Botanical name: Citrullus colocynthis Family: Cucurbitaceae (Pumpkin family)
Synonyms: Cucumis colocynthis, Colocynthis vulgaris
Bitter Apple is an annual plant resembling the common watermelon. The stems are herbaceous and beset with rough hairs. Leaves, on long stalks, are alternately arranged. They are triangular, many time cut, variously undulating, blunt, hairy, a fine green on upper surface, rough and pale on the underside. Flowers are yellow, appearing singly at axils of leaves. Fruit is round, size of an orange, yellow and smooth, when ripe contains within a hard leathery rind, a white spongy pulp enclosing numerous ovate compressed white or brownish seeds. This species is globally distributed from Africa, Mediterranean, except Spain, to Indo-Malesia. Within India, it is found wild in the warm, arid and sandy parts throughout, up to an altitude of 1500 m.
Medicinal uses: It is a powerful drastic hydragogue cathartic producing, when given in large doses, violent griping with, sometimes, bloody discharges and dangerous inflammation of the bowels. Death has resulted from a dose of 1 1/2 teaspoonsful of the powder. It is seldom prescribed alone. It is of such irritant nature that severe pain is caused if the powdered drug be applied to the nostrils; it has a nauseous, bitter taste and is usually given in mixture form with the tinctures of podophylum and belladonna. Colocynth fruits broken small are useful for keeping moth away from furs, woollens, etc.
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