Bitter melon (Momordica charantia L. Curcurbitaceae) has traditionally been used as a remedy for lowering blood sugar in patients with diabetes. Preliminary data exists on bitter melon use in HIV and cancer. Extracts and powdered formulations of the fruit are most frequently used, although teas made from the stems and leaves are sometimes recommended.
Bitter melon is also consumed as a foodstuff and is found as an ingredient in some south Asian curries. The raw fruit is available in specialty Asian markets where it is known as karela.
African cucumber, alpha-momorcharin, ampalaya, balsam-apple, Balsambirne (German), balsam pear, balsambirne, balsamo, beta-momorcharin, bitter apple, bitter cucumber, bitter gourd, bittergurke, bitter melon capsules, bitter melon extract, bitter melon juice, bitter melon malt vinegar, bitter melon seed oil, carilla gourd, cerasse, charantin, chinli-chih, cundeamor, Cucurbitaceae (family), fructus momordiaca grosvenori, GlyMordica®, goya, kakara, karavella, karela, kareli, kathilla, kerala, Koimidori bitter melon, kuguazi, K'u-kua, Lai margose, MAP30, Momordica charantia, momordique, pavakkachedi, pepino montero, P'u-t'ao, sorosi, sushavi, vegetable insulin, wild cucumber.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
MAP30, a protein isolated from bitter melon extract, has been reported to possess anti-cancer activity, although potential anti-cancer effects have not been studied in humans. Additional study is needed before a strong recommendation can be made.
Diabetes mellitus (hypoglycemic agent)
Preliminary study has indicated that bitter melon may decrease serum glucose levels; however, reports are mixed. Because safety and efficacy have not been established, bitter melon should be avoided by diabetics except under the strict supervision of a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, with careful monitoring of blood sugars.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
Early studies have shown that a protein in bitter melon called MAP30 may have antiviral activity, but this has not been studied in humans. Further research is needed before a strong recommendation can be made.