Momordica charantia (Cucurbitaceae) / Bitter Melon is also known as African cucumber, ampalaya, balsalm pear, balsalm apple, bitter apple, bitter cucumber, bitter gourd, foo gwa, goya, karavella, karela, kareli, kathillia, kerala, la-kwa and wild cucumber.
Parts used: In Traditional Chinese Medicine the seeds, root and leaves have been used for centuries. In recent times it is the fruit of the plant that is used medicinally.
Habitat: Although technically a tender perennial, cultivated bitter melon is grown as an annual. It is a high climbing vine with yellow flowers and dark green deeply lobed leaves. There are separate male and female flowers. The fruit is green when unripe and then turns an orange colour when it ripens – usually bursting to release its seeds. The fruit resembles a cross between a cucumber and a gourd. The flesh of the fruit is pockmarked and covered with bumps. Native to Southeast Asia the vine is now found extensively throughout the Caribbean, Africa, China and India.
Properties: Antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, antineoplastic, antiprotozoal, antiviral, anthelmintic, abortifacient, astringent, appetite stimulant, bitter, demulcent and hypoglycemic.
Uses: Used to help control blood sugar problems, the herb improves insulin sensitivity and improves glucose tolerance. Also used for the treatment of worms and bacterial infections. For kidney stones, feverish conditions, colitis, constipation, psoriasis, and conditions of the liver. Newer research has shown it to be effective in some kinds of cancer and most interestingly to only have an action on those cells that are cancerous. Bitter melon has also shown promise in the treatment of HIV and Aids related illnesses. More research is needed before a complete understanding of how the herb works can be gained.
Preparation/Dosage: Fresh fruit or dried powdered fruit. Exact dosages vary depending on the concentration of the extract.
Safety Considerations: Not for use during pregnancy and/or lactation. Not for use by those taking pharmaceuticals for blood sugar problems unless they are under the supervision of an experienced practitioner as it may have an addictive effect. May also increase the action of drugs that act on the immune system and drugs used to lower cholesterol. Concurrent use with pharmaceuticals of any kind is not recommended.