Bitter melon has a very long history of medicinal use in the East. It has been used traditionally for high blood pressure, skin infections, painful menstruation, kidney stones, colic, malaria, glaucoma,high cholesterol, diarrhea, stomach cramps, hemorrhoids, and fever. Bitter melon contains alkaloids, glycoside, peptides, acids, cucurbitins, charantin, cucurbitacins, momordine, momorcharins, and proteins. It is thought that the primary constituents responsible for the hypoglycemic properties are charantin, cucurbutanoids, momordicin, and oleanolic acids. Recent scientific findings have been pointing to the hypoglycaemic and anticancer effects of bitter melon.
Bitter Melon and Diabetes
The researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica have discovered the efficacy of treating Type 2 diabetes with bitter melon.
Bitter melon contains certain chemical compounds that activate AMPK which encourages the movement of glucose transporters to the surface of cells. “More transporters on cells’ surfaces increase the uptake of glucose from circulation in the blood into tissues of the body, such as muscle, thus lowering blood sugar levels.”
In the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers concluded that, “Bitter melon had a modest hypoglycemic effect and significantly reduced fructosamine levels from the baseline among patients with type-2 diabetes who received 2,000 mg/day. However, the hypoglycemic effect of bitter melon was less than metformin at 1,000 mg/day.”
Bitter Melon and Breast Cancer
A new study by Saint Louis University scientists found that bitter melon extract triggers a chain of events on a cellular level that stops breast cancer cells from multiplying and also kills them. According to lead researcher, “bitter melon extract modulates several signal transduction pathways, which induces breast cancer cell death. This extract can be utilized as a dietary supplement for the prevention of breast cancer.”
Bitter melon can be eaten as a fruit, made into a drink, or added to your smoothies. Bitter melon extract is also available as a herbal supplement.