Wondering how bitter gourd can help you in leading a healthier and longer life? Our expert Dr. Andrew Weil sheds light on several benefits of this climbing vine. Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon or Momordica charantia is a climbing vine which is native to Asia, Australia and Africa. Nowadays, it is cultivated all over the world, especially in the warm areas. It is consumed for regulating blood sugar level and might also reduce sugar cravings. However, more research is needed to establish these facts.
The people of Okinawa have relatively longer lives owing to consumption of bitter gourd in their diet. The older people on this island appear to be the most healthy elderly population in the world. Bitter gourd is one of the most consumed primary herbs for promoting health in Okinawa. This island boasts of having the highest number of centenarians, longest disease-free life expectancy and very low rates of cardiovascular diseases. Well, the longevity and disease-free life of Okinawans is not only because of bitter gourd but several other aspects, diet and lifestyle of these people.
Bitter gourd contains a chemical which acts like insulin in lowering down the blood sugar level. Several studies have tested its efficiency as a natural treatment for diabetes. Back in 2012, four random studies found no significant difference in blood sugar level by consuming bitter gourd when compared to a placebo. Moreover, there were no study conducted to establish effective and safe dosage of bitter gourd. In one of the trials, consumption of five grams powdered bitter gourd reduced blood sugar level by about 54% whereas in other trial, consuming one quarter cup of bitter gourd extract reduced blood sugar level by only 20%. Dr. Weil suggests consulting your doctor before trying bitter gourd if you are already taking medicines to manage your blood sugar level.
There also have been much research on bitter gourd benefits in certain types of cancer and AIDS, but there have been no human-based research. The studies have been able to indicate that a component of bitter gourd might prevent the HIV virus from infecting human cells. While a study revealed that one of its components helps in slowing the progression of several types of cancers. It still cannot be concluded that bitter gourd in any way can treat any of the above mentioned health conditions.
It is also recommended to consume bitter gourd in treating various other health conditions including hemorrhoids, glaucoma, infertility, high cholesterol, stomach cramps and psoriasis. However, Dr. Weil personally has not found any evidences to support use of bitter gourd for treating these health conditions. Several studies have highlighted the side-effects of consuming bitter gourd like headaches, stomach aches and fever. These symptoms were most common people with an inherited disorder known as glucose-6-phosphate deficiency. Dr. Weil advises that soon to-be mothers should not consume bitter gourd unless its effects on pregnancy have been well studied.
Dr. Weil concluded that bitter gourd appears to be a healthy addition to the diet, but more study is required to confirm its usage in treating various health conditions. You can easily buy bitter gourd from a nearby Asian-themed market or can grow it yourself by purchasing seeds online. He hopes that its unique flavor might impress you.