What is Bitter Melon?
Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia), also known as Bitter Gourd, Chinese Bitter Cucumber or Karela is a medicinal fruit first discovered in Asia, and used in Ayurvedic Medicine for 1000's of years. Charantin, a very rare compound is responsible for the many Bitter Melon Benefits. It is linked to blood sugar control, anti-inflammatories and blood purification.
In addition to its medicinal use, this fruit has recently gained popularity among chefs for its unique sour taste. Skip to the bottom if you're interested in a few delicious Bitter Melon Recipes.
Bitter Melon Benefits
Let's get into why you're here; the amazing health benefits of this super fruit. Research has shown Bitter Melon to be effective in lowering blood sugar levels, purifying blood, fighting infections, aiding digestive and liver health, preventing heart disease, improving skin health, and protecting against cancer. Below, we go more in depth into each one and how it works.
Lower Blood Sugar and Regulate Insulin
Hundreds of clinical studies have demonstrated Bitter Melon's hypoglycemic (lower blood sugar) effects. In these studies, a concentrated Bitter Melon Extract was used in diabetic and pre-diabetic patients. The results were astounding. Within one week, almost every patient experienced sugar levels within healthy range. Bitter Melon not only lowered blood glucose (sugar) levels, but reduced the body's overall insulin resistance. Apart from Charantin, Bitter Melon is packed with insulin-like peptides and alkaloids.
In addition, Bitter Melon (Bitter Cucumber) showed promising results reversing kidney damage and eye disorders such as cataracts or glaucoma.
Purify Blood and Improve Liver Health
Recent studies have found Bitter Melon extract to reduce fat in the blood and promote healthy cholesterol levels. This Bitter Melon Benefit was first discovered in China where it was used for its sour taste as a flavoring agent. Natives quickly discovered that it helped to alleviate hang overs and cleanse the body. Further testing and research would eventually allow them to realize its purifying benefits to the blood, liver and other diuretic organs.
Prevent Heart Disease and Obesity
Recent clinical studies have demonstrated Bitter Melon's ability to regulate metabolic processes. This prevents fat from accumulating in the blood, thus maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and preventing heart attacks.
More over, Bitter Melon also helps to curb appetite and prevent weight gain.
Improve Skin Health
The anti-inflammatory properties in Bitter Melon has made it a popular treatment for eczema and psoriasis. Because of its antibacterial properties, it is even used to treat deep skin infections like abscesses without the use of antibiotics.
Protect Against cancer
Quite a few studies have shown Bitter Melon to be effective in fighting and managing breast, prostate, skin and lymphatic cancer.
An often overlooked Bitter Melon Benefit is its phenolic and flavonoid compounds. These powerful antioxidants inhibit tumor growth and prevent free radical damage.
Bitter Melon Benefits Digestion
Research has shown Bitter Melon Extract to reduce the symptoms of stomach disorders (stomach ulcers, colitis), intestinal conditions and kidney stones. Its natural laxative properties also help to relieve constipation and promote regular bowel movement.
Further more, Bitter Melon contains anti-parasitic or anthelmintic compounds. It helps to kill and expel parasites or worms from the body.
Fight Bacterial Infections
Multiple clinical studies have shown Bitter Cucumber to be effective in fighting viruses, infections and Helicobacter plyori (bacteria that leads to stomach ulcers). Scientists have identified multiple compounds in Bitter Melon with anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.
In addition, for centuries in Eastern countries, Bitter Cucumber powder has been used as an antiseptic on open wounds or cuts to prevent infection, and speed healing.
How to cook Bitter Melon
The most common way to cook Bitter Melon is stir fry. In this way, it can be combined with meat or other vegetables. It provides a unique flavor with amazing health benefits.
To prepare Bitter Melon for cooking, first wash it thoroughly, then slice it in half, lengthwise. Next remove the seeds and white pith from the center, this is easily done with a spoon. Then thinly slice the Bitter Melon as you would a cucumber. Next boil the Bitter Melon for 2-3 minutes, this will soften the fruit and reduce the strong flavor. Now it's ready to be added to your favorite stir fry dish.
Bitter Melon Recipe
My personal favorite is Bitter Melon Beef Stir Fry. I start off simmering my beef chunks in sesame oil with garlic for 3 minutes on medium heat. Next I add chicken stock, the boiled Bitter Melon, a few tablespoons of soy sauce and let it cook on high heat for 4 minutes while stirring. Let it cool, and you're done! It tastes delicious over steamed jasmine or brown rice.
How to eat Bitter Melon
If you prefer to consume raw to maximize Bitter Melon benefits, I suggest adding it to a smoothie. First wash it, then dice it up to blend easier. It's not necessary to remove the seeds if you're blending it in a smoothie. My favorite smoothie recipe is below:
- 2 oz of Bitter Cucumber diced
- 1 cup of ice
- 1/2 apple
- 1/2 cup of spinach
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 1 teaspoon of ginger root
- 8 oz of water
Bitter Melon Side Effects
- Because of its hypoglycemic properties, Bitter Melon can interact with other medications that are used to lower blood sugar. This can lead to blood sugar dropping too low. To counteract this, if you are taking medications for Diabetes, always monitor your sugar levels to ensure they remain in healthy range.
- Pregnant women, breastfeeding women or women who are trying to become pregnant should not consume Bitter Melon, since it has anti-fertility properties.
- If you've recently gone through a surgical procedure, Bitter Melon should be avoided until you have fully recovered.