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Useful Temperate Plants

Ecballium elaterium

(L.) A.Rich.

Cucurbitaceae

+ Synonyms

Bryonia elaterium (L.) E.H.L.Krause

Cucumis agrestis Blackw. ex Rchb.

Ecballium agreste Rchb.

Ecballium officinale T.Nees

Ecballium officinarum Rich. ex M.Roem.

Ecballium purgans Schrad.

Elaterium cordifolium Moench

Momordica aspera Lam.

Momordica ecirrhata Stokes

Momordica elastica Salisb.

Momordica elaterium L.

Common Name: Squirting Cucumber

No Image.

General Information

Ecballium elaterium is a herbaceous perennial plant producing one or more stems from a woody rootstock. The stems can grow up to 100cm or more long, usually trailing along the ground.
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine. It is sometimes cultivated for medicinal use and is also sometimes grown in gardens as a curiosity.
The plant occasionally self-sows in our Cornwall trial ground[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
] and can become a weed in warmer climates than Britain[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. It is subject to statutory control as a weed in Australia[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

Known Hazards

Poisonous in large quantities[
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
] (this probably refers to the fruit). The juice of the fruit is irritative to some skins[
148
Title
Herbs of Greece.
Publication
 
Author
Niebuhr. A. D.
Publisher
Herb Society of America.
Year
1970
ISBN
-
Description
A pleasant little book about Greek herbs.
].
The fruit juice is considered to be toxic, affecting the respiratory, cardiac and gastric systems plus any mucous membranes it makes contact with[
1201
Title
Bryonia alba L. and Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich. - Two related species of the Cucurbitaceae family with importa
Publication
Farmacia, 2016, Vol 64, 3 pp 323-332
Author
Irina Ielciu; Michel Feédérich; Monique Tits; Luc Angenot;
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

Botanical References

46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

Throughout the Mediterranean, except Egypt, and east to Moldova, Ukraine and the Caucasus

Habitat

Hot dry places on waste ground and roadsides[
45
Title
Flowers of Greece and the Balkans.
Publication
 
Author
Polunin. O.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1980
ISBN
0-19-217626-9
Description
A good pocket flora, it also lists quite a few plant uses.
,
86
Title
Gourds.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1963
ISBN
-
Description
Deals with squashes and their relatives. Interesting and readable, it gives cultivation techniques and some details of plant uses.
], usually close to the coast[
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
].

Properties

Weed PotentialYes
Medicinal Rating *  *
HabitPerennial
Height0.30 m
PollinatorsInsects
Self-fertileYes
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Wild

Cultivation Details

Ecballium elaterium is a plant mainly of Mediterranean climates and can only be grown outdoors in the milder regions of the temperate zone. The foliage is fairly frost-tender, though the roots are considerably hardier and can tolerate several degrees of frost. Giving the roots a thick, organic mulch when the plant dies down in the autumn can help it survive in hardiness zones as low as 7 or perhaps even 6. Plants are more likely to be killed by excessive winter wet[
86
Title
Gourds.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1963
ISBN
-
Description
Deals with squashes and their relatives. Interesting and readable, it gives cultivation techniques and some details of plant uses.
].
Requires a moist well-drained soil in a sunny position[
86
Title
Gourds.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1963
ISBN
-
Description
Deals with squashes and their relatives. Interesting and readable, it gives cultivation techniques and some details of plant uses.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Grows best in a rich soil[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
]. Another report says that it succeeds in poor soils[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
The squirting cucumber has a history of cultivation for its use as a medicinal plant, though it is probably little, if at all, cultivated at present[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
].
The ripening fruit becomes pumped full of liquid, leading to an increase in pressure. As the seed becomes ripe, this pressure forces the fruit to break away explosively from the plant, ejecting its seed to a considerable distance in the opposite direction[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
There are two main forms of this plant, distinguised by their flowers. One produces monoecious flowers (male and female flowers are separate but both are on the same plant), whilst the other produces dioecious flowers (each plant produces either all male or all female flowers)[
1201
Title
Bryonia alba L. and Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich. - Two related species of the Cucurbitaceae family with importa
Publication
Farmacia, 2016, Vol 64, 3 pp 323-332
Author
Irina Ielciu; Michel Feédérich; Monique Tits; Luc Angenot;
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal

The squirting cucumber has been used as a medicinal plant for over 2,000 years, though it has a very violent effect upon the body and currently has little use in modern herbalism[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
,
268
Title
The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. M. (Editor)
Publisher
Orbis Publishing. London.
Year
1979
ISBN
0-85613-067-2
Description
Excellent herbal with good concise information on over 400 herbs.
].
Medicinally, the plant is mostly known for its high content of cucurbitacins, which can provide the species with various biological activities. The highest concentration of cucurbitacins is found in the fruits, followed by stems and leaves. Besides cucurbitacins, the species contains other important compounds, which can also enhance its biological activities.
There has been considerable research interest in the potential of this plant for medicinal use. Studies suggest it has various beneficial effects, including hepatoprotective and neuroprotective activities plus a beneficial effect on sepsis-induced lung injury. The protective activity may be due to its ability to reduce abdominal adhesion and may be a useful tool for the antiinflammatory activity in the prevention of postoperative peritoneal adhesion[
1201
Title
Bryonia alba L. and Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich. - Two related species of the Cucurbitaceae family with importa
Publication
Farmacia, 2016, Vol 64, 3 pp 323-332
Author
Irina Ielciu; Michel Feédérich; Monique Tits; Luc Angenot;
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
 
].
The seeds contain a specific polypeptide, actually a protease inhibitor, which specifically acts against trypsin, being one of the most potent trypsin inhibitors[
1201
Title
Bryonia alba L. and Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich. - Two related species of the Cucurbitaceae family with importa
Publication
Farmacia, 2016, Vol 64, 3 pp 323-332
Author
Irina Ielciu; Michel Feédérich; Monique Tits; Luc Angenot;
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
 
].
Cucurbitacin E is not studied only for its cytotoxic effect, but also for its ability to stimulate the immune system, which can be vital for the possible anti-cancer activity. At the same time, it seems to have minor cytotoxic effects on normal cell lines[
1201
Title
Bryonia alba L. and Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich. - Two related species of the Cucurbitaceae family with importa
Publication
Farmacia, 2016, Vol 64, 3 pp 323-332
Author
Irina Ielciu; Michel Feédérich; Monique Tits; Luc Angenot;
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

The juice of the fruit is antimicrobial, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, antirheumatic, cardiac, cytotoxic and purgative[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
,
61
Title
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Publication
 
Author
Usher. G.
Publisher
Constable
Year
1974
ISBN
0094579202
Description
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
,
86
Title
Gourds.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1963
ISBN
-
Description
Deals with squashes and their relatives. Interesting and readable, it gives cultivation techniques and some details of plant uses.
,
89
Title
Flowers of the Mediterranean.
Publication
 
Author
Polunin. O. and Huxley. A.
Publisher
Hogarth Press
Year
1987
ISBN
0-7012-0784-1
Description
A very readable pocket flora that is well illustrated. Gives some information on plant uses.
,
1201
Title
Bryonia alba L. and Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich. - Two related species of the Cucurbitaceae family with importa
Publication
Farmacia, 2016, Vol 64, 3 pp 323-332
Author
Irina Ielciu; Michel Feédérich; Monique Tits; Luc Angenot;
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
 
]. The plant is a very powerful purgative that causes evacuation of water from the bowels[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. It is used internally in the treatment of oedema associated with kidney complaints, heart problems, rheumatism, paralysis and shingles[
86
Title
Gourds.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1963
ISBN
-
Description
Deals with squashes and their relatives. Interesting and readable, it gives cultivation techniques and some details of plant uses.
,
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. The plant is also traditionally used as a treatment for otitis, sinusitis, malarial fever, headaches or sinusitis and rheumatism[
1201
Title
Bryonia alba L. and Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich. - Two related species of the Cucurbitaceae family with importa
Publication
Farmacia, 2016, Vol 64, 3 pp 323-332
Author
Irina Ielciu; Michel Feédérich; Monique Tits; Luc Angenot;
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
 
].
Applied externally, the juice has been used to treat sinusitis and painful joints[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
This remedy should be used with great caution and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. Excessive doses have caused gastro-enteritis and even death[
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
]. It should not be used by pregnant women since it can cause an abortion[
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
].
The fully grown but unripe fruits are harvested during the summer, they are left in containers until the contents are expelled and the juice is then dried for later use[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

The root contains an analgesic principle[
240
Title
Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Publication
 
Author
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C.
Publisher
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi.
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
].

Other Uses

Cucurbitacins that are present in the composition of this species (mostly cucurbitacin D and cucurbitacin I) may perform an important role in the defence mechanisms of the plant. For example, they are active against Botrytis cinerea Pers., due to the inhibition of laccase formation[
1201
Title
Bryonia alba L. and Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich. - Two related species of the Cucurbitaceae family with importa
Publication
Farmacia, 2016, Vol 64, 3 pp 323-332
Author
Irina Ielciu; Michel Feédérich; Monique Tits; Luc Angenot;
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
 
].
Leaf extracts exhibit a potent anti-insect activity, which can be the result of the internal defence mechanisms of the plant. This is also the main reason for the possibility of using the extracts of the plant to inhibit the germination of growth of some other plant species[
1201
Title
Bryonia alba L. and Ecballium elaterium (L.) A. Rich. - Two related species of the Cucurbitaceae family with importa
Publication
Farmacia, 2016, Vol 64, 3 pp 323-332
Author
Irina Ielciu; Michel Feédérich; Monique Tits; Luc Angenot;
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

Propagation

Seed - sow early spring in rich compost in a greenhouse. Place 2 - 3 seeds per pot and thin to the strongest plant. The seed usually germinates in 10 - 21 days at 25°c[
175
Title
Focus on Plants. Volume 5. (formerly 'Growing from seed')
Publication
 
Author
Bird. R. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1991
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. A good article on Corydalis spp.
]. Grow the plants on fast and plant them out after the last expected frosts.
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2018-08-18. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Ecballium+elaterium>

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