Have you ever heard of Momordica charantia? Or wait, what about karela? Now don’t get scared. These are just a couple of other names for bitter gourd, which is also known as bitter melon or bitter squash in English. The first thing that comes to my mind seeing it is the bitterness in the name. They are dark or light green in color depending on the region where they are grown. Though they taste very bitter, they are filled with many beneficial antioxidants and essential vitamins (1).
Bitter melon, also known as ‘Karela’ in Hindi, ‘Kakarakaya‘ in Telugu, ‘Pavakkai‘ in Tamil, ‘Pavakka‘ in Malayalam, ‘Hagalkai‘ in Kannada, ‘Karela‘ in Gujarati, ‘Karle‘ in Marathi, and ‘Korola‘ in Bengali can be consumed in various ways like drinking its juice, pickle or using it in recipes.
Health Benefits Of Bitter Melon:
Let us quickly look at some of the most-well known health benefits of Bitter Melon:
1. Respiratory Disorders
The fresh pods are an excellent remedy for curing respiratory problems like asthma, cold, cough, etc. Also, the paste of bitter melon leaves, along with the paste of tulsi leaves, when taken with honey in the morning, is a good remedy (2).
2. Liver Tonic
Drink one glass of bitter melon juice daily to heal liver problems. Keep consuming this continuously for a week to see results (3).
3. Immune System
Boil bitter melon leaves or fruits in water and consume it every day to fight against infections. This also helps to build your immunity (4).
Consuming bitter melon can help you get rid of acne, blemishes and deep skin infections. Bitter melon is useful in treating blood disorders like blood boils, scabies, itching, psoriasis, ringworm and other fungal diseases. The free radicals in it are also useful for anti-ageing. Consume the juice of a bitter melon mixed with lemon on an empty stomach daily for 6 months or till you get the desired results (5).
Bitter melon juice benefits include helping to overcome type 2 diabetes (6). It has been a part of the Chinese and Indian ancient medicine for a long time but only recent research has proven that it is no folk lore. Type 2 diabetes is caused partially due to the inability of a cell to absorb the sugar in the blood due to insufficient insulin or due to development of resistance to insulin. In both cases, the cells are unable to absorb the sugar due to the ineffectiveness of the insulin produced.
The absorption of sugar occurs due to the activation of AMP-activated protein kinase in the cells. Bitter gourd activates these kinases due to which the absorption of sugar increases and hence, aids in bringing diabetes under control. Green juice for diabetics: cucumbers, green apples, bitter melon, celery, ½ green capsicum (bell pepper). Bitter melon contains certain chemicals that are like insulin which help to reduce the blood sugar levels.
Bitter melon helps in easy digestion as it contains fiber properties. The food is digested and the waste is thrown out of the body which helps in curing indigestion and constipation problems (7).
7. Kidney And Bladder
Bitter melon helps to maintain a healthy liver and bladder. It is also useful in curing kidney stones (8).
8. Heart Disease
Bitter melon is very good for the heart in many ways. It helps reduce the bad cholesterol levels which clog the arterial walls and thereby reduces the chances of heart attacks. Also, it is known to lower the blood sugar levels that help in maintaining a good heart health (9).
Bitter melon can prevent cancer cells from multiplying (10).
10. Weight Loss
Bitter melon contains antioxidants that help to flush out your system. This improves your metabolism and digestive systems, thus helping you lose weight quickly. The two other major factors that aid in weight loss are the calorie control and filling components. Calorie control happens as such because vegetables are low in calories that allows you to consume more quantities of them. The filling component in this vegetable is water. We know that water is a universal suppressant of hunger. The pods of this vegetable contain on the whole 80-85% water (11).
11. Energizes Naturally
Regular consumption of bitter gourd juice improves stamina and energy levels of the individual and improves sleeping patterns.
12. Purifies Blood
The antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of bitter gourd juice help to treat skin problems, blood disorders, clear toxins from the blood and purify it, and further improves blood circulation throughout the body. It helps to cure issues like itching caused by toxaemia, rashes, acne, psoriasis, blood boils and even inhibits the growth of cancerous cells in the body.
Skin Benefits Of Bitter Melon
The appearance of your skin is largely determined by what you put inside your body. In other words, getting proper nutrition is a prerequisite for a healthy and damage-free skin. Being a natural blood purifier, bitter gourd helps in improving the appearance of your skin. It provides the following benefits to your skin:
13. Prevents Skin Problems
The regular consumption of bitter gourd helps in keeping your skin glowing and free from blemishes. It also helps prevent acne thanks to its blood purifying properties (12).
14. Skin Infections
Bitter melon benefits in treating skin diseases or skin infections, eczema and psoriasis (13). The regular consumption of bitter gourd juice helps in improving psoriasis as well as other fungal infections like ringworm and athlete’s foot.
Bitter gourd contains vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant (14). By fighting and eliminating the harmful free radicals, it helps to prevent wrinkles by slowing down the aging process. It also protects the skin from damage by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
16. Healing Qualities
Bitter gourd helps in controlling the blood flow and clotting, causing wounds to heal faster, preventing further infections.
Hair Benefits Of Bitter Melon
Bitter gourd is a great home remedy for your hair. Besides being beneficial for your skin and health, bitter gourd juice is also effective in treating hair problems and promoting longevity. It is beneficial for your hair in the following ways:
17. Shiny Hair
To impart a natural shine to your hair, you can mix a cup of fresh bitter gourd juice with yoghurt and apply on your hair. Wash off after sometime. This will make your hair shiny and beautiful (15).
Dandruff is a common problem and is mostly caused due to the consumption of unhealthy food and exposure to pollution. To ward off dandruff, you can prepare a hair pack by mixing bitter gourd juice and cumin seeds. Regular usage of this pack will rid you of dandruff within a month.
19. Split Ends
If you are troubled by split ends, you can apply raw bitter gourd juice to your split ends and then comb gently. This should be done twice a week to get rid of split ends.
20. Dry And Itchy Scalp
To combat the dryness of the scalp, you can rub a fresh piece of bitter gourd on it and massage your scalp in a circular motion. Then, rinse off with clear water. To combat the itchiness, you can prepare a hair pack by mixing bitter gourd juice with either avocado or banana and apply it on your scalp. This should be used at least once a week to get rid of an itchy scalp.
21. Hair Loss
Bitter gourd juice helps in reducing hair fall naturally. All you need to do is mix bitter gourd juice with a dash of sugar and use this paste on your hair to get good results (16).
22. Rough And Tangled Hair
If you have rough and tangled hair, you can pour a cup of bitter gourd juice and allow it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Then rinse off your hair. This will help smoothen your hair texture and make it soft and shiny.
23. Grey Hair
Bitter gourd can also treat premature graying of hair. You can apply freshly squeezed bitter gourd juice on your Grey strands. Doing this once in every ten days will reduce the Grey hair growth.
24. Oily Hair
Increased intake of oily food can cause the accumulation of excess oil in your hair. If you have oily hair, you should first limit the consumption of oily food. You can apply a mixture of bitter gourd juice and apple cider vinegar to remove the excess oil from your hair.
Although being a very healthy drink, bitter gourd juice should only be consumed in small quantity everyday as this drink may cause nausea and abdominal pains if consumed in high amounts. Pregnant women should avoid drinking too much bitter gourd juice as it has properties to stimulate the uterus and thus can cause premature labor pains. Believed to be an ideal remedy for treating diabetes, this drink should however, be consumed on the doctor’s advice and directions by diabetic patients undergoing medication containing hypoglycemic drugs since the dosage of the medicine will need to be changed in accordance with consumption of bitter gourd juice.
[ Read: Amazing Benefits Of Soybean Oil ]
Bitter Gourd: Nutritional Value:
The numerous health, skin and hair benefits of bitter melon can be attributed to its nutritional value. It has a wide array of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, copper and phosphorus. The chart given below shows the nutritional value of bitter gourd.
|See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients: Bitter melon (Momordica charantia), fresh, raw, Nutritive value per 100 g|
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.17 g||0.5%|
|Dietary Fiber||2.80 g||7%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.212 mg||4%|
|Vitamin A||471 IU||16%|
|Vitamin C||84 mg||140%|
- Calories: Bitter gourd is quite low in calories with a 100 gram serving providing just 17 calories.
- Vitamin C: Bitter gourd is an excellent source of vitamin C with 100 grams of raw pods providing 84 mg of this vitamin, which is equivalent to 140% of Recommended Daily Intake (RDI).
- Folates: Fresh pods are a good source of folates. 100 grams of fresh pods provide 72 µg of folate which is equivalent to 18% of RDI.
- B-vitamins: It is also a good source of B-vitamins like niacin or Vitamin B3, pantothenic acid or Vitamin B5 and pyridoxine or Vitamin B6.
Some Important Tips:
- Always wash bitter melon thoroughly under running water.
- Use fresh bitter melon for best results.
- Always choose bitter gourds that are fresh, bright, and deep green in colour.
- Don’t consume more than 2 bitter melons in a day.
- The bitter melon leaves should be kept in a cool, dry, and dark place. They stay fresh in the refrigerator up to a week.
- Marinade with salt to reduce the bitterness.
- Pregnant women should be careful while consuming this vegetable. The laxative component of the vegetable may lead to premature contraction, vaginal bleeding and miscarriages. Do consult your doctor once.