What is bitter melon and what is it used for?

Bitter melon, also known as "bitter gourd" or Momordica charantia, It is a food that is used as a vegetable in several Asian countries. It is characterized by a strong flavor and a pale green elongated appearance with a warty exterior.

It belongs to the cucurbit family, same as pumpkins, melons, watermelons and cucumbers. And although it is used in the preparation of recipes with vegetables, it has gained popularity for its medicinal applications. What is it for? What are its benefits? Find out!

What is bitter melon?

Bitter melon is a popular plant in traditional medicine systems. Both in Asian countries and in Africa and the Amazon it is cultivated for culinary and health purposes. In particular, as an article published in Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines, they are cooked stuffed, with other vegetables, in soups or beans.

In addition, due to its nutritional value, it is considered an adjunct when it comes to preventing and treating diseases. According to the cited source, the plant contains bioactive chemical components such as the following:

  • Cucurbit.
  • Triterpenic glycosides.
  • Phenolic acids
  • Flavonoids.
  • Essential oils.
  • Saponins.
  • Fatty acids.
  • Proteins

In turn, it has been observed to exert anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antidiabetic and immunomodulatory activity. While more research is needed on this, the findings regarding its health effects are promising. Let's see in detail its benefits.

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity of bitter melon has been evaluated through scientific studies.

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Bitter melon uses and benefits

All parts of the bitter melon, including its fruit, are consumed. In the cuisine of India and other Asian countries it is prepared as a vegetable, either alone, stuffed or in another variety of dishes. Provides a slightly bitter taste. In addition, it is very versatile, since it can be fried, steamed or baked.

In turn, both its extracts and its tea and other presentations have been used in traditional medicine with the aim of promoting well-being and favoring the treatment of some chronic diseases. Is there evidence? What is known about it?

Helps regulate blood glucose levels

Bitter melon it is not a first-line treatment for diabetes. Despite this, important findings have been made about the effects of its consumption in controlling high glucose levels.

According to a post on Current Diabetes Reviews, This ingredient appears to improve the way the body uses glucose in tissues. In addition, it promotes the secretion of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels.

It favors the control of cholesterol levels

An animal research that was disclosed through Nigerian Quarterly Journal of Hospital Medicine determined that Bitter melon extract can significantly reduce high blood cholesterol levels compared to a placebo.

In turn, a study published in Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences concluded that the administration of this supplement can lower both total cholesterol and bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides levels. More research is required to verify the same effects in humans. Regardless, the fruit looks promising when it comes to caring for the heart.

Supports weight loss

When it comes to losing weight, it is essential to keep in mind that there is no miracle formula to achieve it. Neither bitter melon nor other supplements can make you lose pounds overnight. It is essential to design a plan according to individual needs, in the hands of doctors and nutritionists.

In any case, bitter melon seems to be an aid in this process. Its low caloric intake, added to its contribution of fiber and antioxidants, make it a good option to support the diet. A study published in Nutrition Journal determined that the extracts of this food help improve metabolic syndrome.

Has anticancer activity

The nutritional composition of bitter melon has been positively associated with reducing the risk of some types of cancer. A test tube study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative determined that the extracts of this food They could destroy cancer cells in the stomach, colon, throat, and lungs.

However, it is still unknown whether these effects also occur in cancer patients. It should be noted that in these studies specific amounts of bitter melon were used in individual laboratory cells and, therefore, the same effects are not certain in humans, under live conditions. It is not yet considered a treatment for this disease.

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Other possible benefits of bitter melon

In addition to the aforementioned, bitter melon is attributed other health benefits. However, as detailed in an article published in MedlinePlus from the United States National Library of Medicine, the evidence is insufficient. Its possible uses are as follows:

The anticancer effect cannot be established under real conditions yet. It should not be considered a first-line approach for cancer pathologies.

Safety and side effects

Bitter melon and its derivatives are not dangerous for most people if used in the short term. For now it is not known how safe it is to use in the long term. Due to this, moderate consumption is recommended. In excessive amounts it can cause the following side effects:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach ache.

However, given the lack of studies in humans, its consumption is not recommended during pregnancy and lactation. It should also not be ingested by people who are taking a treatment for diabetes. It is even best to consult a doctor in case of having other underlying diseases, since this food can interfere with the effects of the therapy.

Use bitter melon with caution

Much is said about the benefits of bitter melon. A wide variety of supplements derived from this plant have even been distributed. But nevertheless, It is essential to take into account that the evidence on its effects in humans is still limited; therefore, it should be used with caution.

The plant, like its extracts, should not be a first-line treatment when dealing with diseases. In fact, before taking it as a supplement it is necessary to consult a doctor.