Medical Herbs Catalogue



Family: N.O. Cucurbitacea The order Cucurbitaceae (the sole representative of which in the British Islands is the familiar hedge-climbing, red-berried Bryony) contains many genera of economic importance: Cucumis affords cucumber and melon; Cucurbita, pumpkin and marrow; to the genus Lagenaria belong the gourds; the well known bath-loofah is formed of the closelynetted vascular bundles in the fruit of Luffa aegyptica, another member of the order, the unripe fruit itself being used as a pickle by the Arabians; Sechium edule, a tropical American species, is largely cultivated for its edible fruit, Choko; Citrullus vulgaris is the Water Melon, which serves the Egyptians both as food, drink and physic; Citrullus Colecynthis furnishes the drug called Celocynth, and equally valuable medicinally is Ecbalium Elaterium, the Squirting Cucumber.

MELON, COMMON Botanical Name: Cucumis melo (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Cucurbitacea
Synonym: Musk Melon.
Habitat: The Melon is a native of South Asia-from the foot of the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, where it grows wild - but is cultivated in the temperate and warm regions of the whole world.

Description: It is an annual, trailing herb, with large palmately-lobed leaves and bears tendrils, by which it is readily trained over trellises. Its flowers (which have bellshaped corollas, deeply five-lobed) are either male or female, both kinds being borne on the one plant. The male flowers have three stamens, the ovary in the female flowers, three cells. The many varieties of Melon show great diversity in foliage and still more in the size and shape of the fruit, which in some kinds is as small as an olive, in others as large as the Gourd (Cucurbita maxima). Some are globular, others egg-shaped, spindle-shaped or serpent-like, the outer skin smooth or netted, ribbed or furrowed, and variously coloured; the flesh, white, green or orange when ripe, scented or scentless, sweet or insipid, some bitter and even nauseous.

History: The cultivation of the Melon in Asia is of very ancient date. It was grown by the Egyptians, and the Romans and Greeks were familiar with it. Pliny describes Melons as Pepones, Columella as Melones. It began to be extensively cultivated in France in 1629. Gerarde in his Herball (1597) figured and described several kinds of Melons or Pompions, but included gourds under the same name. The Common Melon was commonly known as the Musk Melon.

To grow it to perfection, the Melon requires artificial heat, being grown on hot beds of fermenting manure, with an atmospheric temperature of 75 degrees, rising with sunheat to 80 degrees.

Medicinal Action and Uses: The root of the Common Melon is purgative, and in large doses (7 to 10 grains) is said to be a certain emetic, the active and bitter principle having been called Melon-emetin.

The MELON-TREE, so-called, is the PAPAW, or Papaya (Carica Papaya, Linn.), a native of tropical America, where it is everywhere cultivated for its edible fruit and digestive properties.

The dried juice is largely used in the treatment of indigestion, under various trade names, 'Papain,' a white powder, being administered in all digestive disorders where albuminoid substances pass away undigested.

Dosage: Papain, 1 to 5 grains.


MELON, CANTALOUP Botanical Name: Cucumis Cantalupensis (HABERL.)
Family: N.O. Cucurbitacea
The Cantaloups (Cucumis Cantalupensis, Haberl., so called from a place near Rome where it was long cultivated) is grown by the market gardeners round Paris and other parts of France, and has its origin in Persia and the neighbouring Caucasian region. It was first brought to Rome from Armenia in the sixteenth century. The netted species probably also originally came from Persia.

MELON, DUDAIM Botanical Name: Cucumis dudaim
Family: N.O. Cucurbitacea
Synonym: Queen Anne's Pocket Melon.

The Dudaim Melon (Cucunis dudaim), Queen Anne's Pocket Melon, as it has been called, is also a native of Persia. It produces a fruit variegated with green and orange and oblong green spots of varying size. When fully ripe, it becomes yellow and then whitish. It has a very fragrant, vinous, musky smell, and a whitish, flaccid, insipid pulp. Dudaim is the Hebrew name of the fruit.

MELON, SERPENT Botanical Name: Cucumis flexuosum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Cucurbitacea
Synonym: Snake Cucumber.

Cucumis flexuosum (Linn.) is the Serpent Melon, or Snake Cucumber. It grows to a great length and may be used either raw or pickled.

The 'Cucumber' of the Scriptures (Isaiah i. 8) is considered to have been Cucumis chate, the Hairy Cucumber, a kind of wild Melon, which produces a fruit, the flesh of which is almost of the same substance as the Common Melon, its taste being somewhat sweet and as cool as the Water Melon. It is common both in Arabia and in Egypt, where a dish is prepared from the ripe fruit. Peter Forskäl, a contemporary of Linnaeus, in his work on the plants of Egypt (Flora aegyptiaco-arabica, 1775), describes its preparation. The pulp is broken and stirred by means of a stick thrust through a hole cut at the umbilicus of the fruit: the hole is then closed with wax, and the fruit, without removing it from its stem, is buried in a little pit; after some days, the pulp is found to be converted into an agreeable liquor.

MELON, WATER Botanical Name: Citrullus vulgaris (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Cucurbitacea
Parts Used: Seeds. juice.

Melons are a staple and refreshing fruit in Egypt and Palestine, especially the Water Melon (Citrullus vulgaris, Linn.), a native of tropical Africa and the East Indies, which grows to a great size, even attaining 30 lb. in weight. It refreshes the thirsty as well as the hungry. It has a smooth rind, and though generally oblong and about a foot and a half in length, varies much in form and colour, the flesh being either red or pale, the seeds black or reddish. There is a succession of crops from May to November. For its cool and refreshing fruit, it has been cultivated since the earliest times in Egypt and the East and was known in Southern Europe and Asia before the Christian era. The banks of the Burlus Delta lake east of the Rosetta channel of the Nile Deita, are noted for their Water Melons, which are yellow within, and come into season after those grown on the banks of the Nile. Of the plants found in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa, in Bechuanaland, the most remarkable is the Water Melon, present in abundance, which supplies both man and beast with water.

Medicinal Action and Uses: The fruit should be eaten cautiously by Europeans, especially when taken in the heat of the day, but it is much used in the tropics and in Italy. In Egypt, it is practically the only medicine the common people use in fevers; when it is ripe, or almost putrid, they collect the juice and mix it with rosewater and a little sugar. The seeds have been employed to a considerable extent as a domestic remedy in strangury and other affections of the urinary passages, and are regarded as having diuretic properties. The Russian peasants use them for dropsy and hepatic congestion, also for intestinal catarrh.

The Four Greater Cold Seeds of the old materia medica were the seeds of the Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo), the Gourd (C. maxima), the Melon and the Cucumber. These were bruised and rubbed up with water to form an emulsion, which was much used in catarrhal affections, disorders of the bowels and urinary passages, fever, etc.

The seeds of both the Water Melon and the Common or Musk Melon are good vermicides, having much the same constituents as those of the PUMPKIN (sometimes known as the Melon Pumpkin), which have long been a popular worm remedy and in recent years have also been used for tapeworm.

Constituents: Pumpkin seeds contain 30 per cent or more of a reddish, fixed oil, traces of a volatile oil, together with proteids, sugar, starch and an acrid resin, to which the anthelmintic properties appear to be due, though recent experiments have failed to isolate any substance of physiological activity, either from the kernels or shells of the seeds. The value of the drug is said to be due to its mechanical effect.

The seeds are employed when quite ripe and must not be used if more than a month old. A mixture is made by beating up 2 OZ. of the seeds with as much sugar and milk or water added to make a pint, and this mixture is taken fasting, in three doses, one every two hours, castor oil being taken a few hours after the last dose. An infusion of the seeds, prepared by pouring a pint of boiling water on 1 OZ. of seeds, has likewise been used in urinary complaints.

The Pumpkin or Pompion (its older name, of which Pumpkin is a corruption) is a native of the Levant. Many varieties are cultivated in gardens, both for ornament and also for culinary use. It is a useful plant to the American backwoods-farmer, yielding both in the ripe and unripe condition a valuable fodder for his cattle and pigs, being frequently planted at intervals among the maize that constitutes his chief crop. The larger kinds acquire a weight of 40-80 lb., but smaller varieties are in more esteem for garden culture.

In England, Pumpkins were formerly called English Melons, which was popularly corrupted to Millions. They are used cut up in soups and make excellent pies, either alone or mixed with other fruit, and their pulp is also utilized as a basis by jam manufacturers, as it takes the flavour of any fruit juice mixed with it, and adds bulk without imparting any flavour of its own.

The SQUASHES, which have such extensive culinary use in America, are a variety of the Pumpkin (C. melopepo), and another familiar member of the genus, C. evifera, a variety of C. pepo, is the Vegetable Marrow. While small and green the Pumpkin may be eaten like the Marrow.