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What is bitter melon? What is it
Bitter melon is commonly used as a vegetable in tropical
areas such as East Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South
America. The plant gets its name from the bitter taste of
its fruit and juice; however, cooking it with the appropriate
spices can reduce the bitterness. In addition to being a food
source, bitter melon is employed as an herbal remedy in many
parts of the world. While the seeds, leaves and vines of bitter
melon may all be used, the fruit is used most often for medicinal
At lease three types of compounds in bitter melon are believed
to lower blood sugar, which can benefit people with diabetes
mellitus. It is still unclear whether these compounds work
together or individually, but several controlled clinical
studies have confirmed that bitter melon is beneficial in
controlling the symptoms of diabetes.
Test-tube studies have also shown that two proteins found
in bitter melon alpha-momorcharin and beta-momorcharin
inhibit the AIDS virus. However, these studies have
not been conducted in humans.
How much bitter melon should I take?
For those who can withstand the bitter taste, many herbalists
recommend eating one small melon; 100 millileters of a bitter
melon decoction; or two ounces of fresh bitter melon juice
per day. For people who cannot stand the taste, some practitioners
recommend bitter melon tinctures (five millileters, two or
three times per day).
What forms of bitter melon are available?
Fresh bitter melon and bitter melon juice can be found at
many specialty stores and Asian markets. Bitter melon extracts
and tinctures can be found at some health food stores.
What can happen if I take too much
bitter melon? Are there any interactions I should be aware
of? What precautions should I take?
Excessive amounts of bitter melon juice may cause abdominal
pain and diarrhea. In addition, patients with hypoglycemia
should avoid bitter melon, because it could theoretically
worsen their condition.
At present, there are no well-known drug interactions with
better melon. However, make sure to consult with a health
care provider before taking bitter melon (or any other dietary
Other Resources :
More You Know About Nutrition
- Brown DJ, Gaby A, Reichert R, Yarnell
E. Phytotherapeutic and nutritional approaches to diabetes
mellitus. Quart Rev Nat Med 1998;Winter:32954.
- Raman A, Lau C. Anti-diabetic properties
and phytochemistry of momordica charantia L (curcurbitaceae).
- Shi H, Hiramatsu M, Komatsu M, Kayama
T. Antioxidant property of fructus momordicae extract. Biochem
Molec Biol Int 1996;40:11121.
- Werbach MR, Murray MT. Botanical Influences
on Illness. Tarzana, CA: Third Line Press, 1994, pp.
- Zhang QC. Preliminary report on the use
of momordica charantia extract by HIV patients. J
Naturopathic Med 1992;3:659.