Bitter melon or karela is a true gift from nature and a great aid for people suffering from malignant diseases. For a very long time, this plant has been used as a natural antidiabetic by some indigenous populations. Moreover, it has been shown that this plant can actually serve as a cure for certain types of cancer. Also, scientific studies showed that the active ingredients in this plant prevent the metabolism of glucose in malignant cells and they “starve” them by reducing their needed sugar.
Experts from the Saint Louis University Cancer Center concluded that bitter melon can destroy breast cancer cells and prevent any further spreading. What’s more, another team of experts from the University of Colorado Cancer Center found out that bitter melon juice slows down the pancreatic tumor growth without any side effects, otherwise present in chemotherapy. Furthermore, this plant is also helpful in cases of colon, liver, prostate, and lung cancer, leukemia, and neuroblastoma. Glycoprotein lectin, an ingredient found in bitter melon, is very important since its activity resembles that of the insulin due to the fact that it decreases glucose concentration in the blood and functions as an immunomodulator. Unfortunately, children, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid its consumption.
Bitter melon, is a type of vine from the family Cucurbitaceae which grows in the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. It is mostly used as a food in Eastern populations and as a medicine all around the world. Bitter melon grows as a vine with yellow flowers and fragmented leaves. The fruit has an elongated shape similar to zucchini. From green young fruit it becomes a mature orange-yellow one, and as it ripens more, it has a more accentuated yellow color. The ripe fruit opens in three parts with many red seeds released.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF 100 GRAMS OF FRESH, RAW BITTER MELON:
- Calories – 17 kcal
• Carbohydrates – 3.70 g
• Dietary fiber – 2.8 g
• Fat – 0.17 g
• Protein – 1.00 g
• Folate – 72 µg
• Vitamin K – 4.8 mg
• Vitamin B1 (thiamin) – 0.040 mg
• Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – 0.040 g
• Vitamin B3 (niacin) – 0.400 g
• Vitamin C – 84 mg
• Potassium – 296 mg
• Calcium – 19 mg
• Magnesium – 17 mg
• Phosphorus – 31 mg
• Sodium – 5 mg
This fruit is very bitter and it is used for food and medicine preparation. The unripe fruits have an abundance of vitamin C, potassium, and phosphorus, while the ripe ones are rich in lectin that reduces blood sugar. Moreover, it improves the immunity of cell functions and it kills carcinogenic cells in people with cancer and also treats HIV-infections. What’s more, bitter melon contains antioxidant compounds: beta-carotene, flavonoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin that proved to be highly helpful in the fight against free radicals-the culprits for degenerative diseases and the aging process. Additionally, it has a small amount of calories, but high amount of vitamins B1, B2, B3, and C, and minerals.
In traditional medicine, Chinese and Indian, the bitter melon served to treat fever, skin conditions, cough, burns, colic, painful menstrual cycle, etc. Its leaves can be used for tea which prevents and treats malaria and viral diseases like measles and chicken pox. Nowadays, it is frequently used for weight loss, immunity boosting, and liver detoxification. It can be consumed raw, cooked, juiced, or in a tincture. However, overconsumption can lead to abdominal pain and diarrhea.
According to newest studies, bitter melon is a potent tool in the fight against carcinomas, HIV infections and diabetes, and it also eliminates possible toxins from the body.
Since bitter melon has been used for centuries as a natural cure for diabetes in the origins from where it comes, scientists decided to test its anti-diabetic properties. They isolated three major compounds from bitter melon, identified as hypoglycemic agents:
Charantin– typical cucurbitane: type triterpenoid and a substance with antidiabetic properties. Research showed that this compound is more potent than the oral agent tolbutamide.
Polypeptide-p- a hypoglycemic protein that lowers blood glucose levels in gerbils, langurs, and humans when injected subcutaneously. It functions by mimicking the action of human insulin in the body and can be used as a plant-based insulin replacement in patients with diabetes type 1.
Vicine– induces hypoglycemia in non-diabetic fasting rats by intraperitoneal administration.
A clinical study, conducted in January 2011 and published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, deduced that 2000 mg daily of bitter melon per day significantly decreased the blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes type 2, even though the hypoglycemic effect was lower than 100 mg day dose of Metformin.
A clinical study conducted by the University of Colorado Cancer Center showed successful treatment of pancreatic cancer. The study also confirmed that bitter melon extract lowered the glucose metabolism in pancreatic cancer cells thus destroying them. Due to the fact that bitter melon extract positively affects diabetes type 2, a predecessor of pancreatic cancer, scientists questioned whether they could apply the extract directly to pancreatic cancer. This study also showed that mice, fed with bitter juice, had 60% lesser chance of developing cancer than the control group.
Another study, published in 2010, deduced that bitter melon extract can cure breast cancer. The treatment of breast cancer cells with this extract resulted in lowering of the cells proliferation and induced apoptotic cell death. This apoptosis was followed by increased polymerase cleavage and caspase activation. The study also confirmed that the extract modulates signal transduction pathways for breast cancer cell growth inhibition and can serve as a supplement for prevention of breast cancer.
There is an abundance of other studies which only confirm the benefits from bitter melon in curing prostate, liver, and colon cancer.
Always consult your doctor before using any natural remedies.