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Colocynth (Citrullus colocynthis), Bitter Apple

Indravaruni, Bitter Apple, Citrullus colocynthis

Description of Plant

Colocynth (Indravaruni, Bitter Apple) is a great herbal plant with many useful properties. It is also known as Citrullus colocynthis. Indravaruni belongs to the family of gourds and a relative of watermelon. It is the native of Africa and India. It is highly drought tolerant, hard, herbaceous vine. This plant can grow annual or perennial. Their stems are irregular and rough to great extent. Leaves are very rough, 5 to 10 cm long, deep three to seven lobed with middle lobe and sinus in open form with triangular shape and many clefts. The upper surface of the leaves are great green but the lower part is somewhat pale.

The flowers are of yellow colour, solitary, peduncle, axillary, monoecious and corollas are 5-lobed. Their fruits are kind of pepo fruits that contain various seeds, a hard rind and other characteristics of gourd family. Their shape is globular, 4-10 cm in diameter with elliptical fissures. The small orange, green color of fruit becomes totally yellow when ripe. Now the fruit is with hard rind, light weight pulp, easily breakable, spongy and intensely bitter. Seeds are of very small size around 6 mm in length, various in number, oval, compressed and smooth. Seeds become dark brown to light yellow after they ripe. This plant has large roots with long, slender, tough and rough like stems which have tendency to climb over herbs.

General Description

The Ayurvedic name of bitter apple is Indravaruni. This plant tends to control kapha and pitta doshas. All parts of plants have some role in varieties of disorders and ailments. The fruits are bitter and cool so act as purgative, carminative, anthelmintic, antipyretic and tend to cure asthma, bronchitis, tumors, urinary discharge, jaundice, constipation, joint pain and more. Root, the part of the plant used to combat urinary diseases jaundice, inflammation of the breast, abdominal enlargements ascites, rheumatism and cough and also in asthmatic attacks of children. Fruit or root with or without nux-vomica, a kind of herb used to sure pimples effectively.

The plant pulp contains biochemical components like stable oils, colocynthin, resins, pectins, lignin, minerals and gums. The active ingredients are of biochemical compounds are elaterin, albuminoids, phytosterol and glycoside. Bitter taste producing substances of the plant colocynthin and colocynthenin. Seeds contain phytosterolin. This acts as anti-tumor and anti-cancer because of anti-tumor biochemical like cucurbitacin B and cucurbitacin E.


  • Kingdom - Plantae
  • Order - Cucurbitales
  • Family - Cucurbitaceae
  • Genus - Citrullus
  • Species - Citrullus colocynthis


This plant grows in warmer and tropical regions. It is native of Africa and also produce in Asia like in India, Pakistan and southern islands. It can tolerate annual temperature of 14.8 to 27.8 °C. The pH range in which it proliferates is 5.0 to 7.8.

This plant grows up to 1500 m above the sea level on sandy loam, sub desert soils and sandy sea coasts.

Countries where it is found are Mediterranean Europe, Cyprus, the Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and North Africa.


  • Sanskrit name - Indravaruni
  • Hindi name - Indrayan
  • English name - Colocynth, Bitter apple, desert gourd, vine of Sodom.
  • Bengali name - Makhal, Rakhale Shasa
  • Gujarati name - Indrayan
  • Marathi name - Kadu -indravani
  • Telugu name - Paparabudam, Kuturu budama, Cinna Papara
  • Tamil name - Paedikari Attutummatti
  • Malyalam name - Paikummatti
  • Punjabi name - Ghurunba, kaudatumma
  • Arabic name - Hanthal, hanzal
  • Spanish name - Manzana amarga

Ayurvedic Properties

Hindi / Sanskrit English
Rasa Tikta Taste Bitter
Guna Laghu, Rooksha, Teekshna Physical Property Light, Dry, Sharp
Virya Ushna Potency Hot
Vipaka Katu Metabolic Property (After Digestion) Pungent

Effects on Doshas

It is known to control Kapha and Pitta.

Classical Categorization

Charak Samhita Sushruta Samhita Vagbhata
  • Moolini Dravya - Group of herbs, where root is the part used.
  • Virechana Dravya - Group of herbs used for the purpose of purgation
  • Panchakarma therapy - This herb is the main ingredient and part of panchakarma
  • Shyamadi Gana
  • Adhobhagahara
  • Shyamadi Gana

Ancient Verse about Indravaruni (Bitter Apple)

Ancient Verse about Indravaruni

The Bhavprakash nighantu Edition of 1998, verse 203-206, page no-403.

The names are Indri, Indravaruni, Chitra, Gavakshi, Gvadini and Varuna. There is second Indravaruni that is bigger indrayan. Their names are Mahaphala, Vishala, shavait pushpa, Mrig Akshi and Mrigandi. Both the indrayans are bitter in taste, have katu vipaka, laghu and hot in potency. It is used to treat jaundice, pitta cough diseases, spleen diseases, asthma cough, skin diseases, diabetes, worms and thyroid enlargement.


The Bhavprakash nighantu with elaborated Hindi commentary by Padmashri prof. K.C. Chunekar, edited by Dr. G.S. Pandey: Edition of 1998, verse 203-206, page no-403.

Medicinal Uses of Indravaruni (Bitter Apple)


Extract of its roots show great effect in reduction of blood sugar level. Several active components present in this herb influence the insulin metabolism and this way show great positive activity in Type II diabetes.


Fruit extracts of this herb possesses strong laxative properties as it strengthens the intestinal muscles and brings about defecation naturally therefore it is very helpful to cure constipation.


Root extracts of this plant extracts, helpful in management of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria like Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and more. All extracts mean extracts of leaves, fruits and seeds showed activity against all strains.


This plant acts as very effective antioxidant. This plant has ability to scavenge free-radicals like hydroxyl radical, superoxide anions and singlet oxygen.


The immature fruits and seeds extracts show very important anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity.


The seeds of Citrullus colocynthis can lower the triglyceride and cholesterol levels in non- diabetic hyperlipidemic patients.


This plant shows toxicity against the early fourth instar larvae of Culex mosquito and Aedes mosquito.


It shows great effect on growth inhibitory activity on breast cancer cells.


External use of root and fruit extracts juice help to cure pimples, acne and boils.


It is very helpful to cure cold and cough.

Parts used

Parts used are Roots and fruits.

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Author Bio:

Best Ayurvedic Doctor - Dr. Meenakshi Chauhan

Dr. Meenakshi Chauhan


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Best Ayurvedic Doctor in Mohali - Dr. Vikram Chauhan

Dr. Vikram Chauhan


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