This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Cucumber: an annual herb, with naked monopetalous flowers divided into five segments, and a large juicy fruit produced under the flower. Thus far the characters of the cucumber agree with those of some other plants, whose seeds have been commonly ranked among the officinals, and which may properly be placed together.
1. Cucumis sativus vulgaris C. B. Cucumis-sativus Linn. Cucumber: with oblong fruit, often covered with little protuberances; and oblong white seeds.
2. Anguria citrullus dicta C. B. Cucurbit a Citrullus Linn. Citrul: with very large, roundish, smooth hard rinded fruit; and oblong, broad, rhomboidal, blackish seeds.
3. Cucurbita lagenaria flore albo, folio molli C. B. Cucurbita lagenaria Linn. Gourd, bottle-gourd: with very large, thick woody rinded fruit, bellied like a bottle; and long whitish seeds, having two angles like horns at the top.
4. Pepo vulgaris Rail hist. Cucurbita Pepo Linn. Common pumpion: with very large, roundish or oval fruit; and rhomboidai whitish seeds, having a rim or elevated line round the edges.
The cucumber and citrul are esteemed cooling and relaxing; salubrious in hot bilious dis-pofitions, and where there is a tendency to inflammation; prejudicial in the opposite circum-stances; difficult of digestion, and of very little nourishment.
The seeds of all these plants are similar in quality; and have been generally used promif-cuoufly, and distinguished by the title of the greater cold seeds. They have a sweetifh taste, accompanied with some unctuosity, and no smell or particular flavour: on expression, they yield a soft insipid oil, of the same general nature with that of almonds: on trituration with water, their oil, by the mediation of the mucilaginous and farinaceous matter of the seed, unites with the water into an emulsion or milky liquor. These emulsions have been used as diluents, refrigerants, and emollients, in the same cases as those prepared from sweet almonds; which last are now almost universaliy preferred. The seeds in substance have likewise been made ingredients in some officinal emollient powders; for which purposes they are not well adapted, as being liable to grow soon mouldy and rancid in keeping, especially in a powdery form: those of the cucumber seem to be the least subject to this inconvenience.
5. Cucumis agrestis Pharm. Lond. Cucumis silvestris afininus dictus C. B. Momordica Elate-rium Linn. Wild cucumber: with warty, hairy, somewhat oval fruit, not above two inches in length: the fruit, when ripe, bursts on being touched, and throws out with violence its whitish juice and its black seeds. It is fown annually, as all the preceding, in gardens.
All the parts of the wild cucumber are strongly purgative: the fruit appears to be somewhat more so than the root, and this than the leaves. The juice that issues spontaneously, or by very light pressure, on flitting the fruit when almost ripe, has an unpleasant smell, and a very durable nauseous bitter taste: on slanding for a few hours, it parts into a thick matter which fettles to the bottom, and a thin watery fluid, which floats above: this last may be commodioufly drained off, after the clearer part is decanted, by means of strips of woollen cloth or skains of cotton laid over the sides of the vessel. The thick fecula, dried in the fun or any other gentle heat, is a very strong, irritating, but flow, cathartic; and .often operates likewise upwards. It remarkably raises the pulse, and seems to kindle a degree of fever for a time: Lifter and Hoffman observe, that its effect in increasing the pulse is perceivable even in the extremities of the ringers. Its use therefore is in cold indolent phlegmatic cases; particularly, in dropsies, in which it has sometimes been given with success after medicines of a milder kind had proved ineffectual. Two or three grains are in general a sufficient dose: in some cases this quantity has acted violently: in others, five grains have procured plentiful evacuation, with-gut much uneasiness or disturbance to the constiution stitution. It is said, that in Holland, an extract made with wine from the roots of the plant is substituted to the elaterium, and has been found to be equally efficacious and safe: though Boul-due (a) speaks of an extract of this root, made probably with water, which appears to have been much weaker; the dose being from twenty-four to thirty grains. In what kind of matter the purgative virtue of this plant resides, has not been sufficiently examined: according to Boulduc, spirit of wine has scarcely any action upon it: and that water is not its proper men-ftruum appears from its quitting the watery juice and settling to the bottom.
Elaterium Ph. Lond. & Ed.