Cucumis sativus L.

Last updated: 14 Jun 2016

Scientific Name

Cucumis sativus L.


Cucumis esculentus Salisb., Cucumis hardwickii Royle, Cucumis muricatus Willd., Cucumis rumphii Hassk., Cucumis setosus Cogn., Cucumis sphaerocarpus Gabaev, Cucumis vilmorinii Spreng. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Timun, mentimun [2], timun china [3]
English Cucumber, gherkin [2], garden cucumber, khira [3]
China Huang gua, hu gua [4]
India Anilvarikkotunkay, anilvariyan, araikkiraikkay, arpapiramanakam, bahuphala, beej kheera, civataki [3]
Indonesia Ketimun, mentimun (Javanese); bonteng (Sundanese) [2]
Thailand Taeng-kwa (General); taeng-ran, taengom (Northern) [2]
Laos Tèèng [2]
Burma Thakhwa [2]
Philippines Pipino (Tagalog); kalabaga (Bisaya); kasimum (Bontoc) [2]
Cambodia Trâsâk [2]
Vietnam D[uw]achu[ooj]t, d[uw]a leo [2]
France Concombre, cornichon [2]
Papua New Guinea Kukamba, kuikamba [2]
Tibet Ga go na [3]
Mexico Bitoni, pitoni castilla [3].

Geographical Distributions

Cucumis sativus is not known from the wild. Although most Cucumis species have an African origin, C. sativus is believed to originate from the foothills of the Himalayas, where the closely related wild species C. hardwickii Royle still occurs. In India, the cucumber was already being cultivated 3000 years ago, and it was known in ancient Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire. In the 6th Century, it was cultivated in China and was probably the first cultivated cucurbit to reach Malaysia. Now, it is cultivated worldwide. [2]

Botanical Description

C. sativus is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. It is a monoecious, annual, creeping or climbing herb, up to 5 m long and with stiff bristly hairs. The root system is extensive and largely superficial. The stem is 4-5-angled, sparingly branched, robust and with simple tendrils that measure up to 30 cm long, which is inserted opposite the leaves. [2]

The leaves are arranged alternate, simple, triangular-ovate in outline, and measuring 7-20 cm x 7-15 cm. The petiole is 5-20 cm long. The leaf-blade is 3-7-lobed, deeply heart-shaped at base, acute at apex, with triangular lobes, and dentate. [2]

The yellow flowers are axillary, unisexual, and occasionally hermaphrodite and measure 2.5-4 cm in diametre size. The male flowers are predominating, borne in clusters of 3-7 on pedicels 0.5-2 cm long, with 3 stamens and free. The female flowers are solitary, on thick pedicels 3-5 mm long, lengthening in fruit to 2-5 cm and with simple style. There are 3 stigmas and an ovary 2-5 cm long. The sepal is bell-shaped, 5-lobed, measures 5-10 mm long and densely hairy. The petal is widely bell-shaped, deeply 5-lobed, measures up to 2 cm long, hairy and wrinkled. [2]

The fruit is a pepo, drooping, very variable in shape, size and colour, from nearly globular to cylindrical, often slightly curved, with scattered spinous tubercles and warts when young. The spines are black or white. The fruit has a pale green flesh and many-seeded (seedless in parthenocarpic cultivars). [2]

The seed is flat, ovate-oblong in outline, measuring 8-10 mm x 3-5 mm, white and smooth. [2]


C. sativus requires a warm climate. In cool temperate countries, it is grown year-round in greenhouses or during the hottest summer months in the open. The optimum temperature for growth is about 30°C and the optimum night temperature 18-21°C. In the tropics, elevations up to 1000 m appear to be suitable for cucumber cultivation. An abundance of light tends to increase the number of staminate flowers. Sensitivity to a day length differs per cultivar; a short day length usually promotes leaf and fruit production. C. sativus needs a fair amount of water but they cannot stand waterlogging. High relative humidity encourages downy mildew. The soil should preferably be fertile, well-drained, and with a pH of 6.5-7.5. [2]

Chemical Constituent

The seeds of C. sativus has been reported to contain 1,3-Diamino-propane, 22-dihydrobrassicasterol, 2,4-methylene-cholesterol, 24-β-ethyl-25(27)-dehydrolathosterol, 24-methyl-25(27)-dehydrocycloartanol, 24-methyl-cholest-7-en-3-β-ol 25(27)-dehydro-chondrillasterol, 25(27)-dehydro-fungisterol 24-epsilon-ethyl-25(27)-dehydrolophenol 24-methyl-lathosterol, 24-methylene-24-dihydro-lanosterol, 24-methylene-24-dihydro-parkeol, 24-methylene-cycloartenol , 25(27)-dehydro-poriferasterol, 7-dehydro-avenasterol, α-amyrin, avenasterol, β-pyrazol-1-yl-alanine, butyric-acid, campesterol, cucurbitin, cycloartenol, cycloeucalenol, euphol, gramisterol, isomultiflorineol, lupeol, lysolecithin, multiflorineol, obtusifoliol, phosphatidic-acid, phosphatidyl-choline, phosphatidyl-ethanolamine, phosphatidyl-glycerol, phosphatidyl-inositol, spermidine, stigmast-7,22,25-trien-3-beta-ol, stigmast-7,25-dien-3-beta-ol, stellasterol, taraxerol, tirucallol [5] and gibberellins A1, A3, A4, and A7 with A1 being the predominant species. [6]

The leaves of C. sativus has been reported to contain 22-Dihydro-spinasterol, alpha-spinasterol, isoorientin, meloside-a, stigmast-7-en-3-β-ol. [5]

The fruits of C. sativus has been reported to contain alanine,  α-linolenic-acid, α-tocopherol, aluminum arginine, arsenic, ash, aspartic-acid barium, β-amyrin, β-carotene, β-sitosterol boron, cadmium, caffeic-acid, calcium, carbohydrates, chlorogenic-acid, chromium, citrulline, cobalt, copper, cucurbitacin-a, cucurbitacin-b, cucurbitacin-c, cucurbitacin-e, cystine, ferulic-acid, fiber, fluorine, folacin, gamma-glutamyl-β-pyrazol-1-yl-alanine, glutamic-acid glycine, hexanal, hexen-(2)-al-(1), histidine, iron, isoleucine, lead, leucine, lithium, lysine, magnesium, manganese, mercury, methionine, mevalonic-acid, myristic-acid, niacin, nickel, nitrogen, non-trans-2-en-al, nonadien-2,6-al-1, nonadien-2,6-ol-2, nonen-2-al-1, pantothenic-acid, pentadec-cis-8-en-1-al, phosphorus, phytosterols, potassium, proline, propanal, protein, riboflavin, rubidium, selenium, serine, silicon, silver, sodium, squalene, strontium, sugar, sulfur, thiamin threonine, titanium, tryptophan, tyrosine, valine, vitamin b6, zinc, zirconium. [5]

Plant Part Used

Leaf, fruit, seed [4]

Traditional Use

C. sativus is as an anthelmintic (acting against parasitic worms) similar to, Citrullus lanatus and Cucurbita pepo which are of the same family, Cucurbitaceae, are effective against Oxyuris. [7] C. sativus is amongst the constituents of cosmetics marketed as treatments for skin inflammations and other skin disorders, and as skin protectants. [8]

The seeds of C. sativus have diuretic property and exhibited anthelmintic effect against Aspiculuris tetraptera and Syphacia obvelata. [7]

The fruits are applied to the skin as cleansing cosmetic to soften and whiten it. The juice is used in many beauty products. [9]

Preclinical Data


Antihyperglycemic activity 

The antihyperglycemic effect of 12 edible plants were studied on 27 healthy adult New Zealand rabbits, treated weekly to subcutaneous glucose tolerance tests after gastric administration of water, tolbutamide (20mg/kg), or a traditional preparation of the plant (4 mL/kg) in fasting animals. Tolbutamide, Cucurbita ficifolia, Phaseolus vulgaris, Opuntia streptacantha, Spinacea oleracea, C. sativus and Cucumis cyminum significantly decreased the area under the glucose tolerance curve and the hyperglycemic peak. The hyperglycemic peak of C. sativus was comparable to tolbutamide, being 17% and 16.2%, respectively. The area under the glucose tolerance curve C. sativus was 13.6%, tolbutamide showed a higher decrease of 16.1%. This proved that this plant may have an insulin-like activity in healthy rabbits. [10]

The pectin (5 g/kg body wt/day) extracted from C. sativus showed inhibitory effects on protein kinase C (PKC) activity in the liver of rats. However, PKC activity was significantly higher in pectin-treated rats as compared to the control group. The blood glucose level was significantly reduced and the level of glycogen in the liver was significantly increased in the pectin-administered rats. The glycogen phosphorylase enzyme inhibited in pectin-treated rats. The glycogen synthase activity was increased. This study suggested that pectin administration may have caused an increase in the secretion of insulin. This may lead to a stimulatory effect on PKC activity in the pancreas. The decreased PKC activity in the liver upon pectin administration may indicate enhanced glycogenesis while increased PKC activity in the brain and pancreas showed reduced glycogenolysis. [11]

Antioxidant activity

The ferric reducing ability of plasma (FRAP) assay was used to measure the concentration of total antioxidants of various vegetable extracts from three different geographic regions in the world. The vegetables were obtained from different commercially available dietary plants either from market places or grocery stores in several countries. Cucumber contained only about 0.10 mmol ferrous ion/100g fresh weight assessed by the FRAP method. Plants that contain the most antioxidants include members of several families, such as Rosaceae (dog rose, sour cherry, blackberry, strawberry, raspberry), Empetraceae (crowberry), Ericaceae (blueberry), Grossulariaceae (black currant), Juglandaceae (walnut), Asteraceae (sunflower seed), Punicaceae (pomegranate) and Zingiberaceae (ginger). [12]

Other studies also showed that C. sativus possessed a very low anti-oxidant activity [13][14][15]. In the former study, the phenolic contents, antioxidant activities by trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC), 1’,1’-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and FRAP assays of commonly consumed vegetable extracts were measured [15]. C. sativus was also found to be a poor source of ascorbic acid [16].

Amylolytic activity

The inoculation of C. sativus (cv. Laura) cotyledons with tobacco necrosis virus (TNV) causes both qualitative and quantitative changes in the total and fractionated protein extracts. The amylolytic activity of these extracts were also changed. The virus infection enhanced a major band of amylolytic activity, primarily located in apoplast space. The amylolytic activity may be related to degradation of starch shown to be accumulated in the immediate vicinity of necrotic lesions associated with the hypersensitive response. [17]

Anticancer activity

Four nutraceuticals, viz, sugar beet roots, C. sativus fruits, New Zealand spinach leaves, and turmeric rhizomes, were evaluated for their comparative effectiveness against dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-initiated and croton oil-promoted skin tumors. Three different protocols were used. There was a decrease in the percent skin tumor incidence, a decrease in multiplicity of skin tumors, and a later onset of skin tumors compared with the positive control. The topical application of nutraceuticals 1 hour before exposure to croton oil was the most effective protocol compared to the other two. Turmeric was the most potent amongst the four nutraceuticals, it exhibited a low (30%) skin tumor incidence, 87.2% decrease in skin tumors, and a 5-week delay in skin tumor formation compared with the positive control. [18]


The natural cucurbitacins primarily found in the Cucurbitaceae family constitute a group of triterpenoid substances which are recognised to be bitter and toxic. [19]

Seven fruits and 10 vegetables commonly consumed in Germany were investigated for their anticlastogenic potencies against cyclophosphamide (CP) and benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) in the in vivo mouse bone marrow micronucleus assay. C. sativus exerted moderate activities. [20]

The antimutagenic potencies of the juices of 28 fruits and 34 vegetables commonly consumed in Germany were investigated. The mutagenic activities were induced by 2-amino-3-methyl[4,5-f]-quinoline (IQ), and in part by 2-amino-3,4-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoline (MeIQ) or 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQx) in Salmonella typhimurium TA98 and TA100. Moderate antimutagenic activities were found with C. sativus as compared to beets, chives, horseradish, onions, rhubarb and spinach that showed stronger antimutagenic activities. [21]

C. sativus  had the ability to inhibit mutagenicity caused by chemicals such as mitomycin C, bleomycin, fluoracil, cis-diaminodichloroplatinum, arabinosylcytosin and mustargen using mutational and anti-mutational synchronous in SOS induce test (+/-S9). [22]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Antihypertensive activity

Patients with hypertension who were treated with C. sativus vine compound tablet. [23] The 300 and 86 patients were divided randomly and 241 patients were treated with the C. sativus vine compound tablet whilst 148 patients were treated with a hypotension drug as control. The total effective rate with marked improvement were 63.1% and 81.7% in the treated group, and 39.2% and 67.0% in the control group, respectively. The marked effective rate is for decrease in blood pressure and the total effective rate were 52.7%, 90.9% and 58.1%, 92.6%, respectively. C. sativus vine compound tablet elicited reduction in the blood pressure and markedly increased the coronary blood flow and improved myocardial contraction in animals. No toxic effects were presented by C. sativus vine compound tablet on animals. C. sativus vine compound tablet may be an effective, safe medicine for the treatment of essential hypertension. [23]


No documentation

Side effects

No documentation

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

The children with atopic dermatitis were tested for prevalence of food allergy towards fruits and vegetables, and the reliability of diagnosis of Prick+Prick test compared with the usual Prick test, RAST and challenge. The 26 patients (17 male and 9 female), ranging in age from 5 months to 8 years, joined the study. Food RAST, prick tests with inhalant and food extracts and Prick+Prick tests with fresh fruits and vegetables were carried out. Only one patient revealed an allergic response to 5 vegetables (carrot, tomato, celery, cucumber, and fennel) by the Prick+Prick test. [24]

A total of 3,717 inhabitants of rural districts in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan were asked to fill out a questionnaire concerning their allergy status. [25] This study was done to determine the prevalence of allergic disorders and their association with agricultural factors. The highest (62%) prevalence of allergic symptoms was observed in farmers engaged in poultry raising. Farmers associated with C. sativus in plastic greenhouse showed a prevalence of 53%. The pesticide spraying was the most common agent which contributed to the prevalence of allergy. [25][26]

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

No documentation

Interaction with other Herbs

C. sativus should be avoided by patients with known allergy or hypersensitivity to it or to members of the Cucurbitaceae family such as gourd and melon. [27]


Hypertensive patients who take C. sativus vine tablet as a supplement should be aware of possible interactions with antihypertensive medications. [23]

Case Report

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of C. sativus L. [2]


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