Treating Diabetes With Bitter Melon
Bitter Melon: Botany
Bitter melon, scientifically known as Momordica charantia, is of the plant family Cucurbitaceae. It is a tropical vine that is known to be grown for the production of its fruit. Bitter melon is also commonly referred to as bitter gourd and is considered to be the most bitter of edible vegetables. The plant itself is noted to have the presence of yellow flowers along its vines, and the fruit produced looks similar to a cucumber.
Bitter Melon: Historical Use
Bitter melon has been utilized for centuries in Asian traditional medicine, particularly to stimulate digestion. Bitter melon is commonly used as a demulcent - an agent known to provide soothing relief, accompanied by decreased inflammation and pain. Bitter melon has also been used for the treatment of infections, cancers, leukemia, and diabetes.
Bitter Melon and Diabetes
In the past, bitter melon has been correlated with the natural ability to aid the control of insulin production by the body. There are currently three substances found within bitter melon that have been associated with the ability to reduce blood glucose (sugar) levels. These three substances include charantin, polypeptide-p, and oleanolic acid glycosides. However, it remains unclear whether one of these individual substances is individually responsible for the blood glucose regulation or if a combination of these substances is necessary for the effect.
Bitter Melon: Charantin
One of the hypoglycemic agents - agent that lowers blood sugar - active in bitter melon is a steroid known as charantin. It's theorized, though not scientifically proven, that charantin is partially responsible for this hypoglycemic effect.
Bitter Melon: Polypeptide-P
Another substance located within bitter melon that is associated with hypoglycemic effects is polypeptide-p. All polypeptides are comprised of many amino acid molecules organized into a small protein. This particular polypeptide, polypeptide-p, has a molecular structure that's similar to insulin and has been correlated, but not scientifically proven, to aid in the lowering of overall blood sugar levels.
Bitter Melon: Oleanolic Acid Glycosides
The final substance isolated from bitter melon that has been associated with the overall ability to lower blood sugar levels is oleanolic acid glycosides. There's little scientific evidence to support that this molecule alone is responsible for the lowering of blood glucose levels. However, preliminary studies have linked oleanolic acid glycosides with the ability to inhibit glucose absorption from the intestines, but not with the ability to increase insulin productivity.
Bitter Melon: Precautions
It's recommended that women who are pregnant or may become pregnant avoid the use of bitter melon as it has also historically been utilized as an abortive. It has also been documented to have some ability to decrease fertility if used in high of doses. Diabetics should utilize caution with use as it lowers blood sugar and could cause hypoglycemia if not used correctly. As with all medications and treatments, you should discuss the use of bitter melon with your physician.