Medicinal Uses of Bitter Gourd

Bitter gourd also known as bitter melon has several medicinal properties. Bitter gourd is being used for medicinal purpose in various parts of the world for different ailments. It is part of traditional medicine systems in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world. It grows in tropics and subtropical regions. Various medicinal properties of bitter gourd includes antidiabetic property, anti-helminthic property, antiviral property, anti malarial property, anti cancer property, and various other medicinal properties.

There are various active substances/ingredients in bitter gourd/melon, which are responsible for the various medicinal properties bitter gourd has. But all medicinal properties of bitter gourd can not be explained by presence of various active substances/ingredients. Various active ingredients present in bitter gourd include momordicin I and momordicin II, and active glycosides such as charantin, momordin, momordicosides etc.

Anti-diabetic property of bitter gourd:

Bitter gourd has anti diabetic property and it is mainly due to presence of active ingredient charantin, which has hypoglycemic property (blood sugar lowering property), in diabetic as well as in normal individuals. Bitter gourd increase insulin sensitivity, i.e. insulin can act better. There is an active substance in bitter gourd, lectin, which can improve glucose utilization in peripheral tissues and suppress appetite.

Anti-helminthic (Anthelminthic) property of bitter gourd:

Bitter gourd extract is used for treating certain nematode infestation in some areas, as it contain anti-nematode activity.

Antiviral property of bitter gourd:

Bitter gourd leaf extract is used for treating some viral infections such as measles, chickenpox etc. The leaf extract contain activity against herpes simplex virus. Bitter gourd extract have shown some anti HIV activity in some laboratory studies, but not effective in treating HIV infection.

Anti malarial property of bitter gourd:

In some parts of Asia, bitter gourd is used for prevention and treatment of malaria. Tea like liquid prepared from bitter gourd leaves is used for this purpose. Some lab studies have shown anti malarial property of bitter gourd, but there is no human study till date.

Anti cancer property of bitter gourd:

Two active substances alpha-eleostearic acid (present in seeds) and 15, 16-dihydroxy alpha-eleostearic acid (present in fruits) have activity against leukemia. They also have preventive action against colon cancer.

Other uses of bitter gourd:

Bitter gourd is also used for fever, dysentery, abdominal colic, menstrual pain, scabies, burns and fever. It is also used as abortificient (substance that cause abortion) and to aid birth.

Image: markuso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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