The bitter melon, or also known as karela is a fruit originating from the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean.
This fruit possesses numerous health benefits for which it has been valued for many years. It is recognizable for its fragmented leaves and resembles to zucchini, but has a more elongated shape. Its flowers change the color from orange-yellow one to yellow as it ripens.
Once it is ripe it opens in three parts, and its seeds are numerous and red in color. It is used as a medicine all around the world, and it’s quite present in the Eastern cuisine.
The bitter melon is a powerful anti-diabetic and offers strong anti-carcinogenic properties. It has a bitter taste and contains the following nutrients (100gr):
- Vitamin C – 84 mg
- Protein – 1.00 g
- Calories – 17 kcal
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin) – 0,040 mg
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) – 0,400 g
- Vitamin K – 4.8 mg
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – 0,040 mg
- Carbohydrates – 3.70 g
- Fat – 0317 g
- Folate – 27 µg
- Dietary fiber – 2.8 g
- Magnesium – 17 mg
- Phosphorus – 31 mg
- Sodium – 5 mg
- Potassium – 296 mg
- Calcium – 19 mg
When the fruit is unripe, it is high in potassium, vitamin c, phosphorus, and when it’s ripe it’s high in lectin which reduces blood sugar. It fights free radicals that are often the cause of degenerative diseases and lead to aging.
Moreover, the bitter melon strengthens the immune system making it more able to fight carcinogenic cells, and treats HIV – infections. Furthermore, the fruit is very low in calories, but high in vitamin C, B1, B2, and B3.
The Indians and Chinese have used it in their traditional medicine to treat a cough, burns, fever, skin issues, colic, and painful menstrual cycles. It also detoxifies the liver and helps weight loss, while it leaves can be used to prepare tea which helps in the prevention of malaria, and viral diseases like measles and chickenpox.
The lectin that is contained in the bitter melon works similar as the insulin due to its ability to reduce the glucose concentration in the blood and functions as an immunomodulator.
This fruit can help in cases of leukemia, neuroblastoma, colon, liver, prostate, and lung cancer, but pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid consuming it.
According to some scientific studies, its ingredients can inhibit the metabolism of glucose in cancer cells and reduce the sugar they need, thus forcing them to ‘’starve’’.
A study conducted at the Saint Louis University Cancer Center shows that the bitter melon has a double action: it destroys cancer cells and prevents its further development.
Moreover, experts at the University of Colorado Cancer Center discovered that this incredible fruit can prevent the side-effects of chemotherapy, and also decelerates the growth of the pancreatic tumor.
According to recent studies, the bitter melon effectively prevents and treats diabetes, carcinomas, HIV infections, and also detoxifies the body.
The fruit can be consumed in various ways, including raw, as a tincture, juiced or cooked. But, remember that excessive consumption can lead to abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Scientists isolated three major compounds of the bitter melon, identified as hypoglycemic agents:
Charantin – this is a typical cucurbitane: type triterpenoid, with potent antidiabetic properties. According to the research, it is more effective than the agent tolbutamide.
Polypeptide – when this hypoglycemic protein is injected, it subcutaneously reduces the blood glucose levels in gerbils, langurs, and humans, and can be used as a plant-based insulin replacement in the case of diabetes type 1 since its activity is similar to the one of the human insulin in the body.
Vicine – by intraperitoneal administration, it induces hypoglycemia in non-diabetic fasting rats.
According to a clinical study conducted in January 2011 and published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, daily consumption of 2000mg bitter melon greatly lowers the blood glucose levels in people with diabetes type 2.
It’s been discovered by experts at the University of Colorado Cancer Center that bitter melon can be used in treating pancreatic cancer since its extract reduces the glucose metabolism in pancreatic cells and thus kills them.
Since the melon extract has a beneficial effect in the case of diabetes type 2, the scientists wanted to find out whether they could apply the extract directly to pancreatic cancer cells.
Mice that were fed with bitter juice had 60% lower risk of developing cancer than the control group.
According to a study conducted in 2010, bitter melon extract can cure breast cancer as well, as the extract reduced the cells proliferation and induced apoptotic cell death.
The researchers also confirmed that BME modulates signal transduction pathways for inhibition of breast cancer cell growth and can serve as a dietary supplement in the prevention of breast cancer.
There are numerous other studies showing that bitter melon can indeed treat colon, prostate, and liver cancer.