Did you know

12 Dec 2023

Did you know? Colocynth

Citrullus colocynthis has many names. In Turkey, it is known as Abu Jahl's melon, whereas elsewhere, it is known as bitter apple, bitter cucumber, vine of Sodom, or wild gourd.

It is a desert vine plant that grows in sandy, arid soil, native to the Mediterranean Basin and Asia. It also grows in Southern Europe and the Aegean Islands, surviving in extreme arid conditions. On the island of Cyprus, it is cultivated on a small scale; it has been an income source since the 14th century and is still exported today.

Historical accounts of trade go back to 1895 tracing its harvest and trade in Palestine's Jaffa for export to England under the commerce name of Turkish colocynth, although colocynth has been widely used in traditional medicine for centuries. It was used as a laxative, diuretic, or for insect bites. The powder of colocynth was sometimes used externally with aloes, unguents, or bandages. Lozenges or troches made of colocynth were called "Troches of Alhandal" or "Trochisci Alhandalæ" and used as a laxative. They were usually composed of colocynth, bdellium, and gum tragacanth. Alhandal was a term used in Arabia for the extract of colocynth, and it derives from the Arabic al Ḥanẓal, a name for colocynth.

In traditional Arab veterinary medicine, colocynth sap was used to treat skin eruptions in camels. In Palestine, it has been used to treat constipation, scabies, and postpartum inflammation in sheep, cows, goats, and chickens.

The ‘Did You Know’ series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus) and the Active Citizens Fund.

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