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Herb Reference Guide

Bitter Melon

History

Bitter melon is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family (cucumbers, pumpkins and watermelons), and is a perennial climbing elongated fruit that resembles a gourd or cucumber. Some have called it “bitter gourd” or “bitter cucumber”. In specialty Asian markets, it may be known as “karela”. Bitter Melon is primarily cultivated in the tropics, especially China, India, East African, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Function

The role of bitter melon traditionally, has been as a food and medicine. It appears that it is not a food staple, but maybe eaten several times a week when in season. It's historical medicinal use spans a wide array of conditions, with different parts of the plants being used (leaves, dried or fresh fruit, vine, whole plant, fresh juice) depending on the condition. It has been used to support digestion, cardiovascular function and skin health in Japan, Africa, India and the Caribbean.

Uses of Bitter Melon

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

alkaloids, glycoside, peptides, acids, cucurbitins, charantin, cucurbitacins, momordine, momorcharins and proteins

Parts Used

  • Fruit

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.

Additional Resources

Leatherdale B, Panesar R, Singh G, et al. Improvement in glucose tolerance due to Momordica charantia (karela). Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981;282(6279):1823-1824.