Bitter melon, also known as “karela”, is a plant food that has been long used in cuisines and herbal traditions around the world. The plant gets its name from its strong bitter flavour. It grows mainly in Asia, South America, and East Africa, where its use as a medical remedy is widespread. Bitter melon is very effective for treating several conditions, including diabetes.
This unique plant can be used as both a food and medicine.
It is high in precious nutrients that can benefit general health.
Many studies have suggested that the plant is efficient in lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Its compounds act like insulin, helping to bring glucose into the cells for energy.
Bitter melon contains three active substances with anti-diabetic properties.
The first one, called charanti, has a blood sugar-lowering effect.
Then there are vicine and polypeptide-p, which work like insulin.
Karela also contains a protein that acts on peripheral tissues by reducing blood sugar and appetite.
A four-week clinical trial in Thailand set out to assess the efficacy of bitter melon on diabetic patients compared to metformin, a common drug used to treat diabetes type 2.
Research showed that 2,000 mg a day of bitter melon “significantly reduced” blood glucose levels among patients.
It also found that the plant’s ability to lower blood sugar was inferior compared to a 1,000 mg/day dose of metformin.
The authors concluded that bitter melon had “a modest hypoglycemic effect and significantly reduced fructosamine levels”.
Another study published in Chemistry and Biology found that bitter melon can increase cellular uptake of sugar from the blood and improve the body’s glucose tolerance.
Researchers at Malankara Catholic College, too, found that bitter melon compounds seem to have a beneficial effect in controlling and treating diabetes.
However, they warned that clinical trial data in humans are “limited and flawed”.
They went on to suggest that the karela could be a “feasible option for ethnic minorities who have a high prevalence of diabetes but prefer treatment based on natural products according to their cultural beliefs”.
When taking bitter melon to lower blood sugar, it is advisable to stick to no more than two melons a day.
The plant can be eaten as a fruit, turned into juice, powder, or drank as an extract.
Excessive consumption may result in abdominal pain or diarrhoea.
As more, it is worth checking with a doctor before using bitter melon to lower sugar levels, because, when taken in combination with some diabetes drugs, it could actually cause extremely low blood sugar.