The Sweet Pickles: Gherkins

Gherkin is a fruit similar in form and nutritional value to a cucumber. Gherkin (Cucumis anguria) is a medicinal herb which belongs to the cucumber family.


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Fact file

  • Gherkins (commonly known as a pickled cucumber in USA) is a generic name used in UK for a cucumber that has been pickled in brine, vinegar or other solutions and left to ferment for a period of time by either immersing the cucumbers in an acidic solution or through souring.
  • Gherkins are considered condiment vegetables which are meant to accompany dishes and are used to flavor dishes rather than eaten for nourishment!
  • The pickler cucumbers from which gherkins are made are shorter, thicker, less uniform in shape and slightly bumpy in texture with white dotted or tiny black spines.

Ayurvedic healing cuisine

  • Vagbhata, in his classic Heart of Medicines has said that sour taste if used judiciously, “…makes the digestive fire burn bright. It is smooth as well as good for the heart, digestion and appetite.”
  • The general rule in Ayurveda is that a sour tasting substance has the features of hot, moist and light and implies the corresponding effects of heat, wetness and lightness when taken as food. If a person is suffering from too much coldness, dryness or heaviness, sour taste may help as a digestive aid. Gherkins serve this purpose along with a number of other fruits and vegetables. It is considered to be cleansing, refreshing and an aid to digestive health.
  • The fruits of Gherkin are eaten raw, cooked or pickled. They have a very edible cucumber flavor sans any bitterness.

Gherkins in Folk medicine

  • Gherkins or pickled cucumbers are considered to be great folk medicine used to reduce heat and inflammation.
  • It can be used by women to help treat tired eyes.
  • It can be used for skin problems as it has diuretic, cooling and cleansing property.
  • The leaf juice preparations are used on freckles.
  • Leaves after being steeped in vinegar are used against ringworm.
  • The fruit is eaten to treat jaundice.
  • Raw fruits are also known to dissolve kidney stones.
  • The fruits are used for hemorrhoids.
  • The fruits of Cucumis anguria (gherkins) are known to possess antibacterial properties and are hence used in treating microbial infection.
  • Root decoctions are used as a remedy for stomach trouble and edema.
  • It also helps to heal a range of illnesses including lung, stomach and chest problems, gout, arthritis, or ulcer.
  • The seeds of gherkin are considered to be vermifuge. They are ground into fine flour, then made into an emulsion with water and eaten. Then it is necessary to take a purge in order to expel the tapeworms or other parasites from the body.

Traditional Medicinal uses of gherkins

  • The chief culinary use of Dill seeds is in pickling cucumbers. Muscle cramping may be caused due to dehydration or misbalance in sodium and potassium levels in the body. Gherkin juice which is high in sodium content and water may prove helpful in muscle cramps.
  • Gherkins have a good mineral and vitamin value and are a good source of nutrition in diet. They are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, vitamin K, B vitamins and vitamin A and minerals like magnesium, molybdenum, silica and potassium.
  • They help you in meeting your energy requirements, prevent the symptoms of metabolic disorders, and prevent eye disorders such as cataracts, macular degeneration and night blindness.
  • Gherkins are the type of food that are craved by pregnant and breast feeding women since they require high supply of vitamin K. It also prevents birth defects in fetuses.
  • Gherkins provide good fiber content in diet.
  • Gherkin seeds are used as diuretic, tonic and refrigerant.
  • Gherkin juice is beneficial for internal inflammations and sore throat.
  • They are known to neutralize anti-nutrients occurring in gut and also replenish the gut flora thus helping in the process of smooth digestion.
  • The naturally prepared gherkins are known to be beneficial in enhancing immune system.
  • They are known to curb inflammation.
  • They are helpful against chronic bowel diseases.
  • Gherkins also act in prevention of asthma and allergies.
  • Gherkins are effective in eliminating yeast infections.
  • Gherkins are known to be effective in weight loss.
  • They also improve the overall health.
  • Research is currently ongoing to determine whether Gherkins have any role in lowering cholesterol levels.

Some limitations with the use of gherkins

  • Gherkins or pickled cucumbers lose some of their efficacy as compared to fresh cucumbers owing to a few reasons;
  • They lose a lot of vitamins because of the pickling procedure.
  • They have high sodium content in them which can trigger high blood pressure and fluid retention.

References

  1. Johari H. Ayurvedic healing cuisines. Healing Arts Press, 2000.
  2. Chiej R. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.

Author: Pooja S. Banerjee

A pharmacist by profession,Pooja has research experience in the field of herbal medicine and medicinal chemistry. She has also authored many International and National research and review papers in peer reviewed journals. Her passion for writing has made her foray into the world of medical writing. She writes travel blogs for creative satisfaction.

Comments

  1. I eat Gherkins on regular basis, glad to read it has lot of medicinal value.

    Is there any specific Indian recipes available other than Pickles?

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