Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Find a Vitamin or Supplement

BITTER MELON

Other Names:

African Cucumber, Ampalaya, Balsam Pear, Balsam-Apple, Balsambirne, Balsamine, Balsamo, Bitter Apple, Bitter Cucumber, Bitter Gourd, Bittergurke, Carilla Fruit, Carilla Gourd, Cerasee, Chinli-Chih, Concombre Africain, Courge Amère, Cundeamor, Fr...
See All Names

 Overview
 Uses
 Side Effects
 Interactions
 Dosing
Overview Information

Bitter melon is a plant. The fruit and seeds are used to make medicine.

Bitter melon is used for various stomach and intestinal disorders including gastrointestinal (GI) upset, ulcers, colitis, constipation, and intestinal worms. It is also used for diabetes, kidney stones, fever, a skin condition called psoriasis, and liver disease; to start menstruation; and as supportive treatment for people with HIV/AIDS.

Topically, bitter melon is used for deep skin infections (abscesses) and wounds.

Bitter melon is used as a vegetable in India and other Asian countries and as an ingredient in some kinds of curries.

How does it work?

Bitter melon contains a chemical that acts like insulin to help reduce blood sugar levels.

Uses & Effectiveness What is this?

Insufficient Evidence for:

  • Diabetes. Research results so far are conflicting and inconclusive. Some studies show that bitter melon fruit, fruit juice, or extract improves glucose tolerance, reduces blood sugar levels, and lowers HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar control over time) in people with type 2 diabetes. But these studies have some flaws. Other research has not been positive.
  • Psoriasis.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Stomach and intestinal disorders.
  • Kidney stones.
  • Liver disease.
  • Skin abscesses and wounds.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of bitter melon for these uses.


Side Effects & Safety

Bitter melon is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when used short-term. The safety of long-term use (beyond 3 months) is not known. There also isn’t enough information about the safety of applying bitter melon to the skin.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Bitter melon is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy. Certain chemicals in bitter melon fruit and juice can start menstrual bleeding and have caused abortion in animals. Not enough is known about the safety of using bitter melon during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Diabetes: Bitter melon can lower blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes and take medications to lower your blood sugar, adding bitter melon might make your blood sugar drop too low. Monitor your blood sugar carefully.

Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency: People with G6PD deficiency might develop “favism” after eating bitter melon seeds. Favism is a condition named after the fava bean, which is thought to cause “tired blood” (anemia), headache, fever, stomach pain, and coma in certain people. A chemical found in bitter melon seeds is related to chemicals in fava beans. If you have G6PD deficiency, avoid bitter melon.

Surgery: There is a concern that bitter melon might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using bitter melon at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Interactions What is this?

Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination

  • Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with BITTER MELON

    Bitter melon can decrease blood sugar levels. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking bitter melon along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to be too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

    Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.


Dosing

The appropriate dose of bitter melon depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for bitter melon. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

See 21 Reviews for this Treatment - OR -

Review this Treatment

Learn about User Reviews and read IMPORTANT information about user generated content

Conditions of Use and Important Information: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version. © Therapeutic Research Faculty 2009.

Search for a Vitamin or Supplement

Ex. Ginseng, Vitamin C, Depression

Today on WebMD

Woman taking a vitamin or supplement
Article
Man taking a vitamin or supplement
Article
 
clams
Quiz
Woman in sun
Slideshow
 
Flaxseed added fiber
Video
!!69X75_Vitamins_Supplements.jpg
Evaluator
 
Woman sleeping
Article
Woman staring into space with coffee
Article
 
Related Newsletters

Stay Informed with the latest must-read information delivered right to your inbox.

IMPORTANT: About This Section and Other User-Generated Content on WebMD

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, reviews, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatment or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD User-generated content as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.