Bitter gourd or Bitter melon: Introduction
Bitter gourd or bitter melon is a tender, traditional, edible fruit/vegetable pod grown on climbing vines. As the name suggests, it is bitter in taste. To be frank, it is considered as one of the most bitter among all fruits. The best part is, the dishes made from bitter gourd are considered tasty by the consumers. If you once start cooking and eating bitter gourd curry, you will stick on it because it is truly appetizing. It also helps in improving your health by preventing diseases and by boosting immunity through its phytochemical compounds.
Bitter gourd color and taste:
We get two types of bitter gourd in terms of color. One of the varieties is dark green in color, the other variety is either pale green or whitish in color. The color depends on the region where it is grown. Bitter gourd consumers say, pale colored or white bitter gourd is less bitter in taste when compared to the dark green ones.
Tips: To make bitter gourd taste not so bitter, I have a method of cooking. Wash bitter gourd. Chop it after removing the seeds. Take the pieces in a container, marinate it with salt. Leave for 30 minutes. By this time, the water content in the bitter gourd releases partially. Squeeze by holding tight inside your fist. Discard the bitter water. Use the dry bitter gourd for making the curry. The recipe cooked this way tastes less bitter and awesome.
Shape and size of bitter gourd:
The size and shape of bitter gourd vary a little from one variety to another. However, a majority of them look alike. They have a rough outer skin, with a thin and long shape. The length varies from 4 inches to 8 inches when they are ripe. Bitter gourd with the oval shape is also found. Bitter gourd has many seeds packed inside. When it is raw, it has soft, light green flesh. Once it turns into a fruit, its color changes to yellow or yellowish red. The seed covering changes into the bright red when ripe. Bitter gourd fruit is also bitter in taste and has some sweetness in it. This fruit is also nutrient rich and is useful for making medicines, juice, and curries.
Health benefits of Bitter gourd or Bitter melon:
Bitter gourd is a vegetable/fruit that can be used as food or medicine. It is packed with beneficial antioxidants and essential vitamins. Let us find out the most well-known uses and health benefits of bitter gourd/bitter melon.
1. Liver health:
Drink a glass of bitter gourd juice daily in empty stomach to heal liver problems. Consume it for a week to see the results.
Consuming bitter gourd helps in reducing the blemishes on the skin, acne, and deep skin infections. Now I remember, my daughter was prescribed to drink bitter gourd juice daily in small quantity to reduce acne on her face. It is useful in treating blood disorders, psoriasis, blood boils, itching, ringworms, and other fungal diseases.
If you apply bitter gourd paste or bitter gourd leaf paste on the itchy skin, it helps in reducing itching and controls further infections. Bitter gourd is an anti-aging agent. Free radicals in it act against aging. Consume a small cup of bitter gourd juice mixed with lemon on empty stomach for a few months or till you get the desired result.
3. Respiratory problems:
The fresh bitter gourd is useful for curing respiratory problems like asthma, cold and cough. People consume the paste of bitter gourd leaves and tulsi leaves, mixed with honey in moderation as a remedy for respiratory ailments.
4. Immune system:
Boil a few bitter gourd leaves in water and consume it daily to fight against infections. This drink is good for boosting immunity.
Bitter gourd juice is a well-known remedy for diabetic patients with Type 2 diabetes. It is a proven medication since ancient times in India and China. Type 2 diabetes occurs partially due to the inability of the cells to absorb sugar in the blood, may be due to the insufficient insulin or due to the development of insulin resistance. In such circumstances, the cells are unable to absorb sugar due to the inability of the insulin produced.
The absorption of the sugar takes place when activated protein kinase gets activated in the cells. Bitter gourd stimulates the kinases and helps in the absorption of sugar. Thus, it helps in diabetes control. Bitter gourd has certain chemicals in it that act like insulin which helps in reducing the blood sugar level.
6. Skin benefits:
Bitter gourd is a natural blood purifier. It helps in improving the complexion and appearance of your skin. Regular consumption of bitter gourd ensures healthy, glowing skin, free from blemishes. Being an anti-aging agent, it helps in treating the skin infections like psoriasis, eczema, and other fungal infections.
7. Natural energizer:
Making regular use of bitter gourd improves stamina and energy levels of the individuals and also improves sleeping patterns.
Bitter gourd is believed to have the properties to prevent cancer cells from multiplying.
9. Weight control:
Bitter gourd has antioxidants that help to flush out toxins from your body. Normally the two factors affecting weight control are calorie control and food control. Bitter gourd is low in calorie just like other vegetables. It contains 80-85% water in it. Hence, consumption of bitter gourd makes you feel filled. Thus, suppresses hunger and avoids over-eating.
10. Heart health:
Eating bitter gourd is beneficial for the heart in many ways. It helps to reduce the bad cholesterol and hence, reduces the risk of heart attack. As discussed earlier, it is a known remedy for reducing the blood sugar level in the body which also helps in promoting good heart health.
11. Kidney and Bladder:
Bitter gourd is useful in treating kidney stones. It is also helpful in maintaining liver and bladder in good condition.
Bitter gourd has fiber in it which helps in digestion and easy bowel movements.
13. Purifies blood:
The antioxidant and anti-microbial properties of bitter gourd juice help in treating blood disorders associated with acne and other skin problems. It clears toxins from the blood and purifies it. It also aids in improved blood circulation in the body. The itching caused by rashes, acne, psoriasis, blood boils can be cured by applying bitter gourd leaf paste. It also inhibits the growth of cancer cells in the body.
14. Healing properties:
Bitter gourd helps in proper blood circulation in the body and helps in clotting. Thus, helps in healing the wound faster, preventing further infections.
15. Hair benefits:
Bitter gourd is a great remedy for hair problems also. If you want to have shiny hair, mix a cup of fresh bitter gourd juice with yogurt and apply it to your scalp and hair. Wash it off after 20 minutes. This will leave your hair shiny and beautiful.
As a home remedy, bitter gourd juice cures dandruff, split ends, itchy scalp, and hair loss too.
Bitter gourd curry
Bitter gourd Curry Recipe:
Bitter gourd curry is a very simple recipe. It tastes extremely good. For the recipe, go to my article on 'Bitter gourd Curry Recipe'.
A Word of Caution:
Though bitter gourd or bitter gourd juice consumption has numerous health benefits for health, skin, and hair, it should be consumed daily in a small quantity, as it may cause nausea and stomach pain if consumed in high doses.
Pregnant women should avoid drinking bitter gourd juice as it may stimulate the uterus for menstruation and may result in abortion.
Diabetic patients on regular medication for blood sugar control should take advice from the doctor before start drinking bitter gourd juice daily. Otherwise, it may lead to dropping of blood sugar level to a low level or to any other complications due to the effect of both medicine and bitter gourd juice.
Potential Bad effects of Bitter gourd consumption:
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain etc if you consume more than two bitter gourds a day.
- If you are taking medicines for lowering your blood sugar, consult the doctor before starting the regular bitter gourd juice drinking. Otherwise, there is a possibility of your blood sugar level becoming dangerously low due to double medications.
- It is believed that bitter gourd has the tendency to interact with some chemotherapy medications. Hence, check with the doctor to find out whether you can regularly drink bitter gourd juice if you are taking medicines for any disease.
- Don't overeat bitter gourd regularly. It may cause heartburn and disturbed sleep. Pregnant women or women who want to become pregnant should avoid eating bitter gourd because it may induce the uterus for menstruation and abortion. Normally, young children and people suffering from liver problems are advised not to eat bitter gourd.
- Bitter gourd seeds are not good for health for those who are suffering from the deficiency of Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase(G6PD). Consuming the seed may tend to lead to a condition called Favism. This condition gives rise to fever, anemia, headache, and stomach pain. In worst situations, it may make the person go to coma.
ShailaSheshadri (author) from Bengaluru on March 25, 2017:
Thanks for reading my article. Indeed, bitter gourd has medicinal benefits.
Ashi on March 25, 2017:
I am scared of this since I was a kid but I was not knowing about the benefit of Bitter Gourd. This is such a useful and informative hubs.