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Cucumber - Uses and Side Effects

The cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, and in the same genus as the muskmelon.

Cucurbitin and fatty oil, contained in cucumber seeds, may have mild diuretic properties when ingested and a soothing effect when used topically. Cucumber flower may be a mild diuretic. Cucumber is high in potassium. It's available as emollient ointments and lotions.  The cucumber has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years in Western Asia, and was probably introduced to other parts of Europe by the Romans. Records of cucumber cultivation appear in France in the 9th century, England in the 14th century, and in North America by the mid-16th century.Overview. Cucumbers used for fresh market, greenhouse, and processing are of the same species, therefore have the same plant characteristics. The cucumber is a warm season annual vining plant that produces stiff hairs on the leaves and stems.  They can be rather itchy and irritating to human skin when touched.  This plant is herbaceous so it is easily susceptible to moisture stress. Cucumbers can be pickled for flavor and longer shelf life. As compared to eating cucumbers, pickling cucumbers tend to be shorter, thicker, less regularly-shaped, and have bumpy skin with tiny white- or black-dotted spines. They are never waxed. Color can vary from creamy yellow to pale or dark green. Pickling cucumbers are sometimes sold fresh as “Kirby” or “Liberty” cucumbers. The pickling process removes or degrades much of the nutrient content, especially that of vitamin C. Pickled cucumbers are soaked in vinegar or brine or a combination, often along with various spices.Reported usesCucumber is used to treat high and low blood pressure, to cool and soothe irritated skin in patients with sunburn, and to provide fragrance in perfumes. It's also used as a cooling and beautifying agent.AdministrationApply lotion or cream topically to affected areas, as needed. Wash with cucumber soaps and shower/bath gels as needed.HazardsAdverse effects associated with oral use of cucumber include fluid loss and electrolyte imbalances. Excessive use of cucumber may potentiate the effect of diuretics, leading to fluid and electrolyte disturbances.Pregnant and breast-feeding patients should avoid medicinal use of cucumber.Clinical considerationsMonitor patient for serum electrolyte imbalances. Monitor patient's fluid intake and output.Warn patient not to treat swelling or edema with cucumber before seeking appropriate medical evaluation because doing so may delay diagnosis of a potentially serious medical condition.If patient is pregnant or breast-feedingFree Reprint Articles, advise her not to use cucumber medicinally.Advise patient to promptly report adverse reactions to his health care provider.Tell patient to remind prescriber and pharmacist of any herbal or dietary supplement that he's taking when obtaining a new prescription.Advise patient to consult his health care provider before using an herbal preparation because a treatment with proven efficacy may be available.Research summaryThe concepts behind the use of cucumber and the claims made regarding its effects have not yet been validated scientifically.

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