Bitter melon, also known as wild cucumber or bitter apple, grows in Asia, East Africa, South America and the Caribbean. It is consumed as food and also has many medicinal effects.
Science is now looking at this plant’s therapeutic effects, especially in relation to treating diabetes and some types of cancer. The findings are promising and suggest there might be yet another alternative for chronic conditions often considered incurable.
Bitter melon helps regulate insulin levels, and this is what might make it efficient in treating conditions related to pancreas where this hormone is produced.
In vitro and animal studies also showed antiviral and lipid (fat) lowering effect. Traditionally, this fruit, which is believed to be the most bitter among all fruits and vegetables, was used to treat colic, fever, pain, skin conditions and burns.
Bitter Melon And Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is one of the fastest progressing cancers and doesn’t respond to conventional treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
A study performed at the Colorado University examined the effects of bitter melon on pancreatic cancer. The study was done in vitro on four different lines of pancreatic cancer cells, and on mice injected with pancreatic tumor cells.
The researchers observed that bitter melon juice stopped cancer cell proliferation and caused them to die. Tumor growth was reduced by 60% compared to the control group that received water. There were no signs of toxicity or side effects on the body.
Further studies are required to establish the effect of the plant on human patients. In addition to bitter melon there is also a Chinese herb that has been found to be very efficient in treating pancreatic cancer.
Bitter Melon And Diabetes
Numerous clinical studies assessed bitter melon in relation to diabetes. Not all of these studies reached the same conclusion.
A study published in 2011 in Journal of Ethnopharmacology, showed that bitter melon significantly reduced blood glucose levels among patients with type 2 diabetes and had a modest hypoglycemic effect. However, an earlier study, published in Journal of Clinical Epidemiology in 2007, showed no benefits of bitter melon for type 2 diabetes.
The website Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center — the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center — reports that ‘bitter melon can lower blood glucose levels, but it is not known how it interacts with insulin or other medications’. Also, the correct dosage hasn’t been established yet, therefore bitter melon cannot be considered as a replacement therapy for insulin or hypoglycemic drugs.
There are 12 other foods that can help you to control type 2 diabetes and there are 7 effective steps to prevent type 2 diabetes.
How to Consume Bitter Melon
Bitter melon can be eaten as a fruit, made into a drink, or the seeds can be added to food. Bitter melon extract is also available as a herbal supplement.
If eaten in excessive amounts, the plant can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea, so don’t consume more than two ounces (or two melons) per day
Bitter melon shouldn’t be eaten by pregnant women as it can cause a miscarriage and the seed coverings are supposed to be toxic in children.
If you are considering using bitter melon for a health condition, you should consult your doctor first, and check it doesn’t interact with any medications you are currently taking.
Here is a video about bitter melon for diabetes: