A bitter gourd plant is a funny-sounding, tropical perennial that looks a bit like a cucumber with warty skin. Also known as bitter melon and bitter cucumber, it reduces blood sugar levels and evidence suggests that it may kill cancer cells.
Bitter gourd is considered the most bitter of all fruits and vegetables. It grows in South America, Asia, parts of Africa and the Caribbean.
The melons grow off the vine. They are oblong-shaped, green and rich in vitamins and minerals.
Why does bitter gourd tea stop diabetes?
Bitter gourd has been used as a herbal remedy for a long time. It was traditionally used as a remedy for type 2 diabetes, and it contains three active substances that work against diabetes: charantin, which lowers the glucose levels in the blood; vicine and polypeptide-p, an insulin-like substance.
Bitter melon also contains lectin, which reduces blood glucose concentrations, reducing your appetite.
In 2011, a trial was performed for four weeks on patients with type 2 diabetes. The results showed that bitter melon, at a dosage of 2 g per day, significantly reduced the blood sugar levels of the individuals.
Other studies show that bitter melon increases the cells’ uptake of glucose, and improved glucose tolerance. This is great news for people who have diabetes.
Bitter melon has also been used to regulate the secretion of insulin by the beta cells of the pancreas, which could help people at the early and later stages of diabetes.
How does bitter gourd tea help fight cancer?
Bitter gourd was also used in Chinese medicine for centuries. It restricts the ability of pancreatic cancer cells to metabolise glucose, causing them to die.
At the University of Colorado Cancer Centre, a professor stated that researchers showed that bitter melon extract killed breast cancer cells.
Further studies at Saint Louis University in the USA show that the extract of bitter melon prevents cancer cells from growing and spreading.
Side effects of bitter gourd tea
Caution is advised if you are on insulin or other diabetes medication, as taking bitter gourd alongside these could induce hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). If you take corticosteroids or fertility medication, ask your doctor before you consume any.
Use bitter gourd alongside your health professional and always seek their advice before taking it.
Taking bitter melon for long periods of time could cause liver inflammation. It has been seen to elevate liver enzymes and lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
One way to make sure this isn’t occurring inside your body is by having these enzymes checked regularly. Don’t take it if you have cirrhosis of the liver, liver disease, HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.
Allergies to vicine, one of the active compounds found in bitter melon are not common, but they are worth watching out for. If you experience jaundice, vomiting, convulsions or back/abdominal pain and/or dark urine, call an ambulance.
Bitter melon is also worth avoiding if you’re pregnant, and it has been used to bring on a period. Other side effects include headache, muscle weakness and drooling.
How do I make bitter gourd tea?
To make a bitter melon tea, begin by taking the melon and cutting off the ends. Then slice it down the middle. Scoop out the middle, taking out all the seeds.
Chop the outer layer finely. Dry these slices and the seeds in the sun until they are fully dried.
Next, toast the seeds under a low flame. Do the same with the slices of bitter melon. Store them both in a jar. Your herb is now ready to be made into a tea.
Take 4 or 5 slices of dried melon, put them into a cup and add boiling water on top. Infuse for 5 minutes or so, strain and enjoy.
Other benefits of bitter gourd
Bitter gourd is also great for:
- pre-menstrual cramps
- use in childbirth
- burns and wounds
- chronic cough
- skin conditions
- treating malaria and viral diseases like chicken pox.
Bitter melon has also been recognised for getting rid of kidney stones, lowering cholesterol, aiding in weight loss, helping with constipation and increasing immunity.
It can be used as a remedy for acid reflux and indigestion, too, so it’s well worth exploring if it could help you!