Herbs of the Holyland by Nissim Krispil

advanced search »
Desert gourd
Common name:

Desert gourd

Synonym name:

desert gourd

Hebrew name:

אבטיח הפקועה

Scientific name:

Citrullus Colocynthis


Cucurbitaceae - הדלועיים

Arabic name:

חנדל حنظل

annual plant
Flowering color:
Flowering period:
Growing areas:
Bitter gourd grows in the coastal dunes, in the northern Negev and in desert streams and channels.
Bitter gourd is an annual Herb from the cucumber family. It grows on dunes near shores and in the desert. Its Branches are spread on the ground, and their length is up to 1.5 meters. Its leaves are big and cut into lobes. Tendrils grow out from the leaf bases. And its flowers are yellow.
Various ethnic groups of Israel including The Israeli Arabs use the fruit as an internal remedy against abdominal pain, severe constipation and gastrointestinal worms. Externally it is used for swelled legs, joint pain, hemorrhoids, and temporary paralysis of the body, back pain, skin infections and pain throughout the body.
Treatment for constipation
Drill a hole in the dry fruit and remove the seeds. Wash it's inside, number of times, fill it with milk or water or olive oil. Suspend the fluid inside the fruit for 2-4 hours. Drink 2 teaspoons from the liquids, three times per day. 
Another way is to cut a small cube from the fruit, the size should not exceed 1 cm square.  Swallow it as you swallow a pill with water.
Sometimes the bitter gourd is identify as the "field vine", that is mentioned in the story of the prophet Elisha and the sons of the prophets (II Kings: 4, 29-30). The bitter gourd leaves are similar to the vine leaves and the fruit that was similar to watermelon made them to try cooking it, but when they ate from the stew they had discovered - to their surprise - that "Death in the pot" because it was bitter than death itself. In the Mishnah the bitter gourd is recalled in the context to snapped oil "(Saturday 2, 2) and to "snapped tubes" (Tools 17, 18) were it was used, when dried, as a tube, for the oil to light candles. 
Many doctors in the medieval times described the healing potential of the bitter gourd fruit and mainly as a stimulant laxative. In the 17th -19 centuries The Gaza Jewish community had made a living by trading the bitter gourd fruit. The Bedouins of the desert were picking the fruits and sell it to the Jews, who transported it to the Far East, Mediterranean countries and Europe.
How to use