Health Benefits of Bitter Melon

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Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is a member of the cucumber family cucurbits, which includes squash, zucchini, pumpkin and gourds. Bitter Melon is green, shaped like a cucumber and best known for it’s extremely pungent flavor. Bitter melon or bitter gourd vines grow in hot areas, including Southern Asia, East Africa, South America and the Caribbean, where the vines and “melons” are used as food and alternative medicine.

In Jamaica, bitter melon is known as cerasee and the leaves and stems of the plant are boiled or drawn into a tea and consumed for a number of ailments ranging from diabetes to parasitic worms. In countries where bitter melon vines grow, the plants and fruit are also used to reduce constipation, abdominal pains and may be given to children for fevers and colds. Fresh leaves and stems can be crushed and rubbed on the skin to treat rashes, eczema and insect bites. Throughout the Carribean, cerasee (bitter melon) tea is used to reduce menstrual pain and treat urinary tract infections.

Bitter Melon is a rich source of vitamins A and C, phosphorus, iron and antioxidants. In a study published in the Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines entitled: Bitter melon: a panacea for inflammation and cancer, bitter melon acts as an antioxidant which contains a variety of anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, antibacterial, anti-obesity, and immunomodulating properties. Bitter melon and it’s cerasee tea are rich in catechins, the same healthy compounds found in green tea. Catechins are flavonols, natural antioxidants that promote natural detoxification and help remove toxins, chemicals and metals in your blood and body tissues.

Bitter melon lowers blood sugar. A study published in the Nutrition Journal entitled The use of Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAMs) in the treatment of diabetes mellitus, found that “natural compounds found in bitter melon have blood sugar lowering effects similar to those of insulin.” This would make bitter melon useful as a natural alternative treatment of diabetes mellitus. This insulin-like activity may also help protect against insulin resistance while naturally stabilizing your blood sugar.

Bitter melon has been used for hundreds of years as a natural remedy for colds, fever and pains due to inflammation including arthritis and rheumatism. In many countries, including Africa and the Caribbean, bitter melon is cultivated, cooked and served as a vegetable dish, however the medicinal uses are much more widely spread.

While useful as an alternative medicine for the treatment of constipation, indigestion, menstrual cramps and to help pass kidney stones, bitter melon’s insulin-like properties and its potential use as a natural “cure” for diabetes is most exciting.

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