In addition to being a tasty add-in to some curries, bitter melon is used to treat intestinal disorders and diabetes. The gourd looks like a wart-covered zucchini and grows on a vine in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. Both the fruit and seeds are used to produce medicine.
Although research is scant, herbalists tend to prescribe bitter melon for intestinal disorders like constipation, ulcers, and intestinal worms. It’s sometimes also used for kidney stones, fever, psoriasis, and liver disease. Its best-known application is to treat diabetes, but research results so far have been a bit conflicting: Some studies show that bitter melon extract, fruit juice, or the fruit itself lowers blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, but other reports haven’t found the same beneficial effect. The working theory is that bitter melon contains an insulin-like chemical that helps reduce blood sugar levels.
How to Use It
Supplements do exist, but you're better off working the fruit itself into your diet. “I find it works best if you use the whole food and simply cook with it,” says Junella Chin, an osteopathic physician in New York City who specializes in functional medicine. But she has a warning: “The taste is quite strong.” To cut down on the bitterness, sprinkle slices of raw melon with salt and let them rest in a colander for 15 minutes. The salt will draw out fluid, and with it, some of the bitter flavor.
Diabetics looking to use bitter melon medicinally should talk to their doctors first; it could replicate the effects of diabetes medication and leave your blood sugar dangerously low.