Herb: Squirting Cucumber

Latin name: Ecballium elaterium

Family: Cucurbitaceae (Cucumber Family, Gourd Family)

Medicinal use of Squirting Cucumber:

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 has little use in modern herbalism. The juice of the fruit is antirheumatic, cardiac and purgative. The plant is a very powerful purgative that causes evacuation of water from the bowels. It is used internally in the treatment of oedema associated with kidney complaints, heart problems, rheumatism, paralysis and shingles. Externally, it has been used to treat sinusitis and painful joints. It should be used with great caution and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Excessive doses have caused gastro-enteritis and even death. It should not be used by pregnant women since it can cause an abortion. 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. The root contains an analgesic principle.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)

June to

Habitat of the herb:

Hot dry places on waste ground and roadsides, usually close to the coast.

Propagation of Squirting Cucumber:

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 25C. Grow the plants on fast and plant them out after the last expected frosts.

Cultivation of the herb:

Hot dry places on waste ground and roadsides, usually close to the coast.

Known hazards of Ecballium elaterium:

Poisonous in large quantities (this probably refers to the fruit). The juice of the fruit is irritative to some skins.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.