Herbs & Botanicals
What is bitter melon? What is it used for?
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 purposes.
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
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.
As always, make sure to consult with a qualified health care practitioner
before taking bitter melon or any other dietary supplement or herbal product.
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