Bitter gourd, is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae. It is also known as bitter squash, bitter melon, and balsam-pear, and it grows widely in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean for its fruit. While it is extremely bitter, among other fruits from kingdom Plantae, bitter gourd has a number of health benefits.
Bitter gourd is widely recognized for its medicinal effects, such as lowering the blood glucose in diabetes mellitus. According to Diabetes UK, the fruit has three active substances with anti-diabetic properties, which includes charantin. As per the publication, the substance has been linked to the reduction of blood glucose. Along with charantin, bitter gourd also has vicine and polypeptide-p, a compoundthat has properties like insulin. These substances work hand in hand to prevent the elevation of sugar levels in the bloodstream. In a study, it was revealed that bitter melon helped the participants increase cellular uptake of glucose and enhance glucose tolerance.
Aside from charantin, vicine, and polypeptide-p, bitter gourd also has lectin, which also decreases blood glucose concentrations by acting on peripheral tissues and reducing one’s appetite. Thus, a person will not consume more food, which prevents further raise in blood sugar levels. With the aforementioned property, lectin is also linked to hypoglycemic effects after consuming bitter melon.
Bitter melon is also rich in vitamin B9, also known as folic acid or folate. According to Nutrition and You, fresh pods of the plant are excellent sources of the vitamin and they carry about 72 micrograms per 100 grams or 18 percent of recommended daily intake. The said vitamin is also beneficial to mothers during their early pregnancy time, since it aid in the health of the newborn and prevents the incidence of neural tube defects in babies. The fruit is also a moderate source of other B vitamins like vitamin B3 or niacin, vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 or pyridoxine, along with zinc, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and iron. Zinc helps with the treatment of acute diarrhea, common colds, ear infections, and lower respiratory infections. Potassium and magnesium help in muscle contraction and cardiovascular health while manganese has properties that contribute to bone production, skin integrity, blood sugar control, and protection against free radical damage. Iron helps in the delivery of oxygen to the body by increasing the hemoglobin-oxygen bond.
In addition to the management of diabetes mellitus and its vitamin content, bitter gourd is also helpful in the treatment of bitter gourd and toxemia. According to Juicing for Health, the fruit has beneficial properties that aid in cleansing the blood from toxins. As per the publication, two spoonfuls of bitter gourd juice can be taken daily to help cleanse the liver and get rid of jaundice or yellowish discoloration of the skin and the white part if the eyes. By controlling toxemia, bitter gourd can also treat blood boils and itching. Two ounces of bitter gourd juice can also be mixed with lime juice and the mixture is sipped slowly on an empty stomach everyday for four to six months.
The heart also gains benefit from bitter gourd. According to Life Hack, the fruit has contents that help reduce the cholesterol levels in the blood, thus, decreasing the risk of having heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. This is related to the fruits low calorie content, which prevents the rise of cholesterol and fat in the blood. Bitter gourd also help metabolize carbohydrates, thus, the plant also allows a person to lose or maintain weight within normal range and improve the growth and development of muscles.