Bitter gourd (also known as bitter melon) is a vine that has been used as a herbal medicine for centuries. This vegetable is known for its bitter taste, and most people use it to help regulate blood sugar levels.
However, excess consumption of bitter gourd for long periods could lead to adverse health effects. These include miscarriage, drug interactions, liver inflammation, and irregular heart rhythm.
Learn more about these side effects and how to prevent them in this article.
Side Effects Of Bitter Gourd
1. May Stimulate Miscarriage
Bitter gourd may have emmenagogue (an increase of menstrual flow) and abortifacient effects if taken in excess (1).
It may also trigger contractions. Lactating women are not recommended to take bitter gourd in excess amounts. However, there is less scientific research available in this regard. Hence, it is best to consult a doctor.
2. May Interfere With Drugs
Combining bitter gourd with standard drugs may lower blood sugar levels way too much. This may lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels (2).
Individuals with diabetes, who are under medication, should consult their doctors before consuming bitter gourd.
3. May Affect The Liver
The intake of bitter gourd for extended periods may lead to liver inflammation. This could be attributed to certain compounds in the vegetable, called monorcharins. Excess intake of the gourd had caused liver issues in rats (3).
Bitter gourd doesn’t directly damage the liver. Long-term use of bitter gourd may elevate liver enzymes and result in a condition called atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) (4). However, limited research is available to prove this claim.
4. May Cause Irregular Heart Rhythm
When the heart rhythm gets irregular, it leads to the pooling of the blood in one side of the heart. This can result in the platelets forming clots in the pool, thereby causing a stroke or heart attack (5).
In a study, a 22-year-old male without any heart rhythm irregularities developed related symptoms when he drank half a cup of bitter gourd juice (6).
5. May Cause Vomiting And Diarrhea
Bitter gourd may cause vomiting and diarrhea due to its toxicity. Bitter gourd contains tetracyclic triterpenoid compounds known as cucurbitacins, which are toxic. In mice studies, excess consumption of the bitter gourd in the juice form was found to lead to toxicity (7).
6. May Cause Hypoglycemic Coma
Hypoglycemic coma is a form of coma caused due to excessive doses of injected insulin. This might lead to a severe decrease in blood sugar levels. There are case reports that suggest the onset of hypoglycemic coma and the start of atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm) with the intake of bitter gourd (8).
7. May Cause Kidney Problems
Excess consumption of bitter gourd may alter kidney functions. Mice studies show that the administration of bitter melon up to 4000 mg/kg is considered to be safe, and it didn’t show any effect on mice kidney function. Intake of excess bitter gourd (more than the recommended dosage) may cause kidney problems (9). However, more studies are required to understand its effect on humans.
Bitter gourd is extremely beneficial in a lot of ways. It is a healthy addition to your diet. However, excess consumption of bitter gourd may lead to several side effects, like miscarriage, interactions with diabetes medication, and irregular heart rhythm.
More long-term research focused on the adverse effects of bitter gourd is required. Consult a doctor in case you experience any side effects.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can we drink bitter gourd juice daily?
Yes. Drinking bitter gourd juice daily is good for health. However, people with diabetes should consult a doctor before consumption.
Can I drink bitter gourd juice at night?
The antioxidant properties of the bitter gourd flush out all toxins from the body and helps detoxification of the liver (10). You may drink bitter gourd juice at night.
- Forbidden Foods for Healthy Pregnancy, International Journal of Scientific Research and Reviews, ResearchGate.
- Interactions between antidiabetic drugs and herbs: an overview of mechanisms of action and clinical implications, Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The study of hepatotoxicity effect of Momordica charantia on rat’s liver, Biochemistry and Analytical Biochemistry.
- Lipid lowering effects of Momordica charantia (Bitter Melon) in HIV-1-protease inhibitor-treated human hepatoma cells, HepG2, British Journal of Pharmacology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Atrial fibrillation, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- A case of atrial fibrillation due to Momordica charantia (bitter melon), Annals of Saudi Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) juice poisoning, World Journal of Emergency Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Bitter Melon (Momordica Charantia): A Review of Efficacy and Safety, American-Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Impact of Momordica Charantia Extract on Kidney Function and Structure in Mice, Journal of Nephropathology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Protective effect of Momordica charantia water extract against liver injury in restraint-stressed mice and the underlying mechanism, Food and Nutrition Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- 5 Simple Steps To Make Bitter Gourd Juice For Diabetes
- 8 Benefits Of Eating Bitter Gourd During Pregnancy