Bitter Melon Benefits and Side Effects

Health Benefits of Bitter Melon, Side Effects and Uses

Medical Uses of Bitter Melon includes treatment of diabetes, cancer, coughs, skin burns and scalds...(more)
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Bitter Melon preparation and Availabilty, Where to buy.

What is bitter melon

Scientific Name : Momordica Charantia

bitter melon fruit

Common Names:

Bitter melon, papailla, melao de sao caetano, bittergourd, sorosi, a'jayib al maasi, assorossie, balsam apple, balsam pear, chin li chih, ejinrin gule khandan, fu-kua, karela,
k'u kua kurela, kor-kuey, ku gua, lai p'u t'ao, pava-aki, salsamino, sorci, sorossi, sorossie, sorossies, pare, peria laut, peria, bitter melon

bitter melon vineBitter Melon (Momordica charantia) also known as bitter gourd is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown in the Amazon, Carribean and Southeast Asia for its edible fruit. Bitter melon as the name implies has a bitter taste due to the presence of momordicin, and is believed to be among the most bitter of all vegetables.

The unripe green bitter melon fruit is harvested and cooked for consumption in Asian and Indian cuisines. Bitter melon can be sliced and stirred fried, mixed with meat and boiled as soup, mixed with curry or stuffed with spices and fried in deep oil.

Bitter Melon Description

Bitter melon is a climbing vine that grows up to 5 meters, with tendrils up to 20cm. long. Bitter melon leaves are heart-shaped, 5-10 cm across, cut into 5-7 lobes. Each bitter melon plant bears separate yellow male and female flowers. The fleshy green fruit of bitter melon is oblong shaped with pointed ends, ribbed and wrinkled, bursting when mature to release seeds. While bitter melon seeds are flat with ruminated margins.

Bitter Melon Health Benefits

bitter melon fruitBitter Melon (Momordica charantia) has been a folkloric cure for generations but has now been proven to be an effective herbal medicine for many aliments.

Many medical researches have supported bitter melon (Momordica Charantia) as an alternative herbal medicine for liver problems. Research has shown that among the many health benefits of bitter melon, the most important is its effect of increasing the production of beta cells by the pancreas, thereby improving the body’s ability to produce insulin - a peptide hormone that is central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body.

Other studies also suggest that bitter melon extract has anti-cancer activity in human cell lines.

bitter melon seeds

Another health benefit from bitter melon is that it is rich in vitamins and minerals. The leaves and fruits are excellent sources of vitamin B, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. Bitter melon is also rich in beta carotene.

Other health benefits of bitter melon as herbal medicine is for the treatment of diabetes, HIV, coughs, skin diseases, sterility in women, parasiticide, antipyretic and as purgative among others.

Folkloric Health Benefits of Bitter Melon

Health benefits of juice extract from bitter melon fruit.

  • Used to treat diabetes
  • Used to treat stomach problems such as colitis, dysentery and intestinal parasites
  • Used to treat spleen and liver problems
  • Used to treat mild cough, heal wounds, and to treat rheumatism and gout.

Health benefits from bitter melon leaves.

  • Powered leaves used as astringent to treat haemorrhoids and piles
  • Sap or juice of leaves used to treat skin problems such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, leprosy and scabies
  • Pounded leaves used to treat for burns and scald
  • Infusion of leaves used to treat fever
  • Infusion used to treat various stomach problems and to improve appetite
  • Poultice of leaves used to treat headache
  • Infusion of leaves used as mouthwash to treat tooth ache and other mouth problems

Health benefits from bitter melon seeds, roots and flowers.

  • Decoction of seeds and roots used to treat urethral discharge
  • Roots are used as an ingredient in aphrodisiac preparations
  • Decoction of roots used to abort pregnancy
  • Infusion from bitter melon flower is used to treat asthma

How is it taken?

Bitter melon green fruit and young leaves are cooked, taken as food and is included in diet during treatment.

Juice extract from bitter melon fruit or leaves are taken spoonful for adults and teaspoonful for children. 3 times a day until symptoms improve.

Decoction prepared by boiling 50 grams of chopped fruits, seeds, leaves and/or roots of bitter melon to a liter of water, taken as bitter melon tea three times a day until symptoms improve.

Researches for Health Benefits of Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon Health Benefits for Diabetes

Clinical Studies for bitter melon demonstrated hypoglycemic properties (blood sugar lowering) or other actions of potential benefit against diabetes mellitus. The hypoglycemic chemicals found in bitter Melon include a mixture of steroidal saponins known as charantins, insulin-like peptides, and alkaloids.

The anti-diabetic effect is more pronounced in the fruit of bitter melon where these chemicals are in greater abundance. The bitte melon fruit has also shown the ability to enhance cells’ uptake of glucose, to promote insulin release, and potentiate the effect of insulin. In other in vivo studies, bitter melon fruit and/or seed has been shown to reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides in both the presence and absence of dietary cholesterol. In one study, elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels in diabetic rats were returned to normal after 10 weeks of treatment. (Source: Journal of Chemistry and Biology, March 2008)

Anti-obesity and Antidiabetic Health Benefits of Bitter Melon Juice

A study done in The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii to investigate the effects of bitter melon juice on lipid accumulation and adipocyte differentiation transcription factors in primary human differentiating preadipocytes and adipocytes. has shown that preadipocytes treated with varying concentrations of bitter melon juice during differentiation demonstrated significant reduction in lipid content with a concomitant reduction in mRNA expression of adipocyte transcription factors. Similarly, adipocytes treated with bitter melon juice for 48 hours demonstrated reduced lipid content, perilipin mRNA expression, and increased lipolysis as measured by the release of glycerol.

This study suggests that bitter melon juice is a potent inhibitor of lipogenesis and stimulator of lipolysis activity in human adipocytes. Bitter melon juice may therefore prove to be an effective complementary or alternative therapy to reduce adipogenesis in humans. (Source: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:34)

Bitter Melon Health Benefits for Colon Cancer

A study done in University of Kansas Medical Center had determined the efficacy of methanolic extracts of bitter melon on colon cancer stem and progenitor cells. Results have shown that the methanolic bitter melon extracts showed significant inhibition of cell proliferation and colony formation. In addition, the cells were arrested at the S phase of cell cycle. Moreover, bitter melon extract induced the cleavage of LC3B but not caspase 3/7, suggesting that the cells were undergoing autophagy and not apoptosis. Bitter melon extract reduced cellular ATP levels coupled with activation of AMP activated protein kinase; on the other hand, exogenous additions of ATP lead to revival of cell proliferation. Finally, BMW treatment results in a dose-dependent reduction in the number and size of colonospheres. The extracts also decreased the expression of DCLK1 and Lgr5, markers of quiescent, and activated stem cells. Taken together, these results suggest that the extracts of bitter melon can be an effective preventive/therapeutic agent for colon cancer. (Source: Evidence Based Complementary and  Alternative Medicine Journal. 2013)

Anti-cancer Health Benefits of Bitter Melon Methanol Extract

A study done in Tzu Chi University in Taiwan explored the potential effectiveness of Momordica charantia (Bitter Melon) against human cancer cell lines. Methanol extract of bitter melon was used to evaluate the cytotoxic activity on four human cancer cell lines, Hone-1 nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells, AGS gastric adenocarcinoma cells, HCT-116 colorectal carcinoma cells, and CL1-0 lung adenocarcinoma cells. The methanol extract of bitter melon showed cytotoxic activity towards all cancer cells tested, with the approximate IC(50) ranging from 0.25 to 0.35 mg/mL at 24 h. Methanol extract of bitter melon induced cell death was found to be time-dependent in these cells. The apoptogenic protein, Bax, was increased, whereas Bcl-2 was decreased after treating for 24 h in all cancer cells, indicating the involvement of mitochondrial pathway in methanol extract of bitter melon -induced cell death. These findings indicate that methanol extract of bitter melon has cytotoxic effects on human cancer cells and exhibits promising anti-cancer activity by triggering apoptosis through the regulation of caspases and mitochondria. (Source: Evidence Based Complementart Alternative Medicine. 2012

Bitter Melon Side Effects

In large dozes, pure bitter melon juice can be purgative and may cause abortion of pregnancy.

Side Effects of Bitter Melon and Warnings

Bitter melon as the name implies has bitter taste.

Bitter melon being a natural fruit and a vegetable is considered safe at moderate consumption as food.

Bitter Melon Side Effects

Bitter melon extract or juice, when taken at large dosage may cause abortion of pregnancy.

Bitter melon extract when taken at large dosage may lower blood sugar level. Consult your doctor when you are taking other antidiabetes medications.

bitter melon Preparation and Availability

bitter melonBitter Melon for Cooking. bitter melon fruits and leaves are usually available in Asian or Chinese markets. They can be bought fresh by the kilo, per piece or by bundles. Bitter melon are cooked, usually mixed other vegentable spices and meat. To lessen the bitterness of the bitter melon, slices are washed or even boiled in water with salt..

bitter melon preparationPowdered Bitter Melon, Powdered leaves and root decoction of bitter melon are applied to hemorrhoids as astringent. Wash dried bitter melon leaves with fresh water. Pound to powder. You can use carrier oils to mix with the powder for application.

Bitter Melon Juice. Bitter melon leaves and fruit (without the seeds) are pounded and juiced to extract concentrated juice. Bitter melon juice is then added to other plesant tasting juice for drinking

Bitter Melon Capsules, Bitter melon, as its name implies, is quite bitter, which is why many often prefer to take capsules and tablets. Ready-made bitter melon extracts are available in capsules and tablets in many Asian markets, herb shops, and in the supplement department of health food stores.

Look for standardized extracts (to 10% charantin for instance) or concentrated whole fruit extracts (4:1 or 5:1) to help insure sufficient activity. If you are in US, Canada or UK, where Asian or Chinese health shops may not be available. provides an alternative. look for products that have favorable customers reviews such as Bitter Melon GOLD It is naturally extracted without the use of toxic solvents, harsh chemicals or gases to ensure all the active and synergistic constituents are present in the balanced ratio nature intended. While this is highly popular brand, stocks are usually low and if you find there is stock, order the soonest time.

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