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Benefits of Bitter Gourd


Bitter gourd or bitter melon (Momordica charantia) traditionally grows in tropical regions of Caribbean islands, parts of South America, Asia, East Africa, and parts of the Amazon basin. Local populations in these regions are well aware of the benefits of bitter gourd. As a result, bitter gourd is part of their diet for nourishment and as a medicinal plant. Bitter gourd or bitter melon fruit grows on a cucurbit vine. It is best to crop harvests when the bitter melon is pale green.
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As it matures it turns very bitter. The benefits of bitter gourd range from treating mild gastrointestinal problems and inflammation and reducing blood pressure and sugar levels to treating cancer and fighting HIV infections.

 

Bitter gourd properties and nutrient content


Bitter gourd fruit possess significant antioxidant, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.  Some varieties such as the white-fruit Indian bitter gourd are significantly higher in natural oxidants, antioxidants, and polyphenolic compounds. Bitter melon is also low in calories, while containing significant amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins such as A, B, C and minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. It is also a good source of dietary fiber.

 

Health benefits of bitter melon

The hypoglycemic effect of the bitter gourd plant has proved to lower insulin levels in diabetic patients. While traditional medicine has made use of bitter gourd fruit as well as plant and leaf extracts for treating type 2 diabetes, contemporary medical research proves that this fruit could play an important role in glycemic control. For instance, bitter gourd extracts may help boost glucose metabolism. The extracts are also known to stimulate the production of beta cells in the pancreas, which helps regulate insulin levels.

Women suffering from gestational diabetes may consume bitter melon as a natural method of lowering insulin without the side effects of antibiotics during pregnancy. However, there is limited research on effects of bitter melon on pregnant or nursing women. Talk to your doctor about the intake of bitter gourd for diabetes or gestational diabetes.

For more information on effects of bitter gourd on diabetes, you may join a discussion forum such as http://forums.hpathy.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=5224&title=anyone-using-bitter-mellon-for-diabetes.

Medicinal uses

Medicinal properties of the bitter gourd plant maybe derived through inorganic preparations such as supplements in the form of pills, capsules, tinctures and powders, tea, and even enemas made from fruit, leaf or vine extracts. If you are able to tolerate the bitterness, you may even consume raw or cooked fruit or fresh squeezed juice from bitter gourd fruit.

Medicinal uses for bitter gourd or bitter melon plant include:

  • Traditional remedies recommend bitter gourd for lowering blood pressure.
  • Bitter melon stimulates digestion and boosts metabolism. It can help people who suffer from regular constipation, dyspepsia or slow digestion.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties of bitter gourd may help relieve symptoms of inflammation caused by acid reflux disease, regular heartburn, or ulcerative colitis. However, some studies suggest that ascorbic acid in bitter gourd may mildly increase inflammation in certain individuals.
  • Antioxidant properties of bitter gourd from various active compounds such as flavanoids, sterols, alkaloids and tannins may help prevent damage caused by free radicals. Anti-oxidation properties may slow down signs of aging, especially, external signs such as wrinkles, crows’ feet and age spots.
  • Calorie deficient and fiber rich bitter gourd is a great addition to any weight loss plan.

Side effects

Consuming large quantities of bitter melon juice or extract may cause abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea. The fruit does act as a diuretic, and continuous episodes of diarrhea may cause dehydration.

Hypoglycemic effects of bitter gourd may act adversely in patients suffering from hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Sugar levels may drop dangerously low through over ingestion of bitter gourd. Talk to your doctor about dosage recommendations before you take bitter gourd for diabetes.

While the fruit and leaf of the plant are edible, over ingestion of bitter gourd seeds may prove toxic. Bitter melon seeds may cause severe cases of toxicity in children.

Bitter gourd effects on pregnancy are yet to be tested. Laxative properties of bitter gourd may trigger premature contractions, vaginal bleeding and miscarriages.

Reference:

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=MOCH2
http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publications.htm?seq_no_115=235822

Submitted on January 16, 2014
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