:"Bitter-apple" and spelling variants redirect here. This is also used for the poisonous Soda Apple, a species of nightshade."Taxobox
name = Colocynth

image_width = 240px
image_caption = "Citrullus colocynthis" from Koehler's "Medicinal-Plants" (1887)
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Magnoliopsida
ordo = Cucurbitales
familia = Cucurbitaceae
genus = "Citrullus"
species = "C. colocynthis"
binomial = "Citrullus colocynthis"
binomial_authority = (L.) Schrad.

The colocynth, also known as bitter apple, bitter cucumber, egusi, or vine of Sodom, is a viny plant native to the Mediterranean Basin and Asia, especially Turkey (especially in regions such as İzmir), Nubia, and Trieste. It originally bore the scientific name "Colocynthis citrullus", but is now classified as "Citrullus colocynthis".

Its fruit, which is lemon-sized, yellowish, green-mottled, spongy, and extremely bitter, is a powerful hepatic stimulant and hydragogue cathartic. It is used as a strong laxative. In overdoses, the fruit can cause violent, sharp pains in the bowels, with dangerous inflammation. Given that the colocynth grows wild in Israel/Palestine, these symptoms would be consistent with the "wild gourd" mentioned in II Kings 4:39-40. It is seldom used alone, but in combination with other cathartics has been a standard remedy. It has been used alone in obstinate edema, amenorrhea, and in cerebral derangements. A normal dose of fluid extracted from the fruit pulp is 2 to 5 minims, and for the powdered extract, 1 to 2 grains.Davis & Company Parke. " [ Manual of therapeutics] ". Parke, Davis & Co. 1909. pp. 262-266.]

Its seed, which is edible but similarly bitter, nutty-flavored, and rich in fat and protein, is eaten whole or used as an oilseed. The oil content of the seeds is 17-19% (w/w), consisting of 67-73% linoleic acid, 10-16% oleic acid, 5-8% stearic acid, and 9-12% palmitic acid. It is estimated that the oil yield is approximately 400 L/hectare. [ [ "Evaluation of Citrullus colocynthis, a desert plant native in Israel, as a potential source of edible oil"] ]

The characteristic small seed of the colocynth have been found in several early archeological sites in northern Africa and the Near East, specifically at Neolithic Armant, Nagada (dated 3650-2850 BC), and Hierakonopolis (3500-3300 BC) in Egypt; at sites dating from 3800 BC to Roman times in Libya; and the pre-pottery Neolithic levels of the Nahal Hemar Caves in Israel. [Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, "Domestication of Plants in the Old World", third edition (Oxford: University Press, 2000), p. 194.] Zohary and Hopf speculate that "these finds indicate that the wild colocynth was very probably used by humans prior to its domestication." [Zohary and Hopf, "ibid."]

Desert Bedouins are said to make a type of bread from the ground seeds. There is some confusion between this species and the closely-related watermelon, whose seeds may be used in much the same way. In particular the name "egusi" may refer to either or both plants (or more generically to other cucurbits) in their capacity as seed crops, or to a soup made from these seeds and popular in West Africa.

A traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known vegetable has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare. [cite book |authorlink= |author=National Research Council |editor= |others= |title=Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables |origdate= |url= |format= |accessdate=2008-07-17 |edition= |series=Lost Crops of Africa |volume=2 |date=2006-10-27 |publisher=National Academies Press |location= |isbn=978-0-309-10333-6 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages= |chapter=Egusi |chapterurl= |quote= |ref= ]

Pre-modern medical uses

In pre-modern medicine it was an ingredient in the electuary called "confectio hamech", or diacatholicon, and most other laxative pills; and in such cases as required purging, it was very successful. It is one of the most violent purgative drugs known; insomuch that it excoriates the passages to such a degree as to sometimes draw blood, and induce a so-called "superpurgation". Sometimes, it was taken boiled in water, or beer, in obstruction of the menses, which was considered successful in strong constitutions. Some women used it in the same manner, in the beginning of pregnancy, to cause an abortion, which often occurred due to the violence of its operation.1728] Its usage for this purpose is documented in ancient times; for example, the following recipe was found in the Ebers medical papyrus in Egypt, dated to about 1550 BCE:Riddle, John M. "Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West". Harvard University Press. 1999. ISBN 0-674-27026-6.]

text=To cause a woman to stop [terminate] pregnancy in the first, second or third period [trimester] : unripe fruit of acacia; colocynth; dates; triturate with 6/7th pint of honey. Moisten a pessary of plant fiber [with the mixture] and place in the vagina.
sign= — Ebers papyrus, c. 1550 BCE; translation from "Eve's Herbs", by John M. Riddle

The powder of colocynth was sometimes used externally, with aloes, etc, in unguents, plasters, etc, with remarkable success against parasitic worms; and some, for the same purpose, recommended that the pulp be used as an enema. In iliac passion, enemas of colocynth were used effectively where most other pre-modern medicines had failed.

Troches, or lozenges, made of colocynth were called "troches of alhandal". They were prepared by cutting the colocynth to a small size, and reducing it to a fine powder in a mortar, rubbed with oil of sweet almonds; adding gum tragacanth, and mastic afterwards.

Remedies for counteracting colocynth have included emetics, such as zinc sulfate, and apomorphine, if caught early; later, demulcents and opiates, with stimulants to combat collapse.


External links

* [ Information on oilseed uses]
* [ "Evaluation of Citrullus colocynthis, a desert plant native in Israel, as a potential source of edible oil" ]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Colocynth — Col ocynth, n. [L. colocynthis, Gr. ?. Cf. {Coloquintida}.] (Med.) The light spongy pulp of the fruit of the bitter cucumber ({Citrullus colocynthis}, or {Cucumis colocynthis}), an Asiatic plant allied to the watermelon; coloquintida. It comes in …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • colocynth — [käl′ə sinth΄] n. [L colocynthis < Gr kolokynthis] 1. an African and Asian perennial vine (Citrullus colocynthis) of the gourd family, whose small, dried fruits are used in making a strong cathartic 2. this fruit, or the cathartic prepared… …   English World dictionary

  • colocynth — /kol euh sinth/, n. 1. a plant, Citrullus colocynthis, belonging to the gourd family, of the warmer parts of Asia, the Mediterranean region, etc., bearing a round, yellow or green fruit with a bitter pulp. 2. the fruit of this plant. 3. Pharm.… …   Universalium

  • colocynth — kartusis arbūzas statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Moliūginių šeimos vaistinis kultūrinis augalas (Citrullus colocynthis). atitikmenys: lot. Citrullus colocynthis; Colocynthis vulgaris; Cucumis colocynthis angl. bitter apple; colocynth; vine… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • colocynth apple — noun see colocynth 1 …   Useful english dictionary

  • colocynth — noun Etymology: Latin colocynthis, from Greek kolokynthis Date: 1543 a Mediterranean and African herbaceous vine (Citrullus colocynthis) related to the watermelon; also its spongy fruit from which a powerful cathartic is prepared …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • colocynth — noun /kɒl.əˈsɪnθ/ A viny plant native to the Mediterranean Basin and Asia. It produces a lemon sized, yellowish, green mottled, spongy, and extremely bitter fruit, a powerful hepatic stimulant and hydragogue cathartic used as a strong laxative.… …   Wiktionary

  • colocynth — The peeled dried fruit of Citrullus colcynthis (family Cucurbitaceae), an herb of the sandy shores of the Mediterranean, resembling somewhat the watermelon plant; formerly widely used as a cathartic and laxative. SYN: bitter apple. [G. kolokynthe …   Medical dictionary

  • colocynth — n. type of plant; fruit of this plant; purgative derived from this fruit …   English contemporary dictionary

  • colocynth — [ kɒləsɪnθ] noun a tropical climbing plant with pulpy fruit which yield a bitter purgative drug. [Citrullus colocynthis.] Origin C16: via L. from Gk kolokunthis …   English new terms dictionary

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