Like squash, cucumber, melon, watermelon , BITTER GOURD ( karela in India ) is a climbing or creeping plant.
There are around sixty species of momordica originating from the old world (Africa-Asia).
Some are ornamental plants, many are consumed locally and sometimes used as medicinal plants.
MOMORDICA CHARANTIA is the most widespread of the bitter gourd, a small annual plant, slender, climbing, covering fences or growing at the edge of the paths in many tropical countries.
It is sometimes deliberately cultivated in particular in India, Indonesia, south-east Asia, and south of China.
In these countries there are many cultural varieties: fruit much larger than the wild variety, color and appearance of the fruit very different.
The wild momordica that is found in all tropical regions has alternate leaves well cut into several lobes.
The oblong and warty fruit, green when immature, becomes orange-yellow later and bursts at one of its ends when it is fully ripe, revealing the slightly sweet red inner pulp which surrounds several flattened and blackish seeds.
The fruit of Momordica charantia is an edible (despite or because of its bitterness) and a medicinal plant by its leaves and fruits.
BITTER GOURD FRUIT
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
This small plant ubiquitous in the tropics, known for a very long time as a medicinal plant in Asia, has been studied recently especially for its ANTIDIABETIC and ANTIVIRAL properties .
The different parts of the plant do not have quite the same chemical compositio
BITTER GOURD IS REALLY BITTER
The bitterness of the plant is partly due to triterpenes from the cucurbitacin group which are known for their toxicity.
They are called here MOMORDICINES (there are several) or momordicosides (in the form of heterosides), they are present in the LEAVES and in the epicarp of the FRUIT.
CHARANTINE a saponin with a steroid structure, also bitter, in the leaves and fruit.
PROTEIN P-INSULIN is a polypeptide apparently only found in fruit and seeds.
SEEDS also contain an enzyme (ribonuclease) and momordine, a lectin with antiviral properties.
FRUIT PULP is a little sweet and edible.
TOXICITY OF MOMORDICA CHARANTIA, BITTER GOURD
Pharmacological studies show that the toxicity of the fruit is variable depending on the geographic area and the degree of maturity.
In animals, large doses of fresh momordica fruit cause kidney problems with bleeding and hyperazotemia.
SEEDS ARE ABORTIVE in animals (rats and mice) and the root is a stimulant of the uterine muscle, therefore capable of causing abortion.
Oral toxicity is low but extracts of leaves and fruit of momordica charantia can REDUCE FERTILITY in men and women and an aqueous decoction of the whole plant (15 ml / day) in pregnant women inhibits foetal development
BITTER GOURG HYPOGLYCEMIC AND ANTIDIABETES
The BITTER GOURD or pareka, Momordica charantia is one of the traditional remedies known for a long time in Asia and especially in India to cure the symptoms of diabetes.
Recent studies confirm the ANTI-DIABETIC POWER of Momordica charantia .
Several compounds are active on the regulation and metabolism of blood glucose.
The protein P-insulin may act like natural pancreatic insulin promoting the storage of glucose in muscle cells thereby lowering blood sugar.
Charantine and momordicines also lower blood sugar.
The dehydrated powder of whole fruit (including the seeds) makes it possible to reduce the waist size (therefore makes the fat of the abdominal belt disappear) of overweight people and slightly reduces insulin resistance which is responsible for the main complication of obesity: type 2 diabetes.
The momordica charantia fruit is more anti-diabetic than the leaves .
BITTER GOURD Momordica charantia ANTIVIRAL and ANTI-CANCER
The leaves of momordica have long been known for their (moderate) ANTIMICROBIAL AND ANTIFUNGAL power, especially the aqueous extract (decoction infusion) and hydroalcoholic (alcoholic tincture).
More recently in the 90s, certain antiviral compounds were discovered in momordica charantia and other momordica species, in particular MAP30 which is a protein of less than 300 amino acids possessing a powerful activity on cellular functioning because it is capable of inactivating ribosomes therefore protein synthesis by the cell.
This protein is similar to others of microbial or vegetable origin which are regarded as a hope to cure certain types of cancer and serious viral affections like AIDS, hepatitis, or herpes.
Several molecules have already been the subject of patent applications, but to my knowledge there is not yet commercialization of these new anticancer and antiviral drugs..
DIABETES type 2, metabolic syndrome and OBESITY-related disorders
In many tropical countries (especially in Asia) the herbal tea of ??momordica charantia or the juice of fresh fruit are used as anti-diabetics, but the chronic toxicity of these preparations is not well determined and care must be taken in their use .
As the number of people suffering from type 2 diabetes increases and the internet allows global marketing, companies are taking the opportunity to sell bitter gourd extracts. They are not regulated or controlled so once again be careful in their use.
Nevertheless one can note in India that the regular consumption of reasonable quantity of fruits of momordica or leaves seems without significant harmful effects (besides the effect on fertility).
EXAMPLES OF DOSAGE to obtain an anti-diabetic effect:
- FRESH JUICE equivalent to a bitter gourd fruit: 2 to 3 times a day which corresponds to 3 to 6 teaspoons (very bitter liquid).
- DRIED FRUIT POWDER: 4 to 6 gr of dehydrated fruit powder in 2 or 3 doses taken with meals (generally in the form of capsules or tablets).
- IINFUSION-DECOCTION: Anti-diabetic substances are not very soluble in water and the decoction infusion is therefore not as effective.
- pharmaceutical preparations : comply with the manufacturer's instructions because the dosage varies depending on the supplier.
- If you add the intake of momordica or its extracts to a prior anti-diabetic treatment there is the risk of overdose and therefore of hypoglycemia.
- Momordica or its extracts are contraindicated in children and pregnant women (risk of abortion and non-evaluation of the risk of fetal malformation).
- The anti-diabetic effect is not long-lasting, the TREATMENT MUST BE EXTENDED.
SKIN INFECTIONS, DERMATOSIS
EXTERNALLY all opinions agree to advise:
- in decoction, infusion, maceration or simply pounded the use of LEAVES AS TOPICAL (SKIN CARE, SMALL INFECTIONS, DERMATOSES),
- in bath, friction or local application in the event of dry dermatoses (eczema), skin infection, furunculosis or even infected skin ulceration that is often encountered in hot and humid regions.
Dry leaves or prolonged maceration of leaves seem to be active on PEDICULOSES (LICE): action on the parasite, itching and any associated secondary infection.
VIRAL INFECTIONS, CANCERS
Many traditional healers recommend preparations containing Momordica charantia to treat viral infections or cancers.
Modern medical research has highlighted the existence of anti-viral or anti-cancer compounds in momordica charantia and tests have taken place in laboratory but not yet to my knowledge in clinical trials in humans.
We cannot therefore advise the use of this plant to treat serious ailments such as AIDS or cance
MOMORDICA CHARANTIA AS AN EDIBLE VEGETABLE
In Asia, the momordica fruit is a popular vegetable ; especially the cultivated varieties improved for their size and the reduction of their bitterness.
The green fruit as well as the young leaves and shoots are cooked and eaten as vegetables, the bitter (and toxic) principles can be largely eliminated by soaking in salted water before cooking .
There are many recipes and preparations according to the region or the country (India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, South of China and Taiwan)
MOMORDICA CHARANTIA CULTIVATION
Momordica charantia is a "wild" plant with improved cultivated varieties.
It is a plant from hot and humid regions which does not like low temperatures (below 5 ° C) or too dry areas where it must be watered or irrigated.
Propagation: by seeds that germinate quickly, the first flowers (male) appear after a month, the female flowers follow a week later.
It is a climbing plant that uses any type of support: fence wire, branch.
Once in place, green fruits are harvested all year round in hot regions, but the proportion of male-female flowers varies depending on the length of the day.
CAUTION Momordica charantia is considered in many countries as an invasive weed that hinders the development of other important plants (examples: sugar cane, corn).
OTHER USEFUL SPECIES OF BITTER GOURDS
According to botanists, there are around sixty species of Momordica, mainly in Africa and Asia.
Some are used as food or medicinal plants.
Momordica cochinchinensis or "gac" is native to Southeast Asia, it is a traditional food in Vietnam .
The fruit of "gac" is interesting for its content in provitamin A (beta carotene and lycopene also present in carrots and tomatoes).
Oil seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The significant provitamin A content varies according to the culture conditions and the variety of "gac": 0.88 to 6.30 mg / g for lycopene and 0.25 to 5.70 mg / g for β-carotene.
The seeds are not consumed, they contain lipids but also other pharmacologically active substances: saponins, phenolic antioxidant compounds.
A Vietnamese study suggests that there is a compound active on melanoma skin cancer, but it is still under study.
Momordica cochinchinensis or "gac", from Asia .
Momordica foetida is a plant from the hot and humid regions of Africa. It is a perennial momordica which has a well developed root.
Its leaves, fruits and root are used in Africa for traditional food and medicinal uses, but there are not many modern pharmacological studies
BITTER GOURD A SMALL ANTIDIABETIC AND ANTIVIRAL WILD CUCUMBER
Momordica species are plants cultivated and consumed despite their bitterness.
Momordica charantia,bitter gourd or karela in India , contains some slightly toxic substances but it is used in Asia to control diabetes and to treat various dermatoses.
Momordica charantia contains substances that lower blood glucose and antiviral and anticancer proteins that are not yet used in medical practice..
Copyright 2020 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel