Bitter Cucumber

Last Updated: September 28 2022

Citrullus colocynthis, also known as bitter cucumber, is a fruit-bearing plant. Low doses of its seeds and fruit can reduce blood glucose levels. Higher doses are associated with side-effects like colonic inflammation and rectal bleeding.

Bitter Cucumber is most often used for


Citrullus colocynthis, also known as bitter cucumber, is a fruit-bearing plant sometimes used medicinally.

Citrullus colocynthis is used to treat diabetes, since it may be able to induce insulin secretion from the pancreas after supplementation, while reducing blood glucose and improving lipid levels.

Preliminary evidence suggests a topical application of Citrullus colocynthis may stimulate hair growth, with an effect comparable to finasteride, a male pattern baldness drug. More evidence is needed to confirm this effect.

Even low doses (100mg, taken three times) of Citrullus colocynthis can cause diarrhea, while higher doses (1,500 mg) can cause colonic inflammation and rectal bleeding. These side-effects stop once supplementation is ceased.

Since the bioactive compounds in Citrullus colocynthis are still unknown, and even low-dose supplementation is associated with intestinal side-effects, Citrullus colocynthis is not recommended for oral supplementation.

What else is Bitter Cucumber known as?
Note that Bitter Cucumber is also known as:
  • Bitter Apple
  • Desert Gourd
  • Bitter Cucumber
  • Citrus Colocynthis
Bitter Cucumber should not be confused with:
  • Bitter Gourd/Melon/Squash (Momordica charantia)
Dosage information

Limited human evidence suggests that 100mg of the seed or dry pulp extract, taken three times a day for a total daily dose of 300mg, is associated with reducing blood glucose and improving lipid levels.

The traditional ‘recommended’ dose for Citrullus colocynthis is 300-800mg. This dosage range is associated with severe intestinal inflammation.

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7.^Sebbagh N, Cruciani-Guglielmacci C, Ouali F, Berthault MF, Rouch C, Sari DC, Magnan CComparative effects of Citrullus colocynthis, sunflower and olive oil-enriched diet in streptozotocin-induced diabetes in ratsDiabetes Metab.(2009 Jun)
8.^Ayyad SE, Abdel-Lateff A, Alarif WM, Patacchioli FR, Badria FA, Ezmirly STIn vitro and in vivo study of cucurbitacins-type triterpene glucoside from Citrullus colocynthis growing in Saudi Arabia against hepatocellular carcinomaEnviron Toxicol Pharmacol.(2012 Mar)
9.^Kumar S, Kumar D, Manjusha, Saroha K, Singh N, Vashishta BAntioxidant and free radical scavenging potential of Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Schrad. methanolic fruit extractActa Pharm.(2008 Jun)
10.^Benariba N, Djaziri R, Bellakhdar W, Belkacem N, Kadiata M, Malaisse WJ, Sener A, Abdelkrim CPhytochemical screening and free radical scavenging activity of Citrullus colocynthis seeds extractsAsian Pac J Trop Biomed.(2013 Jan)
13.^Patel D, Prasad S, Kumar R, Hemalatha SAn overview on antidiabetic medicinal plants having insulin mimetic propertyAsian Pac J Trop Biomed.(2012 Apr)
14.^Benariba N, Djaziri R, Hupkens E, Louchami K, Malaisse WJ, Sener AInsulinotropic action of Citrullus colocynthis seed extracts in rat pancreatic isletsMol Med Rep.(2013 Jan)
18.^Dhanotia R, Chauhan NS, Saraf DK, Dixit VKEffect of Citrullus colocynthis Schrad fruits on testosterone-induced alopeciaNat Prod Res.(2011 Sep)
21.^Elawad AA, Abdel Bari EM, Mahmoud OM, Adam SEThe effect of Citrullus colocynthis on sheepVet Hum Toxicol.(1984 Dec)
22.^Bakhiet AO, Adam SEAn estimation of Citrullus colocynthis toxicity for chicksVet Hum Toxicol.(1995 Aug)
23.^Al Faraj SHaemorrhagic colitis induced by Citrullus colocynthisAnn Trop Med Parasitol.(1995 Dec)
24.^Berrut C, Bisetti A, Widgren S, Tissot JD, Loizeau EPseudomembranous colitis caused by the ingestion of colocynthSchweiz Med Wochenschr.(1987 Jan 24)
25.^Goldfain D, Lavergne A, Galian A, Chauveinc L, Prudhomme FPeculiar acute toxic colitis after ingestion of colocynth: a clinicopathological study of three casesGut.(1989 Oct)
26.^Javadzadeh HR, Davoudi A, Davoudi F, Valizadegan G, Goodarzi H, Mahmoodi S, Ghane MR, Faraji MCitrullus colocynthis as the Cause of Acute RectorrhagiaCase Rep Emerg Med.(2013)
27.^Khan SA, Shelleh HH, Bhat AR, Bhat KSColocynth toxicity. A possible cause of bloody diarrheaSaudi Med J.(2003 Aug)