A cousin of watermelon, cucumber and pumpkin, Bitter Melon is shaped like a cucumber, only larger with lighter green and more gourd-like skin. In tropical cultures, where it’s cultivated, bitter melon is used to support digestion because of its ability to break down carbohydrates. When using for medicinal purposes, the entire plant can be used, dried or fresh, from leaves and stems to the actual juice.

Holistic physicians and researchers are interested in Bitter Melon for its effect on blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes mellitus. Chemicals in the extract act similar to insulin. A number of studies have found that bitter melon juice, fruit and dried powder have a moderate effect on lowering blood glucose. In other studies, a “plant insulin” injection given to patients with Type-1 diabetes showed a decrease in blood glucose. The decrease was not as significant for patients with Type-2 diabetes, but there was a decline in blood glucose levels compared to a control group. It seems that source and type of preparation, as well as individual patient factors, may play a role in the effect of bitter melon on diabetes, which will inspire further research.

Blend bitter melon into various foods and enjoy it several times a week when in season. Although considered relatively safe, consult your holistic practitioner to determine the appropriate type and amount to use for your particular needs. If you are pregnant or nursing, only use the supplement under the care of a qualified practitioner.


Basch, E. et al, “Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia): A Review of Efficacy and Safety” American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (2003). Web: 6 Sep 2016: http://www.ajhp.org/content/60/4/356.short
Shane-McWhorter, L. “Dietary Supplements for Diabetes: An Evaluation of Commonly Used Products.” Diabetes Spectrum (Sep 2009), 22 (4) 206-213; DOI: 10.2337/diaspect.22.4.206 http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/4/1088.short
Fuangchan, A., et al,. “Hypoglycemic effect of bitter melon compared with metformin in newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients.”Journal of Ethnopharmacology (Mar 2011) 134 2: 422-428. Accessed 6 Sep 2016: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2010.12.045 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874110009219
National Bitter Melon Council. http://bittermelon.org/eat/cookingbittermelon

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