Momordica charantia / Karela / Bitter melon / Bitter apple / Bitter gourd / Bitter squash (and other names) is a tropical and subtropical vine widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean for its edible fruit. This herbaceous, tendril-bearing vine grows up to 5 m (16 ft) in length. It bears simple, alternate leaves 4–12 cm (1.6–4.7 in) across, with three to seven deeply separated lobes. Its many varieties differ substantially in the shape and bitterness of the fruit. Bitter melon is generally consumed cooked in the green or early yellowing stage. The young shoots and leaves of the bitter melon may also be eaten as greens. The fruit is bitter, rich in vitamins and iron, and is harvested unripe
Since ancient times, the fruit of Karela has been used as food as a vegetable. However, the use of Momordica is not limited to this, it also has been used to treat diabetes, diarrhea, toothache, and furunculosis. Modern scientific research confirms that Karela has a wide range of pharmacological effects. Momordica is rich in vitamins and minerals: 100 grams of Momordica fruit will provide 40% of the daily need for vitamin C, 13% of the daily need for vitamin B9, 8% of zinc, 7% of potassium, 5% each of phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin K, 4% of manganese, vitamins B1, B2 and B5. It also contains iron, calcium, sodium, vitamins B3, B6, E.
Uses & Benefis:
- Helps in maintaining blood sugar levels. Good for Diabetics
- Blood Purifier. Lowers bad cholesterol levels.
- Good for the Skin and Hair – for glowing skin and lustrous hair.
- Liver Cleanser. Cures hangovers and cleanses the liver.
- Weight Management – helps in weight loss
- Boosts your immune system. A methanol extract of M. charantia in clinical trials showed a significant immunomodulatory effect: it helps to increase the activity of phagocytes; activates macrophages, splenocytes, thymocytes; stimulates humoral immunity.
- Benefits the Eyes. The essential oil of the red shell of momordica seeds contains 32% carotene. After entering the body, the orange plant pigment is converted into vitamin A, which maintains visual acuity.
- Good for Digestion. Improves appetite. Stimulates the production of gastric juice. Both the fruits and the leaves and even the roots of the plant are eaten. And they all have this effect.
- Improves Cardiac health. Karela’s seeds are rich in lycopene (a natural antioxidant) that prevents heart and vascular diseases.
- Combats Cancer. Extracts of M. charantia and its monomeric components showed a pronounced antitumor activity in lymphocytic leukemia, lymphoma, choriocarcinoma, melanoma, breast cancer, skin cancer and prostate tumor. Extract of seeds, leaves and juice of bitter melon have an antiproliferative effect, induce apoptosis of cancer cells, improve energy efficiency, and depress tumor metastases.
- Heals Wounds. Momordica-based ointment and ethanol extract of the plant have been shown to be highly effective in treating slowly healing wounds in diabetic patients.
Cautions: Reported side effects include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, hypoglycemia, urinary incontinence, and chest pain. Symptoms are generally mild, do not require treatment, and resolve with rest. In this case you need to reduce the dosage.
Avoid eating red seeds of Karela (especially by children ) as it can lead to pain in the stomach and lose motions.
It should be consumed in moderation by diabetics, as excessive consumption can drastically lower blood sugar levels in people who are already on medications for diabetes.
Avoid eating Karela (especially the seeds) in pregnancy as it can be harmful.
Contraindications: Pain in the epigastric region (epigastrium). Decreased and insufficient spleen function, dyskenesia. Momordica is contraindicated in pregnant women because it can induce bleeding, contractions, and miscarriage.