Common plants squashes, gourds, and pumpins belong to the cucurbits plant family. Cucurbits can contain cucurbitacin, a toxic compound that gives off a bitter taste. Recently, a French dermatologist Philippe Assouly reported two unusual cases of cucurbitacin poisoning and hair loss casued.
In the first case, a woman in France suffered nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, which started soon after she ate a bitter-tasting pumpkin soup. The symptoms lasted for about a day. Then a week later, she started losing hair from her scalp and pubis.
A second woman experienced food poisoning with severe vomiting after a meal that included squash. Other diners had skipped the squash because it tasted bitter. Three weeks later, the patient experienced substantial hair loss on her head and severe alopecia on the armpits.
The bitterness can serve as a warning. Especially, one should not force a child to finish it.
Three years ago, a German died of cucurbitacin poisoning after eating a courgette stew, but this latest report presents the first two cases of hair loss caused by cucurbit poisoning.