Bitter melon, the fruit of a vine in the cucumber family, has the impressive appearance of a warty cucumber. Bitter melon is grown and eaten as a vegetable throughout Asia and it also prepared and consumed as a tea. Bitter melon has traditionally been used for a variety of purported medicinal benefits, some of which have been proven scientifically.
Blood Sugar Management
Herbalists and natural medicine practitioners often recommend bitter melon to help control blood sugar in Type 2 diabetes, according to New York University Langone Medical Center. Typical doses range from 50 to 100 mililiters of fresh juice divided into two to three doses throughout the day. A study on laboratory animals published in the September 2005 issue of the journal “Plant Foods For Human Nutrition” found that bitter melon lowered blood sugar levels by up to 30 percent and improved kidney function. However, bitter melon may enhance the effects of diabetes medication and cause hypoglycemia, which is a condition in which a person has a dangerously low blood sugar level. Consult your doctor about using bitter melon to manage blood sugar levels.
Bitter melon tea may offer protective benefits against some forms of cancer, according to a study published in the September 2012 issue of the journal “Natural Product Communications”. In the tissue culture study, water-extract of bitter melon killed human kidney cancer and colon cancer cells. In an animal study that appeared in the November 2012 issue of the journal “Cancer Letters”, bitter melon extract induced early cell death in liver cancer. Researchers concluded that bitter melon shows promise as a safe, natural preventive for liver cancer. Further studies are need to determine whether these preliminary benefits extend to humans, however.
Bitter melon tea may make chemotherapy drugs more effective, according to a study that appeared in the January 2012 issue of the “Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.” In the tissue culture study of human cervical cancer cells, treatment with bitter melon leaf extract made the cells more susceptible to the effects of drugs commonly used to treat cervical cancer and increased the amounts of the drugs that the cancer cells absorbed. Researchers concluded that bitter melon leaf extract could possibly offer benefits for preventing drug resistance in cancer patients.
Antibacterial and Anti-Inflammatory
Anti-inflammatory properties of a variety of bitter melon known as wild bitter melon may help prevent some forms of acne, according to a study published in the December 2012 issue of the journal “Food Chemistry.” In the animal study, bitter melon extract inhibited growth of an acne-causing bacteria. In a study that appeared in the March 2009 issue of the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” hot water extracts of wild bitter melon reduced levels of several inflammatory molecules. There was significant antioxidant activity where anti-inflammatory effects were observed.
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