Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is an herbaceous annual vine that has fragrant yellow flowers and produces an elongated fruit that is harvested for food while immature. The oblong fruit resembles a wrinkly cucumber with white or green skin, which gradually turns to yellow or orange, and white flesh. The bitter melon got its name from the taste of its fruit, which gets more bitter as it ripens.
Chinese varieties of bitter melon are long and relatively smooth, while Indian varieties have more textured skin.
Bitter melons grow well in wet, tropical areas such as Asia (India, China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka), South America (the Amazon basin, Brazil, and Guyana), the Caribbean, and East Africa. People have used bitter melons in traditional medicinal practices throughout Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.
Bitter melon in traditional medicine
Bitter melon contains many nutrients. The unripe fruit is a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as phosphorus and iron. Additionally, bitter melon contains phytochemicals, including phenolic compounds and flavonoids, cucurbitane-type triterpenes, and insulin-like peptides, which put it on the list of foods that can help manage diabetes symptoms. In animal studies, bitter melon supplementation has been shown to have anti-hyperglycemic effects.
Even though bitter melon is primarily used to treat diabetes symptoms, it has also been used to help relieve gastrointestinal problems, such as peptic ulcers and colic, as well as stimulate menstruation in women. It also acts as an antiviral treatment for measles and hepatitis.
In India, it has been used for a wide range of health issues. It is consumed as an anti-parasitic agent, laxative, and contraceptive, as well as a galactagogue (to increase breast milk flow). It is also used to treat eczema, gout, jaundice, kidney stones, inflamed hemorrhoids, pneumonia, psoriasis, rheumatism, fever, and scabies.
Bitter melon juice
Before you grimace at the thought of drinking juiced bitter melon, you may be glad to find that it has a wide range of nutritional benefits to offer. Bitter melon juice contains numerous nutrients, including iron and magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C. It is an excellent source of dietary fiber and contains twice the calcium of spinach, the beta-carotene of broccoli, and the potassium of a banana.
Other nutritional benefits that you can obtain from drinking bitter melon juice include:
- Low blood sugar levels – Bitter melon contains an insulin-like compound called Polypeptide-p or p-insulin, which has been shown to significantly reduce the blood glucose level in patients with Type 2 diabetes. (Related: Bitter melon extract found to help treat diabetes with its anti-obesity effects.)
- Low cholesterol – Bitter melon is rich in potassium, which helps maintain the body’s blood pressure. It is also rich in iron and folic acid which are known to decrease the risk of stroke and keep your heart healthy.
- Healthy skin and hair – The vitamin A and vitamin C content of bitter melon helps prevent premature skin aging, diminishes wrinkles, and helps reduce acne. Applying bitter melon juice regularly to your scalp helps to decrease hair loss and graying, treats split-ends, prevents rough hair and dandruff, and stops itchiness.
- Protection from alcohol – Sipping some bitter melon juice helps protect your liver from the effects of alcoholic intoxication.
- Weight loss – Add bitter melon to your weight loss plan, as it is low in calories, fat, and carbohydrates, which means it can keep you full for longer.
Needless to say, you don’t have to drink bitter melon juice on its own. You can reduce its bitterness by adding some honey or jaggery (cane sugar) to it or pair it with sweet fruits like apples or pears. You can also add lemon juice to lessen the harsh taste. A pinch of black pepper and ginger can also decrease the tartness.
Learn more ways to enjoy the benefits of bitter melon at Superfoods.news.