An old Chinese man who owns an Oriental grocery store passed on a tip the other day to one of his regular customers. The customer commented that he was beginning to have trouble controlling his diabetes. He had other chronic health problems and took so many medications that sometimes they interacted badly. The grocer pointed across the aisle to a strange-looking bumpy green cucumber-like vegetable and said, “You need bitter melon!”
What is Bitter Melon?
Bitter Melon is grown throughout Asia, Africa and the Caribbean for the edible fruit and medicinal properties. It can be stir-fried, creamed, used in a soup or as a tea. However, this is a very bitter vegetable and is definitely an acquired taste. Fortunately, it is available in tablets or extracts at health food stores or online. This vegetable is high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and low in calories.
Help Controlling Type-2 Diabetes
Bitter Melon contains two compounds believed to reduce sugar levels in those with type-2 diabetes, Polypeptide-P and Charantin. Polypeptide-P is a plant insulin. Charantin, on the other hand, helps the liver, muscles and adipose tissue lower blood glucose levels. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center reported that Bitter Melon might lower the chance of developing diabetes or make it easier to manage for those who already have diabetes. As this bitter vegetable is eaten regularly by millions of people, it is normally considered safe. However, anyone taking diabetes medications should consult with a doctor before taking Bitter Melon. The combination of drugs and Bitter Melon could lower your blood sugar too much; the proper dosage has not yet been determined.
Exciting Cancer Research
Cancer Center reported that Bitter Melon might slow the growth of some types of cancer cells. One study they mentioned was published in Anticancer Research. A compound was used to inhibit the growth of malignant breast cancer cells in animal and laboratory tests. This has not been tested in human trials.
Research on pancreatic cancer done by Dr. Rajesh Agarwal from the University of Colorado Denver and published in Carcinogenesis showed that Bitter Melon may cut off food and energy to the cancerous cells, killing them. Dr. Agarwal and his team used Bitter Melon juice because many Asians drink the juice daily. They made their own, using a 5% juice dilution with water. The juice was tested against four cell lines of pancreatic cancer and showed potent cytotoxicity against them all. One of the goals of cancer research is finding drugs that prevent cancer cells from getting the energy needed to survive and grow; this plant did that.
Bitter Melon has reportedly been used to treat fever, infections and menstrual problems. Laboratory tests have shown some success when using it to destroy cancerous T-cells, but there are no available reports of any clinical trials. Any medical use of Bitter Melon should be under a doctor’s supervision; it should not be taken by pregnant women or children.
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) has been a popular home remedy for many years in Asia. In the West, many take it as a supplement. It’s also eaten in many favorite recipes and consumed as a beverage. There is little information available on recommended doses or treatment protocols.
Have you tried Bitter Melon for a particular ailment? Please send us your feedback on this fascinating vegetable!