Facts and benefits of Bitter Apple

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Facts and benefits of Bitter Apple

Bitter Apple Quick Facts
Name: Bitter Apple
Scientific Name: Citrullus colocynthis
Origin Mediterranean Basin and Asia
Colors Orange, green and yellow variegated becoming yellow when ripe
Shapes Smooth, spherical with a 5–10 cm diameter globular
Flesh colors Light in weight, spongy, easily broken, light yellowish-orange to pale yellow (Pulp)
Taste Acrid, nauseous, bitter taste
Citrullus colocynthis, with many common names including Bitter apple, colocynth, bitter cucumber, desert gourd, egusi, vine of Sodom, or wild gourd, is a hairy-stemmed perennial desert viny plant of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae) native to the Mediterranean Basin and Asia and is distributed among the west coast of northern Africa, eastward through the Sahara, Egypt until India and reaches also the north coast of the Mediterranean and the Caspian seas. It grows also in southern European countries as in Spain and on the islands of the Grecian archipelago. On the island of Cyprus it is cultivated on a small scale; it has been an income source since the 14th century and is still exported today. It resembles a common watermelon vine but bears small, hard fruits with a bitter pulp. It originally bore the scientific name Colocynthis citrullus, but is now classified as Citrullus colocynthis.

Plant Description

Bitter Apple is an annual or perennial herbaceous desert vine plant with tendrils that can extend up to 3 meters. The plant is found growing in tropical deserts, wet forests as well as cool temperate moist regions. The plant requires sandy loam soils to thrive well. They can also grow proficiently on sub-desert soils as well as along sea coasts. Soil should be well drained. The Bitter Apple plant has a large fleshy, perennial root that sends out long and slender, angular, tough, rough vine-like stems. The stems are normally spread on the ground and have a tendency to climb over herbs and shrubs by their axillary branching tendrils.

Leaves

The angular leaves are alternately located on long petioles. Each leaf is almost 5 to 10 centimeters in length and has around 3 to 7 lobes. Sometimes the middle lobe might have an ovate structure. The leaves have a triangular shape with many clefts. The leaves have a rough, hairy texture with open sinuses. The upper surface of the leaves are fine green in color and the lower surface is comparatively rough and pale.

Flower

The flowers are yellow and solitary in the axes of leaves and are borne by yellow-greenish peduncles. Each has a sub-campanulated five-lobed corolla and a five-parted calyx. They are monoecious therefore the male (stamens) and the female reproductive parts (pistils and ovary) are borne in different flowers on the same plant. The male flowers’ calyx is shorter than the corolla. They have 5 stamens, 4 of which are coupled and 1 is single with monadelphous anther. The female flowers have 3 staminoids and a 3-carpels ovary. The two sexes are distinguishable by observing the globular and hairy inferior ovary of the female flowers.

Fruits

Each bitter apple plant produces around 15 to 30 globular fruits having a diameter of almost 7 to 10 centimeters. The outer portion of the fruit is covered with a green skin having yellow stripes. The fruits may also be yellow in color. The ripe fruits are characterized by a thin but hard rind. The fruits have a soft, dry, spongy white pulp which is filled with numerous ovate compressed seeds.

Seeds

The seeds are grey and are 5 mm long and 3 mm wide, smooth, compressed and ovoid-shaped without an edge, oily and somewhat shiny. They are located on the parietal placenta. The seeds are light yellowish-orange to dark brown in color. They are edible but similarly bitter, nutty-flavored and rich in fat and protein. They are eaten whole or used as an oilseed. The oil content of the seeds is 17–19% (w/w), consisting of 67–73% linoleic acid, 10–16% oleic acid, 5–8% stearic acid, and 9–12% palmitic acid. It is estimated that the oil yield is approximately 400 L/hectare. In addition, the seeds contain a higher amount of arginine, tryptophan and the sulfur-containing amino acids.

History

Citrullus colocynthis is a desert viny plant that grows in sandy, arid soils. It is native to the Mediterranean Basin and Asia, and is distributed among the west coast of northern Africa, eastward through the Sahara, Egypt until India, and reaches also the north coast of the Mediterranean and the Caspian Seas. It also grows in southern European countries as in Spain and on the islands of the Grecian archipelago. On the island of Cyprus, it is cultivated on a small scale; it has been an income source since the 14th century and is still exported today. It is an annual or a perennial plant (in wild) in Indian arid zones and has a great survival rate under extreme xeric conditions. In fact, it can tolerate annual precipitation of 250 to 1500 mm and an annual temperature of 14.8 to 27.8 °C. It grows from sea level up to 1500 meters above sea level on sandy loam, sub desert soils, and sandy sea coasts with a pH range between 5.0 and 7.8.

Traditional uses and benefits of Bitter Apple

  • Colocynthis fruit extract helps to decrease the pain and improve the nerve function and quality of life in patients with painful diabetic neuropathy.
  • It was taken boiled in water, or beer, in obstruction of the menses, which was considered successful in strong constitutions.
  • Some women used it in the same manner, in the beginning of pregnancy, to cause an abortion.
  • It curbs many skin ailments like scrap, warts and corns.
  • Its pulp is applied on the skin to treat boils, pimples and acne.
  • It treats skin infections like abscesses, psoriasis and wounds.
  • It is a good herbal cure for cancer and is best for curing breast cancer.
  • It is a natural blood purifier and is used to treat leukemia.
  • It is a good herbal remedy for rheumatic pain and arthritis.
  • It is beneficial herb for liver disorders like jaundice.
  • Its extracts are helpful in treating diabetes.
  • It helps to kill intestinal worms and is used to treat colitis.
  • It helps to combat the problems of constipations.
  • It helps to treat menstruation disorders like menopause, difficult menses, leucorrhea, scanty menses, Amenorrhea etc.
  • It is an antidote to scorpion bite and snake bite.
  • Extract of the fruit pulp is utilized in the treatment of urinary tract infections.
  • It is effective in the treatment of ascites.
  • It can be relied on for the treatment of lung infections.
  • It stimulates hair growth when applied on scalp.
  • Plant extracts have strong purgative properties which help to cure intestinal problems such as constipation.
  • Consumption of the bitter apple plant helps in purifying the blood.
  • These plants help in removing tumors present in the gastro intestinal tract or in the stomach.
  • Plant is used to scrap and remove warts and corns from the skin.
  • Dried pulp of unripe fruit is used medicinally for its drastic purgative and hydragogue cathartic action on the intestinal tract.
  • Pulp or leaves is a folk remedy for cancerous tumors.
  • Decoction of the whole plant, made in juice of fennel, is said to help indurations of the liver.
  • Roots may also be used as purgative against ascites, for jaundice, urinary diseases, rheumatism, and for snake-poison.
  • It is also used to treat diabetes and hypertension in Morocco.
  • Fruit can stimulate intestinal peristalsis and soften bowel contents by an irritant action on the enteric mucosa.
  • Different parts of this plant, especially fruits and seeds, are often used to treat urinary infections in Tunisia and other Mediterranean countries.
  • Fruits of Citrullus colocynthis are used as a remedy for sore throat and skin infections in Saudi Arabia.
  • Fruit is also a blood purifier and remedy for tumors and enlargement of spleen.

Ayurvedic Health benefits of Bitter Apple

  • Boils: Take out the pulp of the fruit. Apply it on the boils twice a day.
  • Acne: Take the roots of bitter apple. Grind them with water. Apply on the affected area. Wash with normal water after drying up. OR Extract the juice of fresh bitter apple root. Apply it over the affected area. Let it dry and wash with normal water.
  • Stomach Diseases: Take the dried roots. Powder them. Have a pinch with lukewarm water early in the morning. OR Grind the roots with water. Make paste. Apply over abdomen.
  • Constipation: Grind carom, Asafoetida, cardamom and cubeb Extract one cup bitter apple juice. Take ¼ tsp powder of each herb. Mix all in juice. Add rock salt according to your taste. Drink half in the morning and half at night for 7 days. (Excess may cause vomiting and Nausea.)
  • Piles: Take equal amount of bitter apple root and long pepper. Grind them together. Make small pills. Dry under the sun. Have a pill with a glass of Luke warm water every morning for 7 days.
  • Rheumatism: Take equal amount of bitter apple root and long pepper. Grind them together. Make small pills. Dry under the sun. Have a pill with a glass of Luke warm water every morning for 7 days.
  • Diabetes: Prepare a fine powder of black cumin, Acacia speciosa seeds, bitter apple, Acacia senegal in same quality and store them in a vessel. Fill full size capsules and take four capsules a day. This is highly beneficial and trial prescription for diabetes.

Other Facts

  • Desert Bedouins use the grounded bitter apple seeds to make bread.
  • Powdered seeds are inflammable and so the Arabs use them as kindling.
  • Strong odor of the fruits is used to repel moths.
  • Bitter apple plant also acts as an important sand binder.
  • Seeds are used as oilseeds. The oil extracted from the seeds is edible and also can be used as biodiesel.
  • During ancient times, bitter apple extracts were used by women to cause an abortion.
  • Lozenges or troches of bitter apples were referred to as “troches of alhandal”.
  • These plants have also been referred to in the Biblical and Islamic religious texts.
  • Vine is planted as a sand binder in India.

Precautions

  • Avoid use during pregnancy and breast feeding.
  • It may cause inflammations.
  • The fruits can cause extreme bowel pains and dangerous inflammations.
  • Bitter apples and extracts of these plants should not be administered to children or people having a weak constitution.
  • Consumption of over a gram of the fruits or seeds (dry weight basis) results in intestinal inflammation and rectal bleeding.
  • Lethal dosages (starting at 2 g) lead to convulsions, paralysis and, if untreated, to death through circulatory collapse.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=501571#null

https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/82340/

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=10674

https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/apple046.html

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2723897

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=CICO7

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citrullus_colocynthis

https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Citrullus_colocynthis.html

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