Cucumbers belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, related to pumpkins, watermelons and other squash. Technically a fruit, they grow on a vine along the ground and come in hundreds of varieties, among them the common slicing and the popular pickle types. Gherkins are actually immature cucumbers that have been pickled in a brine.
In summer heat, cucumbers can be a relief either eaten raw or sliced and submerged in a drink of water. In Chinese medicine, cucumbers are classified as cold and sweet in property and having detoxicating and hydrating effects on the body. Cucumbers affect specifically the spleen, stomach and large intestine channels. They can be helpful for sore throats, general inflammation, and red or puffy eyes, as well as burns (applied topically). They can promote urination. If made into a soup, cucumbers can relieve a dry cough as well. I highly recommend eating this fruit raw in times of summer heat, or drinking cucumber infused water to cool down if you suffer from hot flashes or tend to retain heat.
Cucumbers have many understated nutritional benefits as well, despite being 95% water. They are low in calories, cholesterol and sugar and contain fiber, which is beneficial for digestion. High in flavonols, vitamins A, C, and K, they are also rich in potassium and their seeds contain minerals such as calcium. Due to all these nutrients, they have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that can specifically help with cancer prevention, bone health (due to vitamin K), cardiovascular health, and skin appearance (ever see a person with cucumber slices on her eyes at a spa?).
It is important to note that non-organic cucumbers contain a considerable amount of pesticide residue. It is therefore important to try and buy organic cucumbers whenever possible. Often times after harvest, the growers apply wax to the skin of the cucumbers as a preservative. Organic cucumbers have a natural wax, whereas conventionally grown cucumbers contain synthetic preservative wax. Again, go organic when possible for these reasons.