Bitter melon (Momordica Charantia), also known as bitter gourd or bitter wild cucumber, has traditionally been used as medicine for diabetes in Asia, India, Pakistan, South America and East Africa.
Abundant animal and biochemical studies show it has anti-diabetic and blood sugar lowering properties, earning it the nickname “vegetable insulin.” However, existing clinical studies are limited and suffer from poor design, so more research is required before official guidelines can recommend a dose for use in diabetes management.
Bitter melon also provides a good source of vitamin C and folate, and contains various phytonutrients with antioxidant properties. It is considered a longevity food by popular wisdom. The Department of Health in the Philippines has approved it as one of the 10 scientifically proven medicinal plants.
How to use it
Loved and used by indigenous populations for centuries, bitter melon is usually chopped and salted, then allowed to sit before rinsing and using, to extract some of its bitterness. It works well in tomato-based dishes, stir-frys, curries and burgers. Incorporating it with other ingredients helps reduce perceived bitterness. You can also juice bitter melon or puree it with water in a blender (add some lemon juice to improve flavour) and drink a shot after meals.
Years of traditional use support that the fruit is safe to eat. However, care should be taken with extracts and teas due to potentially high doses. There are some isolated reports of hypoglycaemic comas in children after drinking bitter melon tea. People with diabetes should monitor their blood glucose levels to make sure these don’t drop too low as some research indicates bitter melon can improve the efficacy of some hypoglycaemic medications.