KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Colocynth is a desert creepy plant that grows wild in many parts of Sudan
Known by its scientific name Citrullus colocynthis, the perennial plant also bears many common names that include bitter apple, desert goard, egusi, vine of Sodom and wild goard.
It resembles a common watermelon vine, but bears small, hard fruits with a bitter pulp.
The colocynth has spectacular therapeutic properties and is seen as part of Sudan’s neglected botanic wealth.
Medicinal and aromatic plants specialist, Dr. Ehsan Mohammad Alhadi, says the colocynth bears yellow flowers that develop a fruit the size of an orange or an apple. Before it ripens the fruit is usually greenish in color with white lines on its smooth outer surface. After it ripens it takes a yellow color.
On the inside the fruit bears a spongy pulp that houses lots of seeds locally known as hibbaid. The seeds are grey and 5 mm long by 3 mm wide. 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 consists of 67–73% linoleic acid, 10–16% oleic acid, 5–8% stearic acid, and 9–12% palmitic acid. In addition, the seeds contain a high amount of arginine, tryptophan and sulfur containing amino acids.
Because of its bitter taste, people often describe a disturbing affair as “more bitter than colocynth.”
Colocynth (locally called hanthal), grows wild everywhere in the Sudan. “To tap its economic benefits, the colocynth should be grown in commercial quantities, using modern technology,” maintained Dr. Ehsan.
In ancient traditional medicine the colocynth was used to treat inflammations, liver disorders and as a pain killer. Most of its uses are topical. For this it was associated with the treatment of skin diseases. Tar extracted from colocynth is used for the treatment of eczema and chronic wounds. A Sudanese researcher has scientifically proved that it can cure herpes in five days. The colocynth tar is used as a repellent against hanging tick on livestock poultry skins.
The pulp and seeds help in the treatment of breast, eye, bladder and hemorrhoids inflammations. It is also used as a laxative and in the treatment of facial paralysis, hemiplegia (a nervous system disease) and migraine.
The colocynth fruit has proved useful in the treatment of sciatica, arthritis, and thigh and back pain. Here the fruit is warmed on fire and applied on the infected part of the body in the form of a poultice. Ashes of colocynth were found to restore iris to the eye and remove eye redness. Leaves help to stop bleeding.
Another therapeutic secret of colocynth is that it helps cure leprosy and helps with deafness and jaundice. Some women use it to add blackness to their hair and to slow graying. Colocynth emulsion is used as a treatment for chronic constipation, to energize the bowl movement, ease digestion and reduce gastric.
Colocynth oil seed is helpful with scabies, hair dandruff and Alopecia areata.
“When taken as a drink, colocynth should be used with utmost caution and in small doses because of its high toxicity. Using it externally is safe,” advises Dr. Ehsan.
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