Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Cucumis sativa (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Cucurbitaceae
Synonym: Cowcumber.
Part Used: The whole fruit peeled and unpeeled, raw and cooked.
Habitat: Native of East Indies. First cultivated in Britain about 1573.

Description: In the East this trailing annual plant has been extensively cultivated from some 3,000 years and spread westward. It was known to the Greeks (the Greek name being sikuos) and to the Romans. According to Pliny, the Emperor Tiberius had it on his table daily, summer and winter. Pliny describes the Italian fruit as very small, probably like our gherkin; the same form is figured in Herbals of the sixteenth century, but states, 'if hung in a tube while in blossom, the Cucumber will grow to a most surprising length.' In Bible history, the Israelites in the wilderness complained to Moses that they missed the luxuries they had in Egypt, 'Cucumbers and Melons,' and Hasselquist in his travels (middle of eighteenth century) states: 'they still form a great part of the food of the lower-class people in Egypt serving them for meat, drink and physic.' Isaiah, speaking of the desolation of Judah says: 'The daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers.' The Cucumber of the Scriptures is, however, by some authorities considered to be a wild form of Cucumis melo, the melon.

The Cucumber has been long known in England, where it was common in the time of Edward III (1327), then fell into disuse and was forgotten till the reign of Henry VIII, but not generally cultivated here till the middle of the seventeenth century. It is too well known to need description.

Constituents: The dietary value of Cucumber is negligible, there being upwards of 96 per cent water in its composition.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Cucumber seeds possess similar properties to those of the allied Pumpkin (Cucurbita Pepo, Linn.) which are distinctly diuretic, but mainly employed as a very efficient taeniacide, 1 to 2 oz. of the seed, thoroughly ground and made into an electuary with sugar, or into an emetic with water, being taken fasting, followed in from 1 to 2 hours by an active purge. The resin has been given in doses of 15 grains.

Cucumber seeds are much smaller than Pumpkin seeds, relatively narrower and thicker and with almost no marginal groove. The emulsion made by bruising Cucumber seeds and rubbing them up with water was formerly thought to possess considerable virtue and was much used in catarrhal affections and diseases of the bowels and urinary passages.

Recipes As a cosmetic, Cucumber is excellent for rubbing over the skin to keep it soft and white. It is cooling, healing and soothing to an irritated skin, whether caused by sun, or the effects of a cutaneous eruption, and Cucumber juice is in great demand in various forms as a cooling and beautifying agent for the skin. Cucumber soap is used by many women, and a Cucumber wash applied to the skin after exposure to keen winds is extremely beneficial. This lotion is made as follows:

Cucumber Lotion:
Peel 1 or 2 large Cucumbers, cut them into slices, and place them in a double boiler, which should be closely covered. Cook them slowly until they are soft. Then put the pieces into a fine linen bag and squeeze them until all the juice has been extracted. Add to the extracted juice one-fourth of rectified spirits of wine (or whisky) and one-third of Elder-flower water. Shake the mixture well and pour into small bottles ready for use.

Another Cucumber Lotion for Sunburn:
Chop up a Cucumber and squeeze out the juice with a lemon-squeezer. Mix this with a quantity of glycerine and rose-water mixed together in equal parts.

Cucumber juice is used in the preparation of Glycerine and Cucumber creams. After expression and clarification, it is treated with alcohol, benzoin or salicylic acids being added as preservatives.

Emollient ointments prepared from the Cucumber were formerly considerably employed in irritated states of the skin, but they have been largely superseded by non-fatty cosmetics. The most frequently used preparation of Cucumber at the present time is the cosmetic preparation known as Cucumber Jelly, which is used as a soothing application in roughness of the skin, etc. It consists of a jelly of tragacanth, quince seeds or some similar mucilaginous drug, flavoured with Cucumber juice, which imparts to the preparation a characteristic odour.

The lotion sold in the shops as Glycerinc and Cucumber sometimes contain Cucumber juice, but more frequently this is conspicuous by its absence.

The French make an ointment of Cucumber, using it like cold cream, called 'Pomade aux Concombres,' made with Cucumber juice, lard, veal suet, Balsam of Tolu in alcohol, and rose-water.

1. Take 7 lb. green Cucumbers, 24 oz. pure lard and 15 oz. veal suet. Grate the washed Cucurnbers to a pulp, express and strain the juice. Cut the suet into small pieces, heat over a water bath till melted then add the lard and when melted, strain through muslin into an earthen vessel capable of holding a gallon and stir until thickening commences, when one-third of the juice is to be added and the whole beaten with a spatula till the odour has been almost wholly extracted. Decant the portion which separates, then add, consecutively, the remaining two-thirds of the juice and decant similarly. Then close the jar closely and place in a water bath till the fatty matter entirely separates from the juice. The green coagulum floating on the surface is now removed and the jar put in a cool place that the ointment may solidify. Then separate the crude ointment from the liquid on which it floats, melt again, strain and put up in closely-sealed glass jars. A layer of rose-water on its surface will aid preservation.

2. Incorporate 1 part of distilled Spirit of Cucumbers with 7 parts of benzoinated lard. The spirit is made by distilling a mixture of 1 part of grated Cucumbers with 3 parts of diluted alcohol, returning the first 2 parts or distillates which come over. This spirit is permanent and ointment or cream made from it keeps well.

Cucumber Milk is made of the following ingredients: 1 OZ. soap, 1 OZ. olive oil, 1 OZ. wax, 1 OZ. spermaceti 1 lb. almonds, 4 1/2 pints freshly expressed Cucumber juice, 1 pint extract of Cucumber, 2 lb. alcohol.

Use in Perfumery: The peculiarly refreshing odour of Cucumber has found application in perfumery. Various products belonging under this head requiring the odour of Cucumber - it being used in blending certain bouquet perfumes - this plant is to be included among the aromatic plant in a wider sense. Extract of Cucumber may be prepared as follows: To 8 lb. Cucumbers, take 5 quarts of alcohol. The Cucumbers are peeled, cut into thin slices and macerated in the warm alcohol. If the odour is not strong enough in the alcohol after some days, it is poured over some more fresh slices, the macerated residue is expressed and at the end of the operation all the liquors are united and filtered. Concentrated Cucumber perfume is made by the repeated extraction of the freshly sliced fruit with strong alcohol and subsequent concentration by distillation in vacuo. It is naturally very expensive.

Other Species:
The SIKKIM CUCUMBER (C. sativa, var. sikkimensis) is a large-fruited form, reaching 15 inches long by 6 inches thick, grown in the Himalayas. The fruit, produced abundantly, is reddish brown, marked with yellow and is eaten both raw and cooked.

The WEST INDIAN GHERKIN is C. anguria a plant with slender vines and very abundant, small, egg-shaped green fruit, covered with warts and prickles. It is the principal ingredient in West Indian pickles and is also used there in soups and frequently eaten green, but is far inferior to the common Cucumber.

C. flexuosum is the SNAKE CUCUMBER: it grows to a great length and may be used either raw or pickled.

The Squirting Cucumber, Ecballium Elaterium, furnishes the drug Elaterium.

The fruits of C. trigonis (Roxb.), 'Karit,' C. Hardwickii, Royle (the Hill Colocynth of India), and C. prophetarum (Linn.) of Arabia (the last-named containing the bitter substance prophetin, which occurs also in Elaterium) are largely employed as purgatives.

A less bitter variety of Karit is said to be eaten after the removal of its bitter principle by maceration in water.

C. myriocarpus (Naud.), a small gourd of South Africa, is used by the Kaffirs as an emetic in the form of the fruit-pulp, 20 grains being found to produce nausea and purgation after several hours. Larger quantities produce vomiting with some blood and considerable salivation. Its active principle has been called Myriocarpin.

The INDIAN CUCUMBER, or Cucumber Root, is the rhizome of Medeola virginiana (Linn.) a member of the order Liliaceae, reputed to be hydragogue and diuretic and therefore used in dropsies. In its fresh state it is somewhat Cucumber-like in taste.

The Bitter Cucumber is another name for Colocynth (Citrullus colocynthis, Schrader).

The Cucumber Tree, so called from the resemblance of the young fruits to small cucumbers, is Magnolia virginiana, var. acuminata (Linn.), the Mountain Magnolia. It has shortly acuminate leaves and yellowish-green flowers, 3 to 4 inches across, with a peculiar bluish tinge. The wood of the tree is yellow and is used for bowls. The bark was formerly official, with that of other species of Magnolia, in the United States Pharmacopceia, employed for its tonic, stimulant and diaphoretic properties and, like other bitters, employed in the treatment of malarial fever and considered a valuable remedy for rheumatism. Dose of the recently-dried bark is 1/2 to 1 drachm, frequently repeated; of the tincture, 1 fluid drachm.