English Name: Bitter Melon
Common Indian Name (Hindi): Karela
- Bitter Melon, (Momordica charantia) is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown for edible fruit, which is among the most bitter of all vegetables.
- Bitter melon comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.
- The typical Chinese phenotype is 20–30 cm long, oblong with bluntly tapering ends and pale green in color, with a gently undulating, warty surface.
- The typical Indian phenotype bitter melon has a narrower shape with pointed ends, and a surface covered with jagged, triangular ‘teeth’ and ridges. Coloration is green or white. Between these two extremes is any number of intermediate forms. Some bear miniature fruit of only 6–10 cm in length, which are popular in Southeast Asia as well as India.
- The fruits have long been used in India as a folk remedy for diabetes mellitus. At least three different groups of constituents in bitter melon have been reported to have hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) or other actions of potential benefit in diabetes mellitus. These are - a mixture of steroidal saponins known as charantin ( which is sometimes used in the treatment of diabetes to lower the blood sugar levels), Isulin-like peptides known as lectins ( which lowers blood glucose concentrations by acting on peripheral tissues and, similar to insulin's effects in the brain, suppressing appetite) and alkaloids e.g. momordicine (which is most bitter compound) . It is still unclear which of these is most effective or if all three work together.
- It is suggested by scientists that the extract of fruits and leaves is useful as an emetic, purgative, burning soles of the feet, in piles, leprosy, jaundice, as a vermifuge, astringent in hemorrhoids, as a stomachic, antispasmodic, antioxytocic, hypoglycemic and antipyretic.