People use bitter melon for diabetes, obesity, stomach and intestinal problems, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
How does it work ?
Uses & Effectiveness ?
Insufficient Evidence for
- Athletic performance. Early research shows that taking bitter melon extract might reduce fatigue in people taking part in intense physical training at high temperatures.
- Diabetes. Research is conflicting and inconclusive. Some research shows that taking bitter melon can reduce blood sugar levels and lower HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar control over time) in people with type 2 diabetes. But these studies have some flaws. And not all research agrees. Higher quality studies are needed.
- Prediabetes. Early research shows that bitter melon does not reduce blood sugar in people with prediabetes.
- Osteoarthritis. Early research shows that bitter melon decreases the amount of pain medicine needed by people with osteoarthritis. But it doesn't seem to improve symptoms.
- A grouping of symptoms that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke (metabolic syndrome).
- A type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis).
- Indigestion (dyspepsia).
- Infection of the intestines by parasites.
- Kidney stones.
- Liver disease.
- Scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis).
- Stomach ulcers.
- Wound healing.
- Other conditions.
When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if bitter melon is safe when applied to the skin. It might cause a rash.
Special Precautions and Warnings
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.
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.
Be cautious with this combination
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Shekelle, P. G., Hardy, M., Morton, S. C., Coulter, I., Venuturupalli, S., Favreau, J., and Hilton, L. K. Are Ayurvedic herbs for diabetes effective? J Fam.Pract. 2005;54(10):876-886. View abstract.
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Wang, Y. X., Jacob, J., Wingfield, P. T., Palmer, I., Stahl, S. J., Kaufman, J. D., Huang, P. L., Huang, P. L., Lee-Huang, S., and Torchia, D. A. Anti-HIV and anti-tumor protein MAP30, a 30 kDa single-strand type-I RIP, shares similar secondary structure and beta-sheet topology with the A chain of ricin, a type-II RIP. Protein Sci. 2000;9(1):138-144. View abstract.
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Jilka C, Strifler B, Fortner GW, et al. In vivo antitumor activity of the bitter melon (Momordica charantia). Cancer Res 1983;43:5151-5. View abstract.
Jiratchariyakul W, Wiwat C, Vongsakul M, et al. HIV inhibitor from Thai bitter gourd. Planta Med 2001;67:350-3. View abstract.
Konishi T, Satsu H, Hatsugai Y, et al. Inhibitory effect of a bitter melon extract on the P-glycoprotein activity in intestinal Caco-2 cells. Br J Pharmacol. 2004;143(3):379-87. View abstract.
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Leatherdale B, Panesar RK, Singh G, et al. Improvement in glucose tolerance due to Momordica charantia. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981;282:1823-4. View abstract.
Lee-Huang S, Huang PL, Chen HC, et al. Anti-HIV and anti-tumor activities of recombinant MAP30 from bitter melon. Gene 1995;161:151-6. View abstract.
Lee-Huang S, Huang PL, Huang PL, et al. Inhibition of the integrase of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1 by anti-HIV plant proteins MAP30 and GAP31. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1995;92:8818-22. View abstract.
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Leung SO, Yeung HW, Leung KN. The immunosuppressive activities of two abortifacient proteins isolated from the seeds of bitter melon (Momordica charantia). Immunopharmacol 1987;13:159-71. View abstract.
Naseem MZ, Patil SR, Patil SR, et al. Antispermatogenic and androgenic activities of Momordica charantia (Karela) in albino rats. J Ethnopharmacol 1998;61:9-16. View abstract.
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Rahman IU, Khan RU, Rahman KU, Bashir M. Lower hypoglycemic but higher antiatherogenic effects of bitter melon than glibenclamide in type 2 diabetic patients. Nutr J. 2015;14:13. View abstract.
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Sarkar S, Pranava M, Marita R. Demonstration of the hypoglycemic action of Momordica charantia in a validated animal model of diabetes. Pharmacol Res 1996;33:1-4. View abstract.
Schreiber CA, Wan L, Sun Y, et al. The antiviral agents, MAP30 and GAP31, are not toxic to human spermatozoa and may be useful in preventing the sexual transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1. Fertil Steril 1999;72:686-90. View abstract.
Shibib BA, Khan LA, Rahman R. Hypoglycaemic activity of Coccinia indica and Momordica charantia in diabetic rats: depression of the hepatic gluconeogenic enzymes glucose-6-phosphatase and fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase and elevation of both liver and red-cell shunt enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. Biochem J 1993;292:267-70. View abstract.
Somasagara RR, Deep G, Shrotriya S, Patel M, Agarwal C, Agarwal R. Bitter melon juice targets molecular mechanisms underlying gemcitabine resistance in pancreatic cancer cells. Int J Oncol. 2015;46(4):1849-57. View abstract.
Soo May L, Sanip Z, Ahmed Shokri A, Abdul Kadir A, Md Lazin MR. The effects of Momordica charantia (bitter melon) supplementation in patients with primary knee osteoarthritis: A single-blinded, randomized controlled trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2018;32:181-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2018.06.012. View abstract.
Srivastava Y, Venkatakrishna-Bhatt H, Verma Y, et al. Antidiabetic and adaptogenic properties of Momordica charantia extract: An experimental and clinical evaluation. Phytother Res 1993;7:285-9.
Vikrant V, Grover JK, Tandon N, et al. Treatment with extracts of Momordica charantia and Eugenia jambolana prevents hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia in fructose fed rats. J Ethnopharmacol 2001;76:139-43. View abstract.
Welihinda J, et al. Effect of Momordica charantia on the glucose tolerance in maturity onset diabetes. J Ethnopharmacol 1986;17:277-82. View abstract.
Wen JJ, Gao H, Hu JL, et al. Polysaccharides from fermented Momordica charantia ameliorate obesity in high-fat induced obese rats. Food Funct. 2019;10(1):448-57. doi: 10.1039/c8fo01609g. View abstract.
Yin RV, Lee NC, Hirpara H, Phung OJ. T. The effect of bitter melon (Mormordica charantia) in patients with diabetes mellitus: s systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Diabetes. 2014;4:e145. View abstract.
Yue J, Sun Y, Xu J, et al. Cucurbitane triterpenoids from the fruit of Momordica charantia L. and their anti-hepatic fibrosis and anti-hepatoma activities. Phytochemistry. 2019;157:21-7. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2018.10.009. View abstract.
Aguwa, C. N. and Mittal, G. C. Abortifacient effects of the roots of Momordica angustisepala. J Ethnopharmacol. 1983;7(2):169-173. View abstract.
Akhtar, M. S. Trial of Momordica charantia Linn (Karela) powder in patients with maturity-onset diabetes. J Pak.Med Assoc 1982;32(4):106-107. View abstract.
Baldwa VS, Bhandara CM, Pangaria A, and et al. Clinical trials in patients with diabetes mellitus of an insulin-like compound obtained from plant source. Upsala J Med Sci 1977;82:39-41.
Chan, W. Y., Tam, P. P., and Yeung, H. W. The termination of early pregnancy in the mouse by beta-momorcharin. Contraception 1984;29(1):91-100. View abstract.
Dixit, V. P., Khanna, P., and Bhargava, S. K. Effects of Momordica charantia L. fruit extract on the testicular function of dog. Planta Med 1978;34(3):280-286. View abstract.
Dutta PK, Chakravarty AK, CHowdhury US, and Pakrashi SC. Vicine, a favism-inducing toxin from Momordica charantia Linn. seeds. Indian J Chem 1981;20B(August):669-671.
Kohno, H., Yasui, Y., Suzuki, R., Hosokawa, M., Miyashita, K., and Tanaka, T. Dietary seed oil rich in conjugated linolenic acid from bitter melon inhibits azoxymethane-induced rat colon carcinogenesis through elevation of colonic PPARgamma expression and alteration of lipid composition. Int J Cancer 7-20-2004;110(6):896-901. View abstract.
Lee-Huang, S., Huang, P. L., Sun, Y., Chen, H. C., Kung, H. F., Huang, P. L., and Murphy, W. J. Inhibition of MDA-MB-231 human breast tumor xenografts and HER2 expression by anti-tumor agents GAP31 and MAP30. Anticancer Res 2000;20(2A):653-659. View abstract.
Liu, H. L., Wan, X., Huang, X. F., and Kong, L. Y. Biotransformation of sinapic acid catalyzed by Momordica charantia peroxidase. J Agric Food Chem 2-7-2007;55(3):1003-1008. View abstract.
Nerurkar, P. V., Lee, Y. K., Linden, E. H., Lim, S., Pearson, L., Frank, J., and Nerurkar, V. R. Lipid lowering effects of Momordica charantia (Bitter Melon) in HIV-1-protease inhibitor-treated human hepatoma cells, HepG2. Br J Pharmacol 2006;148(8):1156-1164. View abstract.
Nerurkar, P. V., Pearson, L., Efird, J. T., Adeli, K., Theriault, A. G., and Nerurkar, V. R. Microsomal triglyceride transfer protein gene expression and ApoB secretion are inhibited by bitter melon in HepG2 cells. J Nutr 2005;135(4):702-706. View abstract.
Ng, T. B., Wong, C. M., Li, W. W., and Yeung, H. W. Insulin-like molecules in Momordica charantia seeds. J Ethnopharmacol. 1986;15(1):107-117. View abstract.
Ng, T. B., Wong, C. M., Li, W. W., and Yeung, H. W. Isolation and characterization of a galactose binding lectin with insulinomimetic activities. From the seeds of the bitter gourd Momordica charantia (Family Cucurbitaceae). Int J Peptide Protein Res 1986;28(2):163-172. View abstract.
Pongnikorn, S., Fongmoon, D., Kasinrerk, W., and Limtrakul, P. N. Effect of bitter melon (Momordica charantia Linn) on level and function of natural killer cells in cervical cancer patients with radiotherapy. J Med Assoc Thai. 2003;86(1):61-68. View abstract.
Raman A and Lau C. Anti-diabetic properties and phytochemistry of Momordica charantia L. (Cucurbitaceae). Phytomedicine 1996;2(4):349-362.
Rebultan, S. P. Bitter melon therapy: an experimental treatment of HIV infection. AIDS Asia 1995;2(4):6-7. View abstract.
Senanayake, G. V., Maruyama, M., Sakono, M., Fukuda, N., Morishita, T., Yukizaki, C., Kawano, M., and Ohta, H. The effects of bitter melon (Momordica charantia) extracts on serum and liver lipid parameters in hamsters fed cholesterol-free and cholesterol-enriched diets. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol.(Tokyo) 2004;50(4):253-257. View abstract.
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