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.
In India, bitter melon is used to make different vegetable preparations. Juicing is another way to utilize its beneficial properties but since it is very bitter, I like to use some raw honey, beets, carrots and green apple with it. You can also blend bitter melon into various foods and enjoy it several times a week when it is 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.
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Dr. Manisha Ghei February 19th, 2017