Bitter Melon is a common name of Momordica charantia. Bitter Melon is also known as Karela and Bitter gourd in Asian countries. Bitter Melon is cultivated in tropical areas, where the climatic condition is warm and humid. It is a green in color having a shape of a cucumber having gourd-like bumps all over its surface. It is an ugly looking herb and is extremely bitter in taste. Though the seeds, leaves, and vines of Bitter Melon or Karela are also used but the fruit is the safest and most widespread part of the plant used for medicinal purpose. The leaves and fruit are seldom used to make teas or to season soups.
The blood sugar lowering property of the fresh juice of the unripe Bitter Melon or Karela has been established in technical studies conducted on animals and humans. This property of Karela has been also mentioned in ayurvedic texts. At least 3 different groups of ingredient in Bitter Melon or Karela have been accounted to have hypo glycemic (blood sugar decreasing) or i.e. beneficial in traeting diabetes mellitus (DM). These comprise of a mixture of steroidal saponins called charantin, insulin-like peptides and various other alkaloids. It is still uncertain that which of these is mainly effectual or all 3 work together. However, Bitter Melon or Karela preparations have been shown to considerably perk up glucose tolerance without raising blood insulin levels, and to recover fasting blood glucose levels.
Bitter melon or Karela is rich in iron. Bitter melon or Karela has two times the beta carotene of broccoli, two times the calcium of spinach, two times the potassium of bananas, and contains vitamins C or ascorbic acid and vitamin B1 or 1thiamine, phosphorus and good nutritional fiber. It is thought to be good for the hepatic conditions and has been proven by scientists to contain insulin, act as an anti-tumor agent, and inhibit HIV-1 infection.
No less than thirty two active constituents have been recognized in bitter melon or Karela so far. This includes Beta-sitosterol-d-glucoside, citrulline, GABA particles, lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin. Dietary analysis exposes that bitter melon or Karela is rich in potassium (K), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), beta-carotene, and vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2, B3 and C or ascorbic acid.