Annual vine with hairy, 3–5 lobed leaves, yellow flowers, and green fruit typically growing to 10 in (25 cm) across.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to tropical Africa, watermelon is grown throughout warm temperate to tropical regions. The fruit is gathered when ripe.
Watermelon contains citrullin and arginine, both of which are thought to increase urea production in the liver, so increasing the flow of urine.
History & Folklore
Watermelon species have been used in Egypt for more than 4,000 years, figuring in wall paintings dating to the Old Kingdom (2686–2181 BCE). They appear to have been a component in remedies for trembling fingers, constipation, and expelling disease brought on by demons. Egyptian myth recounts that the watermelon originated from the semen of the god Seth.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Watermelon is best known as a thirst-quenching fruit that comes into season when temperatures are at their hottest. In traditional Chinese medicine it is used precisely to counter “summer heat” patterns—characterized by excessive sweating, thirst, raised temperature, scanty urine, diarrhea, and irritability or anger.
Watermelon fruit and juice soothe these symptoms, increasing urine flow and cleansing the kidneys. The fruit’s refreshing properties extend to the digestive system, where it clears gas. Watermelon may also be used in the treatment of hepatitis. In hot, stifling weather it is helpful for those suffering from bronchitis or asthma. The cooling fruit pulp may be applied to hot and inflamed skin and to soothe sunburn. The seeds can be mashed and used to expel worms.
The watermelons of Egypt (C. lanata and C. colocynthoides) are very similar species. The colocynth (C. colocynthus), native to dry areas of Africa and Asia, is extremely bitter and contains a cucurbitacin glycoside with anti-tumor properties.