Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) or Bitter Gourd is a perennial plant that grows in the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, South America, East Africa, and the Caribbean. Chemical compounds of bitter gourd include its seeds, fruits and to a lesser extent leaves and roots. Alpha and beta-momorcharin are proteins that may be isolated in seeds, fruit and the leaves. Insulin-like polypeptides named p-insulin and alkaloid momordicine could be isolated from the fruits and seeds. Bitter melon includes a protein, MAP30, that was patented by American researchers in 1996.
Bitter Melon Current Research Findings and Benefits
Natural remedy bitter melon is used for various stomach and intestinal disorders including ulcers, colitis, diabetes, liver disease, psoriasis and as additional therapy for patients with AIDS. Laboratory experiments, a protein in bitter gourd named MAP-30 kills viruses and slows the growth of some cancer cells. According to some research, show that bitter melon extract improves glucose tolerance, decreases blood sugar levels, and reduces HbA1c in patients with type 2 diabetes. Compounds in bitter melon have been found to activate the AMPK, the protein that regulates glucose uptake. A protein found in bitter melon, momordin, has showed anticancer effect against Hodgkin’s lymphoma in animals. In lab experiments bitter gourd extracts inhibit the capability of HIV to insert its DNA into the chromosomes of human cells.
Researches showed that bitter melon may play a role in controlling the production of insulin, therefore promoting blood sugar control. At least 3 different constituents in have been reported to have hypoglycemic. Charantin, vicine, and polypeptide-P are the three known compounds present in bitter melon that are responsible for its antidiabetic activities. Bitter melon main components interact with the enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), this enzyme regulates fuel metabolism and facilitates glucose uptake. This protein, known as AMPK, is normally activated in the body through exercise. Although there are drugs that can activate this protein, this plant provides the same result with no adverse effects. Researches bitter melon has shown that enhances the production of beta cells by the pancreas, improving the body’s ability to produce insulin. The hypoglycemic components found in plant include a combination of steroidal saponins known as charantins, insulin-like peptides, and alkaloids. In the “Journal of Medicinal Food“, scientists analyzed the effect of Momordica charantia extracts in diabetic and healthy rats. As a result, bitter melon strongly reduced glucose levels in diabetic rats and showed favorable effects in the regulation of blood glucose in normal rats. In 2007, a study by the “Philippine Department of Health” determined a daily dose of 100 mg per kilogram of body weight is comparable to 2.5 mg/kg of the antidiabetes medication glibenclamide used twice per day. The findings of a 4-week studies, reported in the Jan 2011 issue of the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology,” significantly decreased blood sugar levels among participants with Type 2 diabetes who took 2000 mg daily.
In vitro antiviral effect has been showed with bitter melon and its inhibitory effects on HIV integrating into host cells. In vitro research has demonstrated decreased, rates of T lymphocyte infections with HIV-1 and decreased viral replication in infected cells. Alpha and beta-momorcharin and cucurbitacin B, have been analyzed for anticancer activities. A chemical analog of these proteins has been improved, patented ‘MAP-30’. In one experiment, HIV-infected cells treated with alpha- and beta-momorcharin demonstrated a almost complete loss of viral antigen while normal cells were unaffected. According to study published in June 2001 edition in the Planta Medica; protein extracted from the ripe seed and fruit decreased viral protein in HIV-infected cells by 82% and inhibited one process involved in viral replication by 50%. Scientists at the “New York University School of Medicine” explained that MAP 30 protein is able to slow down HIV-1 infection in T-lymphocytes and monocytes as well as replication of HIV-1 in infected cells.
Herpes Simplex Virus
Herpes is a common viral infection caused by Herpes Simplex virus. Bitter melon extract has been shown to possess strong antiviral activities stimulate the immune system and activate the body’s natural killer cells to help fight off viruses such as herpes simplex virus 1. In a 1982 study of the effects of bitter melon on the herpes simplex virus-1, MAP30 inhibited the reproduction of the virus, as well as reducing its capability to form plaques. According to certified nutritional consultant Phyllis Balch, Momordica charantia extracts are more effective than the drug acyclovir at killing strains of herpes virus that are not resistant to acyclovir.
According to research published in the journal” Cancer Research“; bitter melon extract, can be utilized as a dietary supplement for the avoiding of breast cancer. In study, used human breast cancer cells, MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231, and primary human mammary epithelial cells as an in vitro model to assess the efficacy of bitter melon extract as an anticancer agent. Bitter melon extract treatment of breast cancer cells resulted in a significant decrease in cell proliferation and induced apoptotic cell death. When cell death was measured by looking at cell membrane integrity, 80% of the MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cancer cells had died within 48 hours of therapy with 2 parts bitter melon extract to 100 parts cell culture medium. The scientists found that cell division was partially halted when treated with bitter melon extract for 24 hours. “Our findings suggest that bitter melon extract modulates several signal transduction pathways, which induces breast cancer cell death,” explained scientist Ratna B. Ray, professor in the Department of Pathology at Saint Louis University. Also, there has been one reported case report of a people with gallbladder cancer who drink bitter melon tea daily and lived eight years beyond her life span expectancy. In the case report it was said that she discontinued the tea for several months, during which time the cancer reiterated and was the cause of her death.
Typical recommended dose 50 to 100 ml of bitter melon juice, divided into 2 or 3 doses over the course of the day.
This plant is considered relatively safe for duration of 4 weeks. May have additive effects when taken with other glucose-lowering drugs. Contraindicated during pregnancy. The covering on bitter melon seeds are toxic in children, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and death. More ingestion of the seeds had been linked with headache, fever, and coma. Toxicity caused by overdose has been identified in some animal models, and 2 case have documented near-fatal reactions due to hypoglycemic coma in children. Also, experts said that bitter melon seeds should not be taken by individuals of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern descent with known glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. People who have a deficiency of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase can create a problem called favism. This problem causes stomach pain, headaches, fever and coma in the most serious case.