Bitter Melon is a warty, green-colored, unripe fruit of an annual tropical vine, used in Asian cooking and for its medicinal properties. It is also known as bitter gourd or karela, how it is called in India.
It is an edible part of Momordica Charantia plant, which is a vine from Cucurbitaceae family and is the most bitter of all fruits and vegetables.
It grows in tropical and subtropical regions:
- South America
- Parts of Africa
- The Caribbean
This fruit grows off the vine as green, cucumber alike shape and its skin is very warty. The size, texture and bitterness vary from region to region and the plant is very rich in minerals and vitamins.
How does this plant help with diabetes?
Bitter melon is a food ingredient but also a remedy for various conditions, including type 2 diabetes. This fruit is rich in anti-diabetic substances, such as charantin, which is proven to have blood glucose-lowering effect; vicine and an insulin-like compound known as polypeptide-p.
All these substances can work as synergy or individually to reduce blood sugar levels.
Bitter melon also contains lectin – which has a similar effect on brain as insulin, suppressing the appetite. It is considered that lectin is responsible for the hypoglycemic effect that occurs after eating bitter melon.
Many researches have proven the efficiency of bitter melon in diabetes type 2 treatments.
Results of a 4-week trial were published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in January 2011 proving that 2 000 mg daily dose of bitter melon reduces blood glucose among patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, although the hypoglycemic effect was less than a 1,000 mg/day dose of metformin. 
Other studies conducted years ago also proved bitter melon improved glycemic control and there was a study published in March issue 2008 of Chemistry and Biology that showed bitter melon increased cellular uptake of glucose and improved glucose tolerance. 
However, there are studies that showed no connection of bitter melon and diabetes control improvement.
Are there any other health benefits from bitter melon?
Yes, this plant is traditionally used for variety of conditions, such as: colic, fever, skin burns, chronic cough, and painful menstruation.
It is excellent in healing wounds, and for preventing and healing malaria and viral diseases such as measles and chicken pox.
Also, researches From St. Louis University in the US concluded that an extract from this plant can kill breast cancer cells and also prevent them from harming other healthy cells.
How to take bitter melon
Bitter melon comes in variety of forms: eaten as a fruit, made into juice, seeds grounded into powder and added to enrich cooked meals. Also, it can be bought as a food supplement.
The fruit itself can be bought in the market in Asia, also in grocery stores.
There is no doubt this plant is very healthy, but be cautious when adding it to your everyday diet since it can lower blood sugar levels significantly if taken with other drugs that regulate blood glucose. Take no more than two ounces of bitter melon a day (two melons a day), because excessive intake can lead to mild abdominal pain or diarrhea.