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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Resins

Biological Source Colocynth is the dried pithy pulp of the ripe fruits of Citrullus colocynthis Schrader, belonging to family Cucurbitaceae.






Bitter apple, Fructus colocynthidis, Colocynthis.


Biological Source


Colocynth is the dried pithy pulp of the ripe fruits of Citrullus colocynthis Schrader, belonging to family Cucurbitaceae.


Geographical Source


Cultivated in Asia, Africa, South Europe; mainly in Syria, Cyprus, and Egypt. In India, it is cultivated in Gujarat, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, etc.




The plant is perennial prostrate herb. It is rarely cultivated. The fruits are fleshy in nature and are collected in autumn, when they are ripe. The ripe fruits are yellow in colour. The fruits are peeled using a knife and dried under the sun or artificially.




The fleshy fruits are 5 to 8 cm in diameter, subspherical berry, almost white, and the density is very less. On the outer surface it has rind and impressions of the knife. Three splits of placenta, which run from centre to periphery is seen if the fruit is cut transversely. It has two groups of seeds near the periphery and the remaining portion filled with pithy parenchyma. It has characteristic odour and intense bitter taste.


                      Citrullus colocynthis



The epicarp has the epidermis made of the polygonal cells, which are covered by a thick cuticle. The cuticle consists of few large stomata. Below the epidermis it has thin-walled parenchymatous cells and thick layer of lignified sclerenchymatous tissues. Sclereides are of three layers and the outermost layer is more lignified than the inner layer of sclereides. The pulp consists of large parenchyma cells with intercellular space and few narrow vascular strands which are scattered. The seeds consist of palisade epidermis of polygonal prismatic cells. The testa consists of thick sclerenchyma which is eight to ten-celled thick, whereas a collapsed parenchyma is four to five-celled thick. The embryo consists of thin cellulosic parenchyma containing aleurone grains and fixed oil.


Chemical Constituents


Alkaloid is the main constituent present in the pulp of colocynth. Colocynth also contains amorphous resins that are ether and chloroform soluble. The other constituents are a crystalline dihydroxy alcohol (citrullol), glycosides of α-elaterin or cucurbitacin E, elatericin B or cucurbita-cin, dihydroelatericin B, or cucurbitacin L, fixed oil, and starch.





It is a hydrogogue purgative; stimulates or irritates the gastrointestinal tract. It is also prescribed with carminatives and used as an insecticidal.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparation known as The Body Pure (HerbsForever Inc.).


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