Ampalaya / Bitter Melon Herbal Medicine

Momordica Charantia, Uses, Health Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects


Scientific Name: Momordica charantia

Other names:

Ampalaya, 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

Ampalaya Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) also known as Bitter Melon is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown in the Amazon, Carribean, South east Asia such as Philippines for its edible fruit. Ampalaya or bitter melon also known as bitter gourd 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.

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

Ampalaya Traditional Medicinal Uses and Health benefits

Ampalaya has a long history of medical usage and has a long list of folkloric health benefits for the following conditions.

Diabetes. Ampalaya or bitter gourd is a widely used herbal remedy to lower the blood sugar levels for diabetic patients.

Analgesic. The juice of Amplaya is used to alleviate symptoms of fever, headache and body pains.

Eye problems. Amplaya juice is also used to treat eye related problems that include sty and sore eyes. It is thought to improve eyesight and prevents the development of cataract.

Respiratory ailments. The juice from amplaya fruit and leaves are used to treat various respiratory problems that may include, asthma, wheezing cough, bronchitis and pharyngitis.

Hair and scalp problems. Ampalaya or bitter gourd has been used to treat various hair and scalp problems that may include hair loss, dry scalp, lice and pimples on the scalp.

Weight loss. Ampalaya is also used to promote body metabolism and the burning of fats thus it is valued as a weight loss supplement.

Source of energy. The vitamins and mineral found in ampalaya is considered as a stamina builder that combats fatigue.

Antioxidant. Amplaya is also considered as a potent anti-oxidant acitivity that counters the oxidation of free radicals that is the cause of cancer.

Stomach problems. Ampalaya leaf extract is a folkloric remedy for various stomach ache and problems that include indigestion, dyspepsia, parasite infestation, diarrhea and constipation.

Hepatoprotection activity. Ampalaya is used as a herbal remedy to protect the liver from damage due to intake of alcohol and other harmful substances.

Skin problems. Ampalaya is crushed or rubbed over the skin to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis, ringworm, athlete’s foot, wounds, burns and ulcers.

Boosts the immune system.  Ampalaya is also used to boost the immune system and as a supplement to build body resistance during sickness.

HIV virus. Ampalaya is also being considered as treatment ot viral diseases that include HIV, malaria, chicken fox and measles.

Menopause. Ampalaya tea is taken as a remedy for pain and discomfort associated to menopause.

Anti-inflammatory activity. Ampalaya leaf extract combined with coconut oil is used to alleviate inflammation and pain associated to gout, arthritis, rheumatism and other body pains.

Cholesterol control. Ampalaya is also widely consumed to lower the cholesterol level in the blood that helps to prevent the build up of plaque along the arterial walls.

Hemorrhoids. Ampalaya is used as astringent to treat hemorrhoids.

Contraceptive. Ampalaya has been used in folkloric medicine as an abortificient and as a contraceptive to prevent pregnancy.

Science Research: Momordica charantia Health Benefits

Antioxidant properties of Momordica Charantia (bitter gourd) seeds on Streptozotocin induced diabetic rats.
The aim of the present study is to investigate the antioxidant activities of the aqueous extract of seeds of Momordica charantia in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. Oral administration of seed extracts at a concentration of 150 mg/kg b.w for 30 days showed a significant decrease in fasting blood glucose, hepatic and renal thiobarbituric acid reactive substances and hydroperoxides. The treatment also resulted in a significant increase in reduced glutathione, superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase and glutathione-s-transferase in the liver and kidney of diabetic rats. The results clearly suggest that seeds of Momordica charantia treated group may effectively normalize the impaired antioxidant status in streptozotocin induced-diabetes than the glibenclamide treated groups. The extract exerted rapid protective effects against lipid peroxidation by scavenging of free radicals there by reducing the risk of diabetic complications. Source : Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2015..

Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) extract inhibits breast cancer cell proliferation by modulating cell cycle regulatory genes and promotes apoptosis.
In this study, we have used human breast cancer cells, and primary human mammary epithelial cells as an in vitro model to assess the efficacy of bitter melon (Momordica charantia) extract as an anticancer agent. The bitter melon (Momordica charantia) extract treatment of breast cancer cells resulted in a significant decrease in cell proliferation and induced apoptotic cell death. Subsequent studies showed that bitter melon extract treatment of breast cancer cells inhibited survivin and claspin expression. Further studies revealed that bitter melon extract treatment enhanced p53, p21, and pChk1/2 and inhibited cyclin B1 and cyclin D1 expression, suggesting an additional mechanism involving cell cycle regulation. Together, these results show that bitter melon extract modulates signal transduction pathways for inhibition of breast cancer cell growth and can be used as a dietary supplement for prevention of breast cancer. Source: Cancer Research March 2010

Momordica charantia for type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Momordica charantia (bitter gourd) is not only a nutritious vegetable but it is also used in traditional medical practices to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus. Experimental studies with animals and humans suggested that the vegetable has a possible role in glycaemic control. The study assessed the effects of mormodica charantia for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Source:  Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Aug

Momordica charantia and type 2 diabetes: from in vitro to human studies.
This review describes anti-diabetic effects of bitter gourd reported in the literature and discusses what still needs to be clarified for developing an evidence-based and safe use of the bitter gourd for diabetes. Analyses of bioactive compounds have shown that bitter gourd is rich in nutrients and phytochemicals of which some have anti-diabetic effects. Juices, powders, extracts, and isolated compounds have been tested in vitro and in vivo. Bitter gourd increases insulin secretion of the pancreas, decreases intestinal glucose uptake, and increases uptake and utilization of glucose in peripheral tissues. Although human studies with type 2 diabetics are weak in their design and/or results, some of the studies do indicate anti-diabetic effects in patients and safety for bitter gourd treatment in humans. In the future, well designed studies with rodents will help to understand what kind of bitter gourd variety, dosage, preparation, and duration of administration is optimal. Such results will help to design human studies which are necessary to prove the effectiveness of bitter gourd in patients. Source: Current Diabetes Reviews. 2014 Jan.

Momordica charantia Extract Induces Apoptosis in Human Cancer Cells through Caspase- and Mitochondria-Dependent Pathways.
The study evaluated and explored the potential effectiveness of Momordica charanti. , Methanol extract of Momordica charantia was used to evaluate the cytotoxic activity on four human cancer cell lines,  in this study. Methanol extract of Momordica charantia 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. MCME induced cell death was found to be time-dependent in these cells. Methanol extract of Momordica charantia activated caspase-3 and enhanced the cleavage of downstream DFF45 and PARP, subsequently leading to DNA fragmentation and nuclear condensation. 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 MCME-induced cell death. These findings indicate that CME 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 Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012.

Influence of Momordica charantia on oxidative stress-induced perturbations in brain monoamines and plasma corticosterone in albino rats
The objective of this study was to evaluate the antistress activity of Momordica charantia  fruit extract on stress-induced changes in albino rats and also to explore attenuating effects of MC on in vitro lipid peroxidation in rat brain. Results have showed that pretreatment with MC at doses of 200 and 400 mg/kg p.o. significantly countered AS-induced changes and a similar effect was exhibited by PQ at 100 mg/kg p.o.  This study reveals the antistress activity of MC as it significantly reverted the stress-induced changes, and the activity might be attributed to its antioxidant activity since stress is known to involve several oxidative mechanisms. Source: Indian Pharmacological Society. 2011 Jul-Aug

How to Get and How to Use Ampalaya

Where can I get or buy Ampalaya?

Amplaya or Bitter Melon for Cooking. Ampalaya fruits and leaves are usually available in Asian or Chinese markets. They can be bought fresh by the kilo, per piece or by bundles.

Ampalaya or 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.

The internet is full of online stores that sells ampalaya extracts, tablets or capsules, When you do, 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. We are not affiliated with this brand and give this only as a sample reference. There are numerous to pick from, but be sure to review the manufacturer and the comments to ensure quality and safety.

How to Use Ampalaya Herbal Medicine

Cooking. Green fruit and young leaves of Ampalaya are cooked mixed with meat. To lessen the bitterness of the ampalaya fruit, wash or even boiled in water with salt.

Poultice. Grounded ampalaya leaves, seeds and root are prepared as poultice applied externally over the affected area to alleviate pain and symptoms of inflammation. It is usually mixed with other herbal oils such as olive and coconut oil.

Ampalaya herbal tea. Decoction of tea may be prepared from the powdered Ampalaya or Bitter Melon leaves, seeds and flower.

Ampalaya herbal tea or decoction

  1. Cut or crush a cup of Ampalaya seeds, leaves and flowers
  2. Steep in 4 cups of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes
  3. Let it cool and strain
  4. drink a cup three times a day.

Ampalaya herbal tea is good to last for one day. Make new Ampalaya herbal tea as needed.

Dried ampalaya leaves, flowers and seeds are more potent, use at half dosage.

Ampalaya or Bitter Melon Juice. Ampalaya Bitter melon leaves and fruit (without the seeds) are pounded and juiced to extract concentrated juice. The juice can be taken at a spoonful for adults while teaspoonful for chilren. Ampalaya bitter melon juice can also be added to other plesant tasting juice for drinking. Dosage is 1 tablespoon 2 times a day until symptoms improve.

Dosage, Warnings and Side Effects of Ampalaya

Ampalaya fruit and young leaves are considered safe for consumption as found in food. Herbal medicine preparations should be taken as recommended for most adults. Just lilke any other herbal medicine, the key is moderation of use.

Counter indications:

When under medications for diabetes, hypertension, heart problems, etc., Taking Ampalaya in medicinal dosages may counter-act or aggravate its effectiveness. It is advised to consult your doctor before using this herb.

Pregnancy and Breast feeding. There is a study that suggests the abortive action of Momordica charantia in large doses during pregnancy. It is recommended to avoid its use more than what is found in food.

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