What is Bitter Melon?
Also known as bitter gourd, balsam pear and karela, bitter melon is a vine widely grown in tropical areas. The bitter melon fruit itself is cucumber-shaped and resembles a gourd.
As the name suggests, the fruit tastes very bitter; nevertheless, in countries where it grows natively, people often eat it in stews, sauces, and other dishes.
Bitter melon is loaded with important vitamins and minerals like fiber, potassium, iron and vitamins A and C. The seeds are also rich in important minerals like magnesium and calcium, chromium, and zinc (x). These nutrients combine to pack a serious health punch.
So how can bitter melon benefit your health?
Bitter Melon Benefits
Natural Antioxidant & Anti-Inflammatory
Bitter melons contain antioxidants that fight free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that our body forms through cellular processes, but they also occur due to harmful environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke or air pollution (x). When free radicals enter your cells, they cause damage called oxidation, which leads to chronic disease.
Antioxidants like the ones in bitter melon fight oxidation and inflammation at the root of many diseases. Studies suggest that bitter melon leaf extract may reverse liver damage caused by inflammation (x) (x).
Bitter Melon and Weight Loss
Though studies continue, research suggests that bitter melon improves your body’s ability to burn fat, potentially aiding weight loss, especially in obese individuals (x). In fact, bitter melon may significantly improve body mass and burn fat around the abdomen (x). Bitter melon may also boost metabolism to prevent future weight gain (x).
Potential Cancer Prevention
At least 12 compounds in bitter melon have been studied for their anti-carcinogenic effects (x). Bitter melon extract may slow the speed at which cancer cells spread, and kill cancer cells entirely (x).
In addition, bitter melon may also inhibit the Epstein-Barr virus early antigen (EBV-EA). This is important because stopping this virus may stop the spread of cancerous tumors (x).
Diabetes Symptom Relief
Bitter melon could improve symptoms of diabetes by regulating blood glucose levels. Scientists believe bitter melon does this by inhibiting glucose production from the liver and enhancing the secretion of insulin (x).
Insulin is a hormone that regulates our blood glucose levels. After a meal, bitter melon helps remove glucose from the blood, preventing harmful blood sugar spikes that, if left unchecked, can lead to dangerous health complications.
Bitter Melon Side Effects
As long as you adhere to the recommended dosage, bitter melon is safe to take for healthy adults. Some mild side effects may include diarrhea, stomach upset, and headaches.
If you have diabetes and are taking medication to treat your condition, talk to your doctor before taking bitter melon supplements. They could interact with your diabetes medication and cause an adverse reaction.
Do not take bitter melon if you are nursing or pregnant, as it could potentially cause bleeding or a miscarriage.
You should avoid bitter melon if you have G6PD deficiency, as it could cause negative side effects, including fevers, stomach upset, and even a coma.
Bitter Melon Extract Supplements
You can reap this fruit’s benefits by taking a bitter melon supplement, which is generally available in capsules, tablets, and as a powder.
If you opt for the powder, bitter melon extract powder contains a high concentration of the fruit’s beneficial compounds. As a dietary supplement, take 750 mg (rounded 1/4 tsp) daily, or as directed by your physician.
The Bottom Line
Bitter melon is a nutrient-rich plant that could fight obesity, diabetes, liver disease and cancer. Bursting with powerful antioxidants, bitter melon benefits your overall health and wellness.*
By: Allison Labyk