Herb of the Day: Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon

( Momordia charantia )

Common names are: balsam pear, bitter gourd, cerasee, karela, momordica

Bitter melon is native to southern Asia and a important ingredient to to the Asian cuisine. It is cultivated in the warm weather regions throughout the world.

Bitter melon is a climbing vine that grows to 6 feet, and has deeply lobed leaves with yellow flowers, and orange fruit. It is the member of the gourd family. Although the seeds, leaves, and vines of bitter melon all have been used in herbal medicine, the fruit, which looks like a cucumber with lumps, is the primary part of the plant used medicinally. Bitter Melon is a useful agent for treating infections caused by retroviruses, and is being investigated as a source of chemicals that can be useful to prevent the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus ( HIV ). It is one of the world’s widely used herbs for the treatment of diabetes. In the folk medicine it is used to treat colds, flu, and fevers. It has traditionally been used to treat parasites, worms, digestive disorders, and skin diseases.

Bitter melon improves the body’s ability to use blood sugar and improves glucose tolerance. At least one animal study, noted that bitter melon fruit juice may cause a renewal and recovery of the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas.

Aids with: diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes.

The easy place to find bitter melon is the Asian food markets. You should not use the tincture for diabetes control, since this form dose not lower blood sugar levels. For people with diabetes, it is likely the long term results will be better if it is combined with the herb gurmar, ( Gymnema sylvestre ). If you are taking insulin or medication to reduce blood sugar, you should check with your doctor before using bitter melon because you may need to reduce your dose of medication.

Note: as a safety bitter melon should be avoided altogether by people who have cirrhosis, or a history of hepatitis, HIV, and of liver infection. All the other people should use the herb for 4 weeks then discontinue for 4 weeks. A excessive amount of bitter melon juice can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. If you have low blood sugar do not take bitter melon because it would worsen the problem. Do not take during pregnancy.



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