First impressions aren't everything, especially when it comes to foods that are actually good for you. Bitter melon is one great example of a food that's not so easy on the eyes but should be on your radar. Bitter melon has been used medicinally around the world for centuries and is gaining popularity in the United States as an alternative treatment to many conditions requiring prescription medication.
There's more than meets the eye when it comes to bitter melon, making it worth a second look.
Bitter Melon Fruit
Bitter melon is actually a vegetable that's typically grown in tropical or subtropical climates. The bitter melon is the fruit of the Momordica charantia plant -- shaped similarly to a bell pepper or a cucumber, the bitter melon ranges in color from white to a vibrant green color. Bitter melon is a member of the gourd family and is also referred to as bitter gourd. Around the world, bitter melon is eaten and the seeds and flesh are used to create medicine.
Bitter melon is rich is vitamins A, B and C as well as iron and potassium. This vegetable is also abundant in beta carotene and dietary fiber. All of these reasons have made bitter melon a popular choice for the diet around the world and have made it a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). So what does it do?
Medicinal Uses of Bitter Melon
Bitter melon has been used around the world for centuries to treat a number of medical conditions. Here are some of the most common uses of bitter melon:
Bitter melon is most commonly used for blood sugar regulation. Bitter melon's key components interact with the enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). According to Science Daily, this enzyme (also known as the "exercise enzyme") regulates fuel metabolism and facilitates glucose uptake. This makes bitter melon a promising treatment for type 2 diabetes, which means an individual is unable to properly convert glucose found in the bloodstream into fuel for energy in the muscles. This information is supported by several studies including one published in 2003 in The Journal of Nutrition and one published in 2008 in the medical journal Chemistry & Biology that showed bitter melon's glucose-lowering effects in animals.
Another one of the most common uses of bitter melon is to lower blood pressure as seen in a 2011 animal study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food. In the study, ingesting bitter melon lowered systolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure in the first number in the blood pressure ratio and measures the force of the blood found in the arteries while the heart is beating. Systolic blood pressure is looked at to diagnose high blood pressure.
Bitter melon helps to combat inflammation and can be beneficial in treating conditions such as ulcers, colitis, constipation and gastrointestinal upset. Taking bitter melon supplements or eating it promotes proper digestion due to its nutritional makeup, particularly the amount of fiber found in the vegetable.
Also because of its anti-inflammatory properties, bitter melon is recommended for psoriasis, a condition characterized by red patches on the skin that are dry, flaky and itchy, sometimes with white or silver plaque on them. Bitter melon can also be beneficial in treating skin abscesses and promoting wound healing.
Bitter melon has antibacterial and antioxidant properties to help fight off infection and strengthen the immune system. Research continues regarding its effects on individuals with kidney stones, liver disease, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Adding Bitter Melon to Your Routine
Bitter melon supplements are commonly in capsule form, containing the extract in various strengths. Using this supplement in conjunction with proper diet and exercise can be beneficial to your overall health. If you're currently being treated for diabetes, high blood pressure or a skin or digestive condition with medication, speak with your doctor before adding bitter melon to your diet or supplement routine. Women who are pregnant are advised to avoid bitter melon, either whole or in supplement form.
Give bitter melon a try to help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. It may help you avoid medication and allow you to keep your health in check naturally.
eVitamins recommends that you do not rely on the information presented in this article as diagnosis for treatment to any health claim. Content and information on this site is for reference purposes and is not intended to substitute for advice given by a physician, pharmacist, or other licensed health-care professional. You should not use this information as self-diagnosis or for treating a health problem or disease. Contact your health-care provider immediately if you suspect that you have a medical problem. The information and statements in this article have not been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. eVitamins assumes no liability for inaccuracies or misstatements.