This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
COMMON NAME. Bitter Cucumber.
MEDICINAL PART. The fruit divested of its rind.
Description. -- Colocynth is an annual plant, with a whitish root, and prostrate, angular, and hispid stems. The leaves are alternate, cordate, ovate, many-lobed, white with hairs beneath. Flowers yellow and solitary; petals small; and fruit globose, smooth, size of an orange, yellow when ripe, with a thin solid rind, and a very bitterish flesh.
History. -- This plant is a native of the south of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The fruit assumes a yellow or orange color externally during the autumn, at which time it is pulled and dried quickly, either in the stove or sun. That which is deprived of its rind, very white, light spongy, and without seeds, is the best article; all others are more or less inferior in quality. It contains, besides oils, resins, and gums, bassorin and the sulphates of lime and magnesia. Colocynthin is its active principle.
Properties and Uses. -- It is a powerful hydragogue cathartic, producing copious watery evacuations. It should never be used alone, but be combined with other cathartics. It may be used advantageously in passive dropsy and cerebral derangements. In combination with hyoscyamus it loses its irritant properties, and may be so employed whenever its peculiar cathartic effects are desired. Hippocrates used colocynth as a pessary to promote menstruation.
Dose. -- Five to ten grains.