What is Colocynthis?

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  • Written By: L. Burgoon
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 03 July 2016
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Derived from the colocynth plant, colocynthis is a controversial herbal treatment for a variety of conditions, primarily intestinal or menstrual in nature. The treatment comes from the fruit of the gourd-like colocynth plant, which is native to Asia Minor. Ailments typically treated with colocynthis include constipation; liver and gallbladder problems; diarrhea; colic; and painful menstruation. Others use the herb to treat nerve and joint issues, such as sciatica, rheumatism and facial neuralgia.

Use of herbal treatments derived from the colocynth plant is controversial because of studies showing the plant’s harmful effects. Ingestion may severely irritate the stomach and intestines or cause kidney damage, bloody diarrhea and bloody urine. Overdose has led to paralysis and death. Some regulatory bodies, including the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, consider the colocynth plant and any treatments made from it as poisonous.

Colocynthis use dates back to ancient times. For example, the herb’s irritation of digestive and intestinal tracks and its ability to cause extreme bodily expulsion led to its use as an abortion agent in ancient Egypt. Ancient Greeks used the plant to treat lethargy and mental disorders. From early uses to present day, the form of colocynth plant treatments has varied. It may be applied topically, dried and ground into a powder or made into a tincture, and is usually taken in conjunction with other herbal treatments.


Despite its risks, it is still sometimes used today as an herbal treatment. Users commonly will double over with abdominal cramps and experience extreme nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Some homeopaths consider these effects as beneficial to treating the underlying ailments colocynthis users suffer from because the vomiting and diarrhea expel toxins from the body. The herb also is used as a homeopathic treatment for colic, following the thinking the herb will cause colic-like symptoms in healthy people, but cure colicky babies when given in small doses.

Some proponents of the herbal treatment believe it can also treat emotional problems, such as suppressed anger, hypochondria, mania and depression. Other users take colocynthis for joint or nerve complaints, such as rheumatism, sciatica or facial neuralgia. Advocates may believe that unexpressed emotions cause intestinal or menstrual ailments, such as cramps or stomach pain, which the herb can address. Advocates of this treatment frequently believe that the toxins that cause these emotional, mental and physical disorders build up in the stool, and that the resulting diarrhea from the herbal treatment will rid the body of the contaminants.


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Post 4

Colocynthis side effects, besides the severe ones that lead to death and organ damage, sound very similar to those of laxatives I have taken in the past. I often suffer from constipation, and eventually, I have to medicate myself, though the results are usually unpleasant.

Most laxatives make me bend over with cramps. I spend a lot of time just sitting on the toilet in excruciating abdominal pain while I wait for the medicine to do its job. Sometimes, the pain is so great that it makes me nauseated, and I have to vomit.

Because of these experiences, I can’t imagine taking something that does all this and worse. Whatever the problem is, it sounds like it would only be worsened by colocynthis.

Post 2

My best friend died from taking colocynth for extreme constipation back in 1989. She didn’t want to go to a doctor for her problem, so she got this treatment from a health food store.

If it had happened just two years later, then she could still be alive. In 1991, the FDA banned colocynth. They found that even amounts as small as one and a half teaspoons of the powder could cause death.

Though my friend did not know it, there is a remedy for colocynth poisoning. I don’t know if it could have saved her, because she took two teaspoons of it. A person who experiences this poisoning should take a solution of dilute tannic acid and then drink several drinks containing eggs.

Post 1

A few years ago, my grandmother used colocynthis as treatment for her hypochondria. Her natural living therapist recommended this treatment, and ironically, her hypochondria evolved into a real illness.

The herbal treatment made her have bloody stools and urine. It actually caused her kidneys to fail. She had to undergo dialysis for years until she found a suitable match for a kidney transplant.

She is alive and well today, but she stays far away from any herbal treatments. Unless something has been cleared by the FDA, she won’t touch it.

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