Bitter gourd or Momordica charantia (also known as bitter melon) belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, of the genus Momordica, home to squash, watermelon, cantaloupes, cucumber, etc. As is the trait within members in the Cucurbitaceae family, bitter gourds are vines with thin stems and tendrils that require trellis to support the climbing vine.
They come in many varieties ranging from dark greens to whites and common varieties are balsam pear, cundeamor, la-kwa, etc. The pods are characterized by smooth lengthwise ridges and uneven warty surface. Depending upon the cultivar type, immature pods are light to dark green and have oblong or oval shapes with a pointed tip at the blossom end. Internally, the flesh is white with rough edged seeds, and gradually turns yellow or orange as they mature, with the seeds turning red.
Bitter gourd contains a unique phyto-constituent that has been confirmed to have a hypoglycemic effect (lowering blood sugar) called Charantin. There is also another insulin-like compound known as Polypeptide P which has been tested as an insulin replacement in some diabetic patients.
Bitter gourd originated on the Indian subcontinent, and was introduced into China in the 14th century.
23 HEALTH SECRETS OF BITTER GOURD:
- Heart Care: Reduces bad cholesterol levels, by burning unnecessary fats which clog the arterial walls and thereby reduce the chances of heart attacks.
- Weight Loss: Rich in iron, beta-carotene, and potassium. It can relieve constipation and improve circulation, thereby producing slimming effects on the body.
- Type II Diabetes Cure: Reverses insulin resistance and activates the protein kinase, activating the absorption of sugar in body cells. Significantly improves glucose tolerance without increasing blood insulin levels.
- Lowers blood glucose levels: Contains phyto-nutrient, polypeptide-P, a plant insulin, known to lower blood sugar levels. The hypoglycemic agent, Charantin, increases glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis in the cells of liver, muscle and adipose tissue.
- Hypertension Reliever: Actively inhibits hypertension, high plasma cholesterol, or high plasma lipids, which affect patients with Type II diabetes, decreasing the risk of stroke or heart attack.
- Anti-parasitic: Antihelminthic or anthelmintic compounds are used in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases and can kill parasitic intestinal worms. It also stimulates peristalsis of food, relieving indigestion and constipation problems.
- Blood Cell Booster: The compounds a-eleostearic acid and the 15, 16-dihydroxy-a-eleostearic acid, are a good remedy for leukemia and blood irregularities such as anemia. It helps in producing healthy red blood cells and balances the amount of white blood cells in your body.
- Blood Cleanser: Its juice cleanses the liver and blood off toxins and is highly beneficial for treating blood disorders like blood boils and itching due to toxemia.
- Folates Source: Has high amount of Folates that helps in treating defective neural tubes which usually occurs during early pregnancy.
- Anti Ageing: Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, fights and eliminates free radicals, reducing wrinkles and slowing down the ageing process. It also protects the skin from damage by sun’s UV rays.
- For Respiratory disorders: Fresh pods are an excellent remedy for curing respiratory problems like asthma, cold, cough, bronchitis and pharyngitis.
- Nutrients/Vitamin SuperStore: Contains flavonoids such as ß-carotene, α-carotene, lutein, and zea-xanthin. Low in calories, rich in phytonutrients like dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants and a
- Disease Buster: Not only effective in killing malaria bacteria, but it can also weaken some viruses such as Cholera, Chickenpox, Measles, Herpes and Jaundice.
- Immunity Booster: This bitter juice can also help to strengthen your immune system and increase your body’s resistance against a variety of infections.
- Psoriasis Cure: Regular consumption of this bitter juice has curative benefits in treatment of psoriasis, fungal infections like ring-worm and athletes feet, and skin infections like eczema.
- Acne Cure: Helps prevent acne, thanks to its blood purifying properties. Keeps your skin glowing and free from blemishes and infections.
- Eye Care: High beta-carotene and other properties, help alleviate eye problems and in improving eyesight.
- For Hangover: Its anti-intoxication properties are beneficial in the treatment of hangover and eliminating liver problems, due to alcohol consumption.
- Piles Cure: Three teaspoons of the juice, extracted from its leaves, added to a glassful of buttermilk and consumed on an empty stomach every morning, has shown promising curative results in the treatment of piles.
- Hair Care:
- Regulates blood flow and clotting: Aids in the healing process preventing further infections.
- Energy Source: Regular consumption of this bitter juice has been proven to improve energy and stamina levels. Even sleeping patterns have been shown to be improved/stabilized.
Side Effects and Precautions:
- Diarrhea: Excessive consumption (more than two melons a day) may cause mild abdominal pain or diarrhea. Avoid taking on an empty stomach.
- Hypoglycemia: Diabetics taking hypoglycemic drugs will need to alter the dosage of their drugs if they consume bitter gourd on a regular basis.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women should avoid taking too much bitter gourd or its juice as it may stimulate the uterus that may lead to preterm labor.
- Alkaloids and Toxicity: Bitter gourd may contain alkaloid substances like quinine and morodicine, resins and saponic glycosides, which may be intolerable by some people causing symptoms like excessive salivation, facial redness, dimness of vision, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea