Bitter melon is a cucumber-like fruit used in recipes and in alternative medicinal capacities. While some research claims the fruit can reap a variety of health benefits, not all evidence is substantiated or final. Before you decide to try bitter melon, it’s important to know more about the potential benefits and side effects it can have on your body.
What is bitter melon?
Bitter melon (M. charantia) is a type of edible gourd primarily grown in parts of Asia, the Caribbean and Africa. It is part of the Momordica Charantia plant and the Cucurbitaceae plant family. In some cases, people use this melon medicinally to alleviate a variety of symptoms. It is best known for its textured skin and bitter taste.
Medicinally, bitter melon has been used to treat symptoms and health conditions across the world, including but not limited to:
- Respiratory diseases
- Inflammation and inflammatory diseases
Please note that all evidence is not final on the exact effectiveness of bitter melon in treating the health conditions and symptoms mentioned above. In many cases, researchers are still discovering the benefits of this fruit in animal studies, specifically its role in treating various cancers.
In some cases, it may not be safe to use or eat bitter melon. Such cases, according to MedlinePlus, include if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, if you have diabetes and already take other medication(s), if you just had surgery and if you have a glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency.
Side effects may include but are not limited to:
- Digestive problems
- Dangerously low blood sugar levels
Always consult with your doctor or another health professional before consuming bitter melon. They will be able to best determine whether or not it is safe and healthy for you based on your individual health profile.
How to Eat Bitter Melon
If you look online, you’ll see a plethora of bitter melon recipes to try. There are so many ways you can incorporate this gourd into your diet. Some common recipes include:
- Stir fried bitter melon
- Bitter melon relish/pickled bitter melon
- Bitter melon tofu
- Bitter melon smoothie
- Bitter melon salad
It’s easy to be creative with the way you eat this plant, especially if you typically cook up a batch of sauteed vegetables or frequently blend smoothies or shakes. Regardless, trying bitter melon should be next on your recipe list if you want to taste something new and unique.
Bitter melon can also come in other forms, including:
For the best dosing advice, talk to your doctor. Most supplement packaging will outline suggested doses, but it is best to ask a health professional to get personalized advice.
Although bitter melon may have numerous health benefits when consumed the right way, it is still critical that you talk to your doctor about adding it to your diet first.
Additionally, always look at the packaging for information such as:
- Any government labels that determine the level of regulation and testing the product underwent
- Other ingredients in the product that you may be sensitive to
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute professional medical advice, nor can it replace the advice of a licensed professional.