty amazing product that I know I would use. I’m thinking that there must be a lot more uses for it.I’m very interested to know if they help with blood sugars and diabetes.Where can you get loofahs and how much do they cost?

    Rob S. says:
    1. I agree, Rob! I don’t think many people know about this plant or its many uses! This plant contains lots of vitamins and minerals (before it’s fully matured) and has been shown to help with diabetes (as many plant foods do). I also read that this plant helps with sinuses and seasonal allergies! 

      I have linked this post to Amazon, where you can easily buy these loofahs (for around $10-$15). However, you may get lucky and find them at your local health food store or farmer’s market!

      Ashley says:
  3. Well. As they say every day is a school day!

    Although you no longer see natural Loofa’s in the shops I am old enough to remember them at bath time. I also remember having my curiosity raised and asking my mum where they were from. Bless her, she didn’t know but in her desperation to satisfy my curiosity she told me that they were dead sea sponges. Given the look of the thing, I guessed that her explanation made sense and so took it as read.

    I have remained glorious in my ignorance ever since, that is until you just put me right.

    Now being relatively concerned about my foot-print and my effect on the environment, I am desperately seeking seeds so that I can grow my own.

    Adrian Holland says:
    1. Hi Adrian! Wow that is awesome that you were already using this as a kid! A lot of people actually do think they are dead sea sponges, probably because they have been called a sea sponge as a nickname and so people think that’s where they came from.

      Let me know if you try to grow this plant! I know I definitely want to try.

      Ashley says:
  4. Thank you for this great post. Yes I have come across loofah in the course of my online research,it is edible at early stage of maturity just like the cucumber. But if you leave it to mature properly then allow it to dry up and loose all moisture content, then peel off the skin carefully. It is majorly utilized in some part of Africa for dish scrubbing, bath and brush. I totally agree with your post. 

    Clement says:
    1. Sounds like you know all about the loofah! I’d be interested to see how it tastes before it’s fully matured, but in the meantime I’ll be using it as a scrubber! 

      Ashley says:
  5. Brilliant idea! I remember seeing the natural loofahs or luffa during a Caribbean trip and wondered how they grew them…now I know. It would only make sense to use this natural alternative over the plastic ones. You can grow them, eat them or keep some for the bath, shower, dishes, or all the other amazing things you’ve mentioned. Do you know if they only grow in tropical climates?

    Paul says:
    1. Yes, they have so many amazing uses! 

      These plants grow best in temperate climates, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be tropical, just fairly warm. But I’ve read that you can grow them in most places, as long as you time it right and let them fully grow before winter hits. Hope this helps! There’s also a lot of really great videos on how to grow loofahs.

      Ashley says:
  6. Interesting post.

    We all know what loofah is and what it is for but I didn’t know there are many uses other than being a sponge we use in the shower. I wonder how this tastes like if we were to cook it. 

    You mentioned that this can be used as a dish scrubber and dry brush, this is just great! Instead of using synthetic sponges and plastic brushes, we should opt for loofah as it is biodegradable. But if we are to use loofah as dish and shower sponge, how long should we use it before replacing with a new one? And do you think we can cultivate this plant in our backyards?

    Alice says:
    1. I’m interested to taste this as well, Alice! 

      I have heard that you are supposed to replace a shower loofah every 2-3 months (although I know I definitely don’t replace mine that often). With a natural loofah, I would assume it would be the same. And the great thing about replacing it, is you don’t have to go out and buy another one. You can just cut off another slice from the one you have!

      You can definitely cultivate this plant in a home garden. It grows best in temperate climates, so if you live somewhere cold, just know that it will likely stop growing when it starts to frost at night.

      Ashley says:

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