Many vegetables are known for their numerous health benefits. Diets composed of more vegetables can reduce the risk of chronic disease and other health ailments. Vegetables can supply the body of necessary nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are vital for development and maintenance of the body and internal organs. In addition, many vegetables contain disease-fighting phytochemicals that can help reduce the risk of different kinds cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
One such health-promoting vegetable is called bitter melon or bitter gourd (Momordica Charantia). Aside from being a food source, bitter gourd is also used as a source of alternative medicine. This vegetable grows in tropical areas like East Africa, Asia, South Africa, and the Caribean. It is rich in iron, calcium, potassium, beta carotene, and phosphorus. Improving the body’s insulin levels is one of the primary health benefits of bitter melon. Many researches shows that this vegetable increases the production of beta cells in the pancreas which leads to improvement in the insulin production of the body. Aside from insulin production, bitter melon is also used to treat sores, eczema, leprosy, skin infections, and even leukemia.
Bitter melon is said to be a remedy for infections associated with retroviruses, including the ones that cause Human Immunodeficiency Disease (HIV). It is said that this vegetable can also destroy strains of herpes virus. Bitter melon has been used as a folk remedy to treat infections and other diseases. In addition to these properties, leaf extracts of bitter melon have indicated antibacterial activities against e.coli, a specie of bacteria that can live in the lower intestines of mammals and human beings. This bacteria is responsible for urinary tract infection and gastrointestinal ailments. It is also used as potent antihelmintic (drugs that destroy parasitic worms) substance that eliminate worms from the intestinal tract. For external use, bitter melon has been acknowledged to heal skin eruptions, chapped skin, burns, hemorrhoids, and psoriasis.
Because of the health benefits of bitter melon, it is now widely used as a dietary supplement. Over the years, health researchers have verified the efficacy of the bitter melon as an alternative medicinal product. Bitter melon capsules are now available in the market as alternative treatment for diabetes, viruses, colds, and other ailments. However, these products should also be used with certain precautions because it may also cause side effects and may interact with certain over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, and other herbal medicines.
Pregnant women are not encouraged to use this product because it may cause uterine contractions. Bitter melon should not be used by hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) individuals because it may worsen or cause lower blood sugar levels. In addition, diabetics who use prescription hypoglycemic drugs or insulin should avoid bitter melon or bitter melon supplements, unless prescribed by a physician. People with cirrhosis of the liver and medical history of hepatitis or HIV should also refrain from using this herb.
While many health experts are already praising bitter melon for its health benefits, the said supplement should not be regarded as a stand-alone medicine and should be taken only with the approval of doctors and other health experts.