Bitter Melon traditionally grows in tropical areas, including parts of the Amazon, east Africa, and the Caribbean, and is cultivated throughout South America and Asia as a food and medicine. It’s applications in traditional medicine span a long list of conditions including killing bacteria, viruses, and some cancer cells, reducing inflammation, and cleansing the blood. For a more complete listing of the variety of the herbal properties and ethnomedical uses of Bitter Melon.
Like most bitter-tasting foods, bitter melon stimulates digestion. While this can be helpful in people with sluggish digestion, dyspepsia, and constipation, it can sometimes make heartburn and ulcers worse. The fact that bitter melon is only a mild inflammation modulator, however, means that it rarely does have these negative effects, based on clinical experience and traditional reports.
The healing properties of Bitter Melon are becoming more widely accepted in the United States among natural health practitioners and even some allopathic medical doctors. Some particularly exciting research, appropriate to our contemporary moment, reflects the powerful insulin-lowering effects of Bitter Melon – it can be a very powerful anti-diabetic! Other studies on Bitter Melon have shown it to also be an effective treatment for HIV/AIDS. Other uses include treatment for viruses, the cold and flu, cancer and tumors, high cholesterol, and psoriasis. The main preparation methods for medicinal doses of bitter melon include capsules and tables, leaf and vine powders, tinctures, and even enemas.
At least 32 active chemicals have been identified in Bitter Melon so far, beta-sitosterol-d-glucoside, citrulline, GABA, lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin. As for vitamins, Bitter Melon is chock full of them! Bitter Melons are rich in iron. They have twice the beta carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, twice the potassium of bananas, and contain Vitamins A, C, B1 to B3, Phosphorus and good dietary fiber. Many claim that Bitter Melon’s bitterness comes from the high concentration of quinine it contains, however little documented evidence has supported this claim. Despite the lack of documentation, it is still regarded by Asians, as well as Panamanians and Columbians, as a valuable agent for preventing and treating malaria.
For those with a taste or tolerance for bitter flavor, a small melon can be eaten as food or up to 50 ml of fresh juice can be drunk per day. An option for those who do not care for the bitter taste are bitter melon tinctures, of which 5 ml is generally taken two to three times per day.
Excessively high doses of bitter melon juice can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. Small children or anyone with hypoglycemia should not take bitter melon because this herb could theoretically trigger or worsen low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Furthermore, diabetics taking hypoglycemic drugs (such as chlorpropamide, glyburide, or phenformin) or insulin should use bitter melon only under medical supervision, as it may potentiate the effectiveness of the drugs and lead to severe hypoglycemia. Bitter Melon has also been found to have abortative properties; pregnant women should use consult a doctor before consuming it in excessive amounts.
A detailed description of the chemical properties of Bitter Melon, its medical uses, and examples of clinical research can be found in The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs.
The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease.