Bitter melon or karela is a member of the family Cucurbitaceae, which is common in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean.
It is an extremely beneficial plant which has been valued due to its remarkable healthy properties for ages all over the world, and the Eastern populations mostly consume it as food.
The plant has fragmented leaves and resembles zucchini, but has a more elongated shape. Its flowers change the color from orange-yellow one to yellow as it ripens.
When ripe, the fruit opens in three parts, and its seeds are numerous and red in color. It is used as a medicine all around the world, and the Eastern populations mostly use it for consumption.
Yet, despite its various other favorable properties, it is a potent natural anti-diabetic and possesses powerful anti-carcinogenic qualities.
The bitter melon has a bitter taste and is loaded with essential nutrients. To illustrate this, the nutritional value of 100 grams of its flesh is as follows:
- Vitamin C – 84 mg
- Protein – 1.00 g
- Calories – 17 kcal
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin) – 0,040 mg
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) – 0,400 g
- Vitamin K – 4.8 mg
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – 0,040 mg
- Carbohydrates – 3.70 g
- Fat – 0317 g
- Folate – 27 µg
- Dietary fiber – 2.8 g
- Magnesium – 17 mg
- Phosphorus – 31 mg
- Sodium – 5 mg
- Potassium – 296 mg
- Calcium – 19 mg
The unripe fruits are high in potassium, vitamin c, phosphorus, while when ripe, they are high in lectin which reduces blood sugar. This beneficial fruit fights against free radicals, which cause degenerative diseases and lead to aging.
Furthermore, it enhances the immunity, destroys carcinogenic cells, and treats HIV – infections. Another advantage is that the bitter melon is very low in calories, but high in vitamin C, B1, B2, and B3.
In the traditional Indian and Chinese medicine, this fruit has been used to treat a cough, burns, fever, skin issues, colic, and painful menstrual cycles.
It effectively detoxifies the liver and helps weight loss, and its leaves can be used to prepare tea which helps in the prevention of malaria, and viral diseases like measles and chickenpox.
Its ingredient glycoprotein lectin is very helpful since its activity is similar to the one of insulin due to its ability to reduce the glucose concentration in the blood and functions as an immunomodulator.
Therefore, the consumption of this fruit will be of great help in the case of leukemia, neuroblastoma, colon, liver, prostate, and lung cancer. However, remember that it should not be consumed by pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.
Scientific studies have shown that it can cure several different cancer types, due to the active ingredients it contains, which inhibit the metabolism of glucose in affected cells and reduce the sugar they need, thus forcing them to‘’starve’’.
The findings of researchers at the Saint Louis University Cancer Center show that the bitter melon has a double action: it destroys cancer cells and prevents its further development.
Additionally, experts at the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that this fascinating fruit can efficiently prevent the side-effects of chemotherapy, and also decelerates the growth of the pancreatic tumor.
Recent studies have confirmed that the bitter melon effectively prevents and treats diabetes, carcinomas, HIV infections, and also detoxifies the body.
The bitter melon can be consumed raw, as a tincture, juiced or cooked. Yet, note that its excessive consumption may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea.
His fruit has been used as an anti-diabetes natural remedy for centuries, s scientists decided to examine its activity. They isolated three major compounds of the bitter melon, identified as hypoglycemic agents:
-Charantin – it is a typical cucurbitane: type triterpenoid, with potent antidiabetic properties. The research has shown that it is even more effective than the agent tolbutamide.
-Polypeptide –p- a hypoglycemic protein which when injected subcutaneously reduces the blood glucose levels in gerbils, langurs, and humans. It can serve as a plant-based insulin replacement in the case of diabetes type 1 since its activity is similar to the one of the human insulin in the body.
-Vicine – By intraperitoneal administration, it induces hypoglycemia in non-diabetic fasting rats.
A clinical study which was conducted in January 2011 and published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that the daily use of 2000mg bitter melon greatly lowered the blood glucose levels in people with diabetes type 2.
Experts at the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that this fruit can be used to treat pancreatic cancer since its extract reduces the glucose metabolism in pancreatic cells and thus kills them.
Scientists wanted to find out if they could apply the extract directly to pancreatic cancer cells because the melon extract has a beneficial effect in the case of diabetes type 2, which is a predecessor of pancreatic cancer.
In the case of mice, those fed with bitter juice had 60% lower risk of developing cancer than the control group.
A study conducted in 2010 showed that the extract of this fruit can cure breast cancer as well. Namely, the extract reduces the cells proliferation and induces apoptotic cell death.
The apoptosis resulted in increased polymerase cleavage and caspase activation. Furthermore, researchers confirmed that BME modulates signal transduction pathways for inhibition of breast cancer cell growth and can serve as a dietary supplement in the prevention of breast cancer.
Numerous other studies have provided evidence that this impressive fruit effectively treats colon, prostate, and liver cancer.