As with most medical conditions, there are natural alternatives to conventional medicine.

Prescription medication often comes with adverse side effects that can sometimes outweigh the benefits of taking it in the first place.

When you've got an ongoing medical condition like diabetes, it's vital that you seek the correct treatment with the long-term in mind. If you're taking a lot of medication, there could be some dangerous side effects in the mix that you're not aware of.

That’s why it’s important to do your research and look at the natural alternatives available.

Let’s take a look at one of these natural alternatives and how it may benefit you if you’re a patient with diabetes.

What Is Bitter Melon?

Bitter melon, otherwise known as Momordica charantia, is a vine that can be grown in subtropical and tropical temperaments.

It is a common vine that's grown in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. It's grown here primarily for the edible fruit that it produces. As a plant species, it has many different varieties. Each variety has a unique fruit that differs significantly in the size, shape, and taste of the fruit.

This fruit originated in India, before being introduced to China in the 14th century. It is commonly found in Asian cuisine.

The fruit itself has a warty appearance on the outside. It is shaped like an oblong. When you open one up by cutting it in half, it is hollow on the inside. The central seeds are surrounded by a thin layer of flesh.

Most people eat the bitter melon when it’s still green and just beginning to turn yellow. When eaten at this stage, the flesh is watery and crunchy. While some sources claim that the skin and flesh become more bitter as the fruit ripens, others say that this isn’t the case.

This may be because there are many different varieties.

Uses Of Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon

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Before we discuss the relation between bitter melon and diabetes, let’s talk about a couple of alternative benefits of this fruit:

  • Respiratory Disorders: The fresh pods found inside the bitter gourd may be used as a remedy for helping with respiratory problems. These problems may include a cough, cold, or asthma. You can also pound the bitter melon leaves into a paste that can be mixed with honey and taken as a herbal drink.
  • Immune System: Again, the leaves of the bitter gourd can be boiled in water and consumed on a daily basis. This may help to fight against common infections and improve your immunity.
  • Acne: Extracting the juice of a bitter gourd and drinking it with lemon juice on a daily basis can allegedly help with skin conditions, like acne. This is because this fruit contains free-radicals that work against the blemishes in your skin.
  • Bladder and Kidney: This bitter fruit may help to keep your kidney and bladder in check. It may also help to relieve symptoms associated with kidney stones.

While there are many benefits to consuming the bitter gourd, let's take a look at how it interacts with diabetic symptoms.

Bitter Melon And Diabetes

The reason why bitter melon may benefit you if you've got diabetes is that it's linked to being able to lower the body's blood sugar levels.

This is because this fruit has a number of different properties that are capable of mimicking the effects of insulin. Insulin helps to bring glucose into your cells, providing your body with energy.

The consumption of bitter gourd can help your cells to use the glucose they've been given and successfully move it to the liver, fat, and muscles.

This melon may also be able to help your body hold onto nutrients that it needs by blocking the transition to glucose, where it ends up in your bloodstream instead.

Despite the evidence that bitter gourd can successfully manage sugar levels in diabetic patients, unfortunately, it's not an approved medication or treatment for diabetes or even prediabetes. This is mainly due to the fact that it's an alternative method and can't be driven by pharmaceutical companies.

As with most alternative methods to conventional treatments, you need evidence to back them up. Let’s take a look at some studies around the benefits of bitter melon for diabetics patients.

Bitter Melon And Diabetes: The Research

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Many clinical studies have been conducted to determine the health benefits of bitter melon in relation to diabetic patients.

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews concluded that more research needs to be done on the effectiveness of bitter gourd on type 2 diabetes. It also said that more research needs to be done around bitter gourd and its efficacy in nutritional therapy.

However, there was a study recorded in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology that compared the benefits of bitter gourd against a popular diabetes drug. The study found that bitter melon was able to reduce glucose levels of patients with type 2 diabetes. However, the study concluded that it did so less effectively than a lower dose of the medication option.

This may be because the medication is already manufactured to be more powerful, which could mean that the side effects are greater.

While there is no final recommendation on how to consume bitter gourd to help with diabetes, it certainly may be consumed as food. This is a part of a healthy diet which could inadvertently begin to have a positive effect on your blood sugar levels.

Nutritional Benefits Of Bitter Melon

Despite the inconclusive results regarding the benefits of bitter gourd and diabetes, it certainly has dietary benefits.

An interesting fact about the bitter melon is that it’s a fruit that also contains several properties that you would typically find in a vegetable.

Because of this, a melon like this contains a large variety of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Many cultures around the world recognize it for its medicinal value.

The bitter gourd contains vitamins A, E, C, B-1, B-2, B-3, and B-9. It also contains many different minerals. These minerals include calcium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.

When it comes to antioxidants, you’ll find flavonoids and phenols among others.

While you may consume bitter gourd in a number of different ways, a popular approach is to make it into a tea. This bitter melon tea is also known as gohyah tea. It is made by infusing dried slices of bitter gourd with boiling water.

While gohyah tea is not officially listed on any of the leading herbal databases, it does claim to be good for digestion, helpful for the immune system, and gentle on throat inflammation. 

Dosage, Risks, And Complications Of Bitter Melon

Bucketful of Bitter Melon

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Because bitter melon isn’t recognized as an official medical treatment option, the amount you should consume is unclear.

Because it isn't approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it's still just considered an alternative to complementary medicine.

Because it's been largely commercialized in recent years, you'll find the bitter gourd in many different forms when you look to buy it. It may come as a supplement, in vegetable form, or even already dehydrated and ready to be taken as a tea.

Remember, always consult with your healthcare professional before using an alternative treatment like bitter gourd for diabetes.

Like many other alternative treatments, bitter gourd does have side effects if you consume too much of it. Let’s take a look at what some of these are:

  • Vomiting, diarrhea and other gut issues
  • Vaginal contractions or bleeding
  • Significant lowering of blood sugar if taken in conjunction with insulin
  • Damage to the liver
  • Mixing it with other drugs can change how effective it is
  • Issues with blood sugar control in patients who have recently had surgery

The most important thing to take away from this information is that there’s always a balance. When you consume a fruit like bitter gourd as a part of a balanced diet, it may have a positive effect on your diabetes.

However, if you take too much of it, you may experience some of the side effects listed above.

Looking At The Benefits Of Bitter Melon For Patients With Diabetes

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Bitter gourd contains many nutritional benefits that can increase your health on a daily basis.

As you’ve seen, there is some evidence out there that indicates there are benefits to taking bitter gourd if you’re someone who has diabetes. However, more evidence is needed to come to a final conclusion about this.

This means that you should feel free to try and consume bitter gourd should you find it beneficial to your health. However, it's crucial that you remain aware of the potential side effects if you consume too much of it.

Always remember to consult with your healthcare professional before taking an alternative medicine like bitter gourd for an existing condition like diabetes.

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