What Are Bitter Melons?
The bitter melon is also known as karela, ampalaya, or Momordica charanti. While many people consider it an herb or a vegetable, bitter melons are technically fruits because they contain seeds (the name "melon" makes this easy to remember). Bitter melons have similar nutrients to dandelions and are beneficial for health. They are used in some continents like Asia, South America, and Africa to help control blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy system. Additionally, the Chinese used this fruit as part of their daily diet to “clean” their system.
Both high and low blood sugar can lead to many issues. Diabetes is probably one of the biggest issues from high blood sugar, and the condition can lead to other issues. Diabetes can sometimes be prevented by eating right and exercising; since it is a lifelong condition, every step possible should be taken to prevent it. There are numerous ways to slowly bring your sugar level back to normal, and all it takes is some dedication.
What Makes a Bitter Melon Special?
Bitter melons are an excellent source of nutrients. They have:
- Twice the calcium of spinach
- Twice the potassium of banana
- Twice the beta-carotene of broccoli
As well as more of the following vitamins and minerals than most vegetables or fruits:
- Folic acid
- Steroidal saponins
- Vitamins C, B1, B2, and B3
Think of it like this: Eating one bitter melon daily along with every meal will vastly improve your nutrition! Keep it up for about two months, and you can potentially decrease your risk of diabetes.
As you can probably guess from the name of this fruit, bitter melons are an acquired taste. Luckily, there are many recipes for cooking bitter melons and reducing their bitterness. One way to make them more palatable is to remove the seeds, cut the remaining fruit thinly, then salt it evenly. Let the salted slices sit for about 30 minutes, then squeeze out the liquid and rinse them out.
Here's Why Bitter Melon Is Very Important For Your Health
What Are Benefits of Eating This Fruit?
Since there are way too many benefits of eating bitter melon, let’s take a look at the more important ones such as:
Top 10 Reasons (There Are More)
- Reduces the risk of diabetes—One of every 10 adults suffers from this disease, and it’s becoming a bigger problem every day. One way this fruit can help is by regulating blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is not a good sign, and most doctors will prescribe medicine to lower it. And what happens when you are all out of meds? You go and get more. This is only prolonging the problem. Controlling blood sugar level through diet is much less invasive. Also, insulin receptors can become ineffective; when they do, they are called down-regulated insulin receptors. Regular consumption of bitter melons can help reverse the insulin resistance effect. Bitter melon helps diabetics treat insulin resistance without medication. This is an important role in prevention and treatment of Type II diabetes, also known as insulin-independent diabetes. This can also prevent further diabetic complications that are caused by chronically high sugar concentrations, such as blindness, kidney diseases, strokes, heart attacks, and diabetic feet. Eating bitter melons, drinking their extract, or even taking them in pill form can reverse the effectives of diabetes.
- Reduces the risk of cancer—Eating or drinking the juice from the melon can lower the risk of certain types of cancer. It is also known to decrease and kill leukemic cancer cells, according to the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. It can stop cancer cells from spreading and increase chances of a full recovery. But the diet must be consistent for this to be in an effective way to treat this disease. Otherwise, it will not work.
- Reduces the risk of AIDS/HIV—This disease is becoming a widespread issue. Bitter melon glycoprotein beta-momorcharin helps inhibit synthesis of macromolecules in splenocytes, embryos, and tumor cells. This protein also retards the effects of HIV by using the protein to deactivate the ribosome function in HIV-infected cells. It stops protein synthesis in those cells and eventually kills the cells which are infected.
- Provides antioxidants—Antioxidants help protect us from free radical damage. Free radicals can come from common natural environmental toxins as well as pollution, smoking, and normal metabolism byproducts. They have been proven to boost the immune system.
- Relieves asthma—Positive results have come back from patients suffering from a chronic cough who add bitter melon to their diets. The bitter melon helps release sputum accumulated within the respiratory tract and lungs. Many who have used bitter melon extract or eaten it regularly believe that it helps relieve asthma.
- Soothes skin—Do you have acne or wrinkled skin? The chemical or serum in bitter melons has been known to be used for acne and wrinkles. Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties can also aid in acne issues.
- Aids digestion—Helps with digestion of food by producing digestive enzymes.
- Aids in weight loss—This low-calorie and low-carbohydrate fruit will help with dieting and also strengthen your immunity.
- Promotes healing of injuries and wounds—It helps with controlling the blood flow to help heal wounds faster and prevent infection.
- Relieves constipation—It works wonders on constipation without causing diarrhea.
Potential Side Effects
Bitter melons have many benefits, but they also come with a few side effects. For example:
- When pregnant, it is important not to eat bitter melon nor its supplements. They can cause an unwanted abortion. The chances are low, but why risk something that can be avoided.
- If you are hypoglycemic, do not use bitter melon supplements. Eating the fruit is fine in reasonable portions.
- Too much bitter melon or bitter melon supplement can cause stomach pain and diarrhea.
It's always important to know the potential side effects of any part of your diet. The main risk is with supplements because they are so concentrated, and it is possible to take a much larger dosage than when eating the fruit itself. Bitter melons are widely consumed fruit in some countries, especially in Asia, and do not carry much risk.
Thanks for checking this out—please comment.
© 2012 Dave Rogers
kwasi P on November 23, 2016:
A friend showed the benefits of karela to me, I didn,t waste time and bought some of the fruits, cuts them and blend it, Iam really enjoying the benefits of juicing it.I, ll recommed to anybody who ll like to try it.
gevie on June 26, 2016:
I had bronchitis a few weeks back, still feel bad after i finished 2 weeks of antibiotics and cough syrup and antihistamine. SO i decided to put half ampalaya and one apple in my smoothie maker and drink it one in the morning and another after dinner. The first drink made my back ache was gone instantly after drinking. Now i am taking it daily because it gives me a lot of energy. :)
Jannath on November 13, 2015:
Thanks to this excellent article.I very well know about this melon and it's amazing benefits. I decided to use this fruit in moderate quantity.
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on August 26, 2015:
@Vicky It can, from my experience through friends who had type 2 diabetes, but everyone is different. You might want to check with doctors before doing so, just to be on the safe side.
shaik shanawaZ on August 25, 2015:
Thats really great supplyment guys cheers melon have funn take care all Of U..
Vicky on August 24, 2015:
Can the bitter melons be consumed along with the diabetes type 2 treatment.
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on August 13, 2015:
@lfy Bitter melon is sold usually in any asian markets from what I have seen. I haven't seen them in pathmark or anything similar to that. Otherwise there are always supplements for them as well.
Ify on August 12, 2015:
So amazing,how do I get bitter melon?
T.IRERI-KENYA on August 01, 2015:
wonderful.our creator the almighty God gave man what he really needed for his health.long live karela plant.
08087603573 habeeb on July 10, 2015:
u can get it frm my shop in lagos at cheap price
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on July 09, 2015:
@ Amber Harding It's like people say, anything that is healthy is usually awful in taste lol, very true though
Amber Harding from London on July 07, 2015:
I know from my father - any fruit that has a bitter taste is healthy. That means it has a higher vitamin concentration.
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on July 07, 2015:
@ zynish Hey, thanks for checking it out and I am glad you found it useful.
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on July 07, 2015:
@ juderes I actually use to like it more as a i d than I do now, but I still try to eat it often. Sometimes I make soup with it other times I use it as a salad. So many recipes to choose from too.
judalyn eres from cebu city, philippines on July 05, 2015:
When I was a child I hate eating this ampalaya. But now that I am getting older, I eat ginisang ampalaya with eggs. with garlic. I also like the kinilaw na ampalaya. No cooking. Just slice bitter mellon and mix with vinegar, tomatoes and onions, it's an appetizer
zynish on July 03, 2015:
I drink the bitter melon juice daily for acne and seriously it really works Alhumdulilah im amazed... because i used alot of medicenes etc etc but no result now im so happy . Thanks for the very useful information :)
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on July 01, 2015:
@ choosetolive Thank you very much
Ravi and Swastha from London, Canada on June 30, 2015:
Very nicely said. Good information. Thanks for sharing. Voted up & useful information.
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on June 17, 2015:
@ devisree Thank you for reading and sharing. I am glad you found it useful :)
devisree from India on June 17, 2015:
Very useful Hub.Thank you for sharing the benefits of Karela.Voted up and shared.
Divya Binu on April 17, 2015:
My father love this bitter guard.I also like but not to drink juice ,the bitterness is just too much to handle for me. So I usually fry it .
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on April 10, 2015:
@tin First off congrats on your father lowering his sugar level to normal, cacao or dark chocolate is very helpful, but I never try the two together. They both have a ton of antioxidants as well, but I am glad it helps. :)
tin on April 09, 2015:
my dad has diabetes II for almost a decade. he tried drinking ampalaya to lower his sugar level but not enough to bring it to normal level. recently we added hot unsweetened cacao to his diet together with ampalaya extract. in a month his sugar level is now on normal range.
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on April 03, 2015:
@Thelma Alberts I am glad you enjoyed the article, I can deal with bitterness to a certain degree, bitter melon juice is just too much.
Thelma Alberts from Germany on April 03, 2015:
I miss eating this bitter melon and I want it really better. I love drinking bitter melon tea, too. Thanks for sharing this very informative and useful hub. Happy Easter!
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on April 03, 2015:
@Mikulo It's fine to add to it, it doesn't change the properties of the melon juice. I never attempted to juice it and drink it, the bitterness is just too much to handle for me.
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on April 03, 2015:
@email@example.com Being pregnant, regardless of the timeframe, you should avoid bitter melon as it can become harmful. It's always better to me safe, because it is unpredictable in what it can do. The fruit is known to slow down HIV, kill cancer cells, lower blood sugar, and other diseases, the chemical properties of bitter melon is not advised to be taken during pregnancy. Think of it as a stray bullet, its unpredictable, but as said earlier, just to be safe, avoid it during pregnancy.
firstname.lastname@example.org on April 02, 2015:
I'm 7 month pregnant, by eating bitter melon daily is there any harm. My sugar level is 218. Pls advice....
Mikulo on April 02, 2015:
It is okay yo put honey to sweeten the juice? I just did! I comsumed a glass of mixed bitter melon juice covering my nose. I hope this may work...
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 07, 2015:
I like bitter melon. I do exactly what you put here to remove the bitterness and once I have squeezed it dry, I put sweet vinegar and it serves as pickles for me.
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on January 28, 2015:
@Amber I am glad to hear of your aunt doing better, bitter melon in my opinion is an aquired taste. I love the taste of bitter melon, but getting pass the bitterness for most people is a problem, but I am happy to hear of your news. :)
Amber on January 28, 2015:
My aunt has been taking ampalaya pills and she is now off her insulin and metformin. I just bought some in a tea form from the Filipino store and have been drinking it daily. I don't have diabetes but drinking it as a preventive measure. I add lemon and honey because it is really bitter.
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on January 08, 2015:
@hadiza atabo Thank you for the comment, as to where to buy the seed, I'm not sure if Nigeria sells the seed otherwise the only option might to order it online. Unless neighboring countries sell then it might be imported but that's not likely otherwise it would've been done. But check online it's your best bet.
hadiza atabo on January 08, 2015:
Thanks for your enlightment.pls where can I get the seed?because I have never seen plant here in Nigeria.
Er. Amit Kumar Jain on December 10, 2014:
Dekho bhaiyo or bhino, svi ki apni- apni body pr depend karta h,
Anta on November 26, 2014:
Thank you very much for sharing this about awesome and amazing benefits of bitter melon it is very helpful. Lol
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on October 15, 2014:
@David87 The bitter melon seed that you can use are those straight out of the melon themselves. The condition is a warm climate area, and water it as you would with plants. To my knowledge, growing bitter melon is not difficult as my neighbors grow it in New York environment and it's pretty harsh here. I hope that helps.
david87 on October 15, 2014:
Great. Have just started. It's extremely bitter but I will make sure it also work on me like others. Thanks here is medicine for my diabetic mom. No more medication. Back to my village and plant it. Where can I get seedlings n what are conditions . some help please and safe my mummy life and cousin. Please.
Jerry Inong on September 23, 2014:
Bitter Melon KimChee!Hot n Sour,Oh So ONO!
Ian Haynes on August 17, 2014:
At age 69, I have been eating karela literally all my life, but periodically. In addition to eating karela, I also boil the leaves/ vine with some garlic and drink a schnapp glass daily. I have known it as a blood purifier. Apart from adding salt and sugar to the fruit before cooking, I squeeze it and drink the juice. That is pure karela syrup.
Hemochandra on August 07, 2014:
Thanx a lot for ur instruction....
Arun Mantri on June 06, 2014:
Bitter Melon is really effective in releiving constipation problem . Taking a half bitter quard cut juice in water keeps one away from from high BP/ Sugar . One will find always altert and fresh entire day. I request all to keep this wonderful fruit as a part of daily diet .
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on May 22, 2014:
Eating it with something always help make it go down easier. Especially since the bitterness will vary depending on its age. But I'm glad you like it when eaten with fruits which is also good.
yinka on May 20, 2014:
I just started eating bitter melon or karela but can only eat it with sweet grapes or any other sweet fruit and love it. Otherwise I can't eat it!
Barbara 52 on May 04, 2014:
I hate the taste so I buy pills. Going to find out if it helps with diabetes.
bijender on April 23, 2014:
it is really good for health
abdullah on April 18, 2014:
am an organic farmer ,in JHB want to grow bitter lemon please help
tess on February 03, 2014:
I drink ampalaya juice i have no diabetis does something wrong with my blood sugar
Shahid Saleem on January 28, 2014:
Folkes try to stay on natural foods and avoid fast food as much as possible.
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on December 23, 2013:
@anjana Bitter doesn't necessarily mean anything but in most cases its poison, but as to it affecting the ear I have never heard of that any my hearing is pretty good.
anjana on December 09, 2013:
Bitter is also dangerous to ear, is it true?
sonu on December 02, 2013:
i love bitter melon ummhh like its
Sahib Singh on November 05, 2013:
sehat de lai sab ton vadiya karaela the lasan ad
rak the tulsi
Nabin on October 25, 2013:
I LV EATING BITTER MELON .... BT I DNT KNW ITS BENFTS THOUGH I LV BITTER FRUITS OR VEGTBL..... MANY MNY THNKS FOR UR GRT SUGGSTN.....
saasski on September 24, 2013:
why you choose to study amplaya when we all know that its bitter and not much like with all people????
ana vella on June 25, 2013:
since i was young i knew this good benefits of karela in my mother she always add this to our meal..and its true very healthy..
zach on May 28, 2013:
mommy zach eat when daddy gets vol 12
Dave Rogers (author) from New York on August 16, 2012:
@carter06 yep, the melon is pretty useful as long as you can get pass the taste than its fine. I been eating since young because the mom loves to make bitter melon all the time.
Mary from Cronulla NSW on August 16, 2012:
Wow I never knew about this melon and it's amazing benefits...me thinks I will have to get some...thanks for sharing this...up & awesome...cheers