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Bitter melon

Bitter melon

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Encyclopedia
Momordica charantia, called bitter melon or bitter gourd in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, is a tropical and subtropical vine
Vine
A vine in the narrowest sense is the grapevine , but more generally it can refer to any plant with a growth habit of trailing or scandent, that is to say climbing, stems or runners...

 of the family Cucurbitaceae
Cucurbitaceae
The plant family Cucurbitaceae consists of various squashes, melons, and gourds, including crops such as cucumber, pumpkins, luffas, and watermelons...

, widely grown in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, and the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 for its edible fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

, which is among the most bitter of all fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

s. There are many varieties that differ substantially in the shape and bitterness of the fruit.

This is a plant of the tropics, but its original native range is unknown.

Description



This herbaceous
Herbaceous
A herbaceous plant is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground...

, tendril
Tendril
In botany, a tendril is a specialized stem, leaf or petiole with a threadlike shape that is used by climbing plants for support, attachment and cellular invasion by parasitic plants, generally by twining around suitable hosts. They do not have a lamina or blade, but they can photosynthesize...

-bearing vine grows to 5 meters. It bears simple, alternate
Phyllotaxis
In botany, phyllotaxis or phyllotaxy is the arrangement of leaves on a plant stem .- Pattern structure :...

 leaves 4–12 cm across, with 3–7 deeply separated lobes. Each plant bears separate yellow male and female flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s. In the Northern Hemisphere, flowering occurs during June to July and fruiting during September to November.

The fruit has a distinct warty exterior and an oblong shape. It is hollow in cross-section, with a relatively thin layer of flesh surrounding a central seed cavity filled with large flat seeds and pith. The fruit is most often eaten green, or as it is beginning to turn yellow. At this stage, the fruit's flesh is crunchy and watery in texture, similar to cucumber
Cucumber
The cucumber is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, and in the same genus as the muskmelon. The plant is a creeping vine which bears cylindrical edible fruit when ripe. There are three main varieties of cucumber: "slicing", "pickling", and...

, chayote
Chayote
The chayote , also known as christophene, vegetable pear, mirliton, pear squash, christophine , chouchoute , choko , starprecianté, citrayota, citrayote , chuchu , chow chow , cho cho , sayote ,...

 or green bell pepper
Bell pepper
Bell pepper, also known as sweet pepper or a pepper and capsicum , is a cultivar group of the species Capsicum annuum . Cultivars of the plant produce fruits in different colors, including red, yellow, orange and green. Bell peppers are sometimes grouped with less pungent pepper varieties as...

, but bitter. The skin is tender and edible. Seeds and pith appear white in unripe fruits; they are not intensely bitter and can be removed before cooking.

As the fruit ripens, the flesh becomes tougher, more bitter, and too distasteful to eat. On the other hand, the pith becomes sweet and intensely red; it can be eaten uncooked in this state, and is a popular ingredient in some southeast Asian salad
Salad
Salad is any of a wide variety of dishes, including vegetable salads; salads of pasta, legumes, eggs, or grains; mixed salads incorporating meat, poultry, or seafood; and fruit salads. They may include a mixture of cold and hot, often including raw vegetables or fruits.Green salads include leaf...

s.

When the fruit is fully ripe it turns orange and mushy, and splits into segments which curl back dramatically to expose seeds covered in bright red pulp.

Varieties


Bitter melon comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. The China phenotype
Phenotype
A phenotype is an organism's observable characteristics or traits: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, behavior, and products of behavior...

 is 20–30 cm long, oblong with bluntly tapering ends and pale green in color, with a gently undulating, warty surface. The bitter melon more typical of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 has a narrower shape with pointed ends, and a surface covered with jagged, triangular "teeth" and ridges. It is green to white in color. Between these two extremes are any number of intermediate forms. Some bear miniature fruit of only 6–10 cm in length, which may be served individually as stuffed vegetables. These miniature fruit are popular in India and elsewhere in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

.













China phenotype Sub-continent phenotype Indian variety


Culinary uses


Bitter melon is generally consumed cooked in the green or early yellowing stage. The young shoots and leaves of the bitter melon may also be eaten as greens.

Bitter melon is often used in Chinese cooking for its bitter flavor, typically in stir-fries (often with pork and douchi
Douchi
Douchi , also called Chinese fermented black beans , is a flavoring most popular in the cuisine of China, and is used to make black bean sauce....

), soups, and also as tea. It has also been used in place of hops
Hops
Hops are the female flower clusters , of a hop species, Humulus lupulus. They are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer, to which they impart a bitter, tangy flavor, though hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine...

 as the bittering ingredient in some Chinese beer
Beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

s.

It is very popular throughout South Asia. In Northern India, it is often prepared with potatoes and served with yogurt on the side to offset the bitterness, or used in sabji. In North Indian cuisine
North Indian cuisine
North Indian cuisine , part of Indian cuisine, is a term used to refer to the cuisines found in Northern India which includes the Indian states: Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and West-Central Uttar Pradesh...

 it is stuffed with spices and then cooked in oil. In Southern India it is used in the dishes thoran
Thoran
Thoran or Upperi is a Kerala cuisine dish . This popular and common dish is usually prepared to be eaten along with steamed rice...

/thuvaran (mixed with grated coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

), theeyal
Theeyal
Theeyal is a South Indian dish. It is quite similar to Sambar, another popular South Indian dish. Theeyal is made from a spice mixture consisting of roasted coconut, coriander seeds, dried red chili and fenugreek. All spices are ground to a paste and cooked in tamarind water with vegetables...

(cooked with roasted coconut) and pachadi
Pachadi
Pachadi refers to a traditional South Indian side-dish. Broadly translated, it refers to food which has been pounded. The definition of the word 'Pachadi' is different among different South Indian regions...

(which is considered a medicinal food for diabetics). Other popular recipes include preparations with curry
Curry
Curry is a generic description used throughout Western culture to describe a variety of dishes from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Thai or other Southeast Asian cuisines...

, deep fried with peanut
Peanut
The peanut, or groundnut , is a species in the legume or "bean" family , so it is not a nut. The peanut was probably first cultivated in the valleys of Peru. It is an annual herbaceous plant growing tall...

s or other ground nuts, and pachi pulusu
Pachi Pulusu
Pachi Pulusu is an unheated version of the pulusu, a type of curry-like stew from Andhra Pradesh. Unlike regular pulusu, this kind is much more watery and light. Typically this dish is prepared with tamarind with onions, chillies, and jaggery. Other typical Andhra Pradesh seasonings may be added,...

(కాకరకాయ పచ్చి పులుసు), a soup with fried onions and other spices.In Tamil Nadu a special preparation in Brahmins' cuisine called 'pagarkai pitla' (பாகற்காய் பிட்லா) a kind of sour 'Koottu' (கூட்டு) variety is very popular. Also popular is ' kattu pagarkkai' (கட்டு பாகற்காய்) a curry stuffed with onions,cooked lentil and grated coconut mix, tied with thread and fried in oil. In Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 and Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

, bitter melon is often cooked with onions, red chili powder, turmeric
Turmeric
Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to tropical South Asia and needs temperatures between 20 °C and 30 °C and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive...

 powder, salt, coriander
Coriander
Coriander is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Coriander is native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft, hairless plant growing to tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the...

 powder, and a pinch of cumin
Cumin
Cumin is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to India. Its seeds are used in the cuisines of many different cultures, in both whole and ground form.-Etymology:...

 seeds. Another dish in Pakistan calls for whole, unpeeled bitter melon to be boiled and then stuffed with cooked ground beef, served with either hot tandoori bread, naan
Naan
Naan is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread. It is typical of and popular in South and Central Asia, in Iran, and in South Asian restaurants abroad. Influenced by the large influx of South Asian labour, naan has also become popular in Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states.Originally, naan is a...

, chappati, or with khichri (a mixture of lentil
Lentil
The lentil is an edible pulse. It is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, grown for its lens-shaped seeds...

s and rice).

Bitter melon is a significant ingredient in Okinawan cuisine
Okinawan cuisine
Okinawan cuisine is the cuisine of the Japanese island of Okinawa. Due to difference in culture, climate, vegetables and other ingredients between Okinawa and mainland Japan, Okinawan cuisine is very different from Japanese cuisine.-History:...

, and is increasingly used in mainland Japan
Japanese cuisine
Japanese cuisine has developed over the centuries as a result of many political and social changes throughout Japan. The cuisine eventually changed with the advent of the Medieval age which ushered in a shedding of elitism with the age of shogun rule...

. It is popularly credited with Okinawan life expectancies being higher than the already long Japanese ones.

In Indonesia, bitter melon is prepared in various dishes, such as gado-gado
Gado-gado
Gado-gado , also called Lotek for its cooked version - differed from lotek atah or karedok for its fresh and raw version of the vegetable covered with peanut sauce and pecel is an Indonesian dish comprising a vegetable salad served with a peanut sauce dressing...

, and also stir fried, cooked in coconut milk, or steamed.

In Vietnam, raw bitter melon slices consumed with dried meat
Dried meat
Dried meat is a feature of many cuisines around the world. Examples include:* Bakkwa or rougan a Chinese salty-sweet dried meat product made in the form of flat thin sheets* Biltong, a kind of cured meat that originated in South Africa...

 floss and bitter melon soup with shrimp
Shrimp
Shrimp are swimming, decapod crustaceans classified in the infraorder Caridea, found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. Adult shrimp are filter feeding benthic animals living close to the bottom. They can live in schools and can swim rapidly backwards. Shrimp are an important...

 are popular dishes. Bitter melons stuffed with ground pork are served as a popular summer soup in the South. It is also used as the main ingredient of "stewed bitter melon". This dish is usually cooked for the Tết
Tet
Tet can mean:*Tết or Tết Nguyên Đán, the Vietnamese new year**Tet Offensive, a military campaign that began in 1968*Têt in Roussillon, France*Equal temperament, abbreviated as 12-TET, 19-TET and so on...

 holiday, where its "bitter" name is taken as a reminder of the poor living conditions experienced in the past.

In the Philippines
Cuisine of the Philippines
Philippine cuisine consists of the food, preparation methods and eating customs found in the Philippines. The style of cooking and the food associated with it have evolved over several centuries from its Austronesian origins to a mixed cuisine with many Hispanic, Chinese, American, and other Asian...

, bitter melon may be stir-fried with ground beef and oyster sauce
Oyster sauce
Oyster sauce describes a number of sauces made by cooking oysters. The most common in modern use is a viscous dark brown condiment made from sugar, salt and water thickened with cornstarch, flavoured with a little oyster essence or extract and some versions may be darkened with caramel, though high...

, or with eggs and diced tomato
Tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...

. The dish pinakbet
Pinakbet
Pinakbet or pakbet is a popular Ilocano dish, from the northern regions of the Philippines, although it has become popular throughout the archipelago. The word is the contracted form of the Ilocano word pinakebbet, meaning "shrunk" or "shriveled"...

, popular in the Ilocos
Ilocos
Ilocos collectively refers to two provinces in the Philippines: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Inhabitants are called Ilocanos and they speak the language Iloko, also called Ilocano.The Ilocos Region, containing four provinces, is named after Ilocos...

 region of Luzon
Luzon
Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines. It is located in the northernmost region of the archipelago, and is also the name for one of the three primary island groups in the country centered on the Island of Luzon...

, consists mainly of bitter melons, eggplant, okra
Okra
Okra is a flowering plant in the mallow family. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of South Asian, Ethiopian and West African origins...

, string beans, tomatoes, lima beans, and other various regional vegetables altogether stewed with a little bagoong
Bagoong
Bagoong is a Philippine condiment made of partially or completely fermented fish or shrimps and salt. The fermentation process also results in fish sauce .The preparation of bagoong can vary regionally in the Philippines....

-based stock.

In Nepal, bitter melon is prepared as a fresh pickle called achar
Indian pickle
Indian pickles are made from certain individual varieties of vegetables and fruits that are chopped into small pieces and cooked in edible oils like sesame oil or brine with many different Indian spices like asafetida, red chili powder, turmeric, fenugreek and plenty of salt. Some regions also...

. For this the bitter gourd is cut into cubes or slices and sautéed covered in oil and a sprinkle of water. When it is softened and reduced, it is minced in a mortar
Mortar (masonry)
Mortar is a workable paste used to bind construction blocks together and fill the gaps between them. The blocks may be stone, brick, cinder blocks, etc. Mortar becomes hard when it sets, resulting in a rigid aggregate structure. Modern mortars are typically made from a mixture of sand, a binder...

 with a few cloves of garlic
Garlic
Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo. Dating back over 6,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent...

, salt and a red or green pepper. It is also sauteed
Sautéing
Sautéing is a method of cooking food, that uses a small amount of fat in a shallow pan over relatively high heat. Ingredients are usually cut into pieces or thinly sliced to facilitate fast cooking. The primary mode of heat transfer during sautéing is conduction between the pan and the food being...

 to golden-brown, stuffed, or as a curry on its own or with potatoes.

In Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles...

, bitter melons are usually sauteed with onion, garlic and scotch bonnet pepper until almost crisp.

Local names


In some English texts the plant or the fruit may be called by its local names, which include kugua ' onMouseout='HidePop("80972")' href="http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Pinyin">pinyin
Pinyin
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

: kǔguā, "bitter gourd"); parya (Ilokano
Ilokano language
Ilokano or Ilocano is the third most-spoken language of the Republic of the Philippines....

), pare or pare ayam (Javanese
Javanese language
Javanese language is the language of the Javanese people from the central and eastern parts of the island of Java, in Indonesia. In addition, there are also some pockets of Javanese speakers in the northern coast of western Java...

 and Indonesian
Indonesian language
Indonesian is the official language of Indonesia. Indonesian is a normative form of the Riau Islands dialect of Malay, an Austronesian language which has been used as a lingua franca in the Indonesian archipelago for centuries....

), Pavayka or Kayppayka (Malayalam:പാവയ്ക്ക, കയ്പ്പക്ക ), goya (Okinawan
Okinawan language
Central Okinawan, or simply Okinawan , is a Northern Ryukyuan language spoken primarily in the southern half of the island of Okinawa, as well as in the surrounding islands of Kerama, Kumejima, Tonaki, Aguni, and a number of smaller peripheral islands...

: ゴーヤー) or nigauri , paakharkaai (Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

: பாகற்காய்), "Hāgalakāyi" (Kannada
Kannada language
Kannada or , is a language spoken in India predominantly in the state of Karnataka. Kannada, whose native speakers are called Kannadigas and number roughly 50 million, is one of the 30 most spoken languages in the world...

: ಹಾಗಲಕಾಯಿ), "Kaakarakaya"(Telugu
Telugu language
Telugu is a Central Dravidian language primarily spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, where it is an official language. It is also spoken in the neighbouring states of Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa and Tamil Nadu...

), Korola (Bengali
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

), ampalaya (Tagalog
Tagalog language
Tagalog is an Austronesian language spoken as a first language by a third of the population of the Philippines and as a second language by most of the rest. It is the first language of the Philippine region IV and of Metro Manila...

), muop dang or kho qua . It is also known as caraille or carilley on Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles...

, carilla in Guyana
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

, and cerasee, "cerasse" or cerasse in Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, including parts of South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 (although if known in Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking areas, will most probably be know by the Okinawan or Japanese names). It is karela in Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

- and Urdu
Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...

-speaking areas."karle" in Marathi. In Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

, it is known as sopropo. The fruit is called Kudret Narı in Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

.

Medicinal uses


Bitter melon has been used in various Asian and Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

n traditional medicine
Traditional medicine
Traditional medicine comprises unscientific knowledge systems that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine...

 systems for a long time. In Turkey it has been used as a folk remedy for a variety of ailments, particularly stomach complaints. The fruit is broken up and soaked in either olive oil or honey.

Active substances


The plant contains several biologically active compounds, chiefly momordicin I
Momordicin I
Momordicin I, or 3,7,23-trihydroxycucurbitan-5,24-dien-19-al, is a chemical compound found in the leaves of the bitter melon vine , possibly responsible for its reputed medicinal properties....

 and II, and cucurbitacin B. The plants contains also several bioactive glycoside
Glycoside
In chemistry, a glycoside is a molecule in which a sugar is bound to a non-carbohydrate moiety, usually a small organic molecule. Glycosides play numerous important roles in living organisms. Many plants store chemicals in the form of inactive glycosides. These can be activated by enzyme...

s (including momordin
Momordin (saponin)
Momordin is one of several saponins derived from oleanolic acid, a triterpenoid. These chemical compounds are found in some plants of the Momordica genus, which includes the bitter melon and the balsam apple Momordin is one of several saponins derived from oleanolic acid, a triterpenoid. These...

, charantin
Charantin
Charantin is a chemical substance obtained from the Asian bitter melon , reputed to be responsible for the hypoglycaemic properties of those plants. It was identified by Lolitkar and Rao in 1960. It was also found in the similar African species M. foetida, by A...

, charantoside
Charantoside
Charantoside is any of several related glycosides found in the fruits bitter melon vine . They include:* charantoside I, -5β,19-Epoxy-19-methoxycucurbita-6,23,25-trien-3β-ol 3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside: amorphous solid....

s, goyaglycoside
Goyaglycoside
goyaglycoside is any of several related glycosides found in the fruits bitter melon vine , called goya in Okinawan language. They include:* goyaglycoside c.* goyaglycoside d....

s, momordicoside
Momordicoside
Momordicoside is any of several related glycosides that can be extracted from the bitter melon vine . They include:*Momordicoside A *Momordicoside B *momordicoside F1 *momordicoside F2 *Momordicoside K *Momordicoside L...

s) and other terpenoid
Terpenoid
The terpenoids , sometimes called isoprenoids, are a large and diverse class of naturally occurring organic chemicals similar to terpenes, derived from five-carbon isoprene units assembled and modified in thousands of ways. Most are multicyclic structures that differ from one another not only in...

 compounds (including momordicin-28
Momordicin-28
Momordicin-28 or 13-hydroxy-28-methoxy-urs-11-en-3-one is a triterpene compound with formula found in the fresh fruit of the bitter melon ....

, momordicinin
Momordicinin
Momordicinin or 13β,28-epoxy-urs-11-en-3-one is chemical compound, a triterpene with formula , found in the fresh fruit of the bitter melon ....

, momordicilin
Momordicilin
Momordicilin or 24-[1′-hydroxy,1′-methyl-2′-pentenyloxyl]-ursan-3-one is a chemical compound, a triterpene with formula , found in the fresh fruit of the bitter melon ....

, momordenol
Momordenol
Momordenol or 3β-hydroxy-stigmasta-5,14-dien-16-one is a natural chemical compound, a sterol with formula , found in the fresh fruit of the bitter melon ....

, and momordol
Momordol
Momordol or 1-hydroxy-1,2-dimethyl-2-[8′,10′-dihydroxy-4′,7′-dimethyl-11′-hydroxy methyl-trideca]-3-ethyl-cyclohex-5-en-4-one is a chemical compound with formula , found in the fresh fruit of the bitter melon ....

). It also contains cytotoxic (ribosome
Ribosome
A ribosome is a component of cells that assembles the twenty specific amino acid molecules to form the particular protein molecule determined by the nucleotide sequence of an RNA molecule....

-inactivating) proteins such as momorcharin and momordin
Momordin (protein)
Momordin or α-momorcharin is one of several related proteins isolated from several plants of the Momordica genus, which includes the bitter melon and the balsam apple ....

.

Antihelmintic


Bitter melon is used as a folk medicine in Togo
Togo
Togo, officially the Togolese Republic , is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately with a population of approximately...

 to treat gastrointestinal diseases, and extracts have shown activity in vitro against the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans
Caenorhabditis elegans
Caenorhabditis elegans is a free-living, transparent nematode , about 1 mm in length, which lives in temperate soil environments. Research into the molecular and developmental biology of C. elegans was begun in 1974 by Sydney Brenner and it has since been used extensively as a model...

.

Antimalarial


Bitter melon is traditionally regarded in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 as useful for preventing and treating malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

. Tea from its leaves is used for this purpose also in Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 and Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

. In Guyana
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

, bitter melons are boiled and stir-fried with garlic and onions. This popular side dish known as corilla is served to prevent malaria. Laboratory studies have confirmed that species related to bitter melon have anti-malarial activity, though human studies have not yet been published.

Antiviral


In Togo
Togo
Togo, officially the Togolese Republic , is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately with a population of approximately...

 the plant is traditionally used against viral diseases such as chickenpox
Chickenpox
Chickenpox or chicken pox is a highly contagious illness caused by primary infection with varicella zoster virus . It usually starts with vesicular skin rash mainly on the body and head rather than at the periphery and becomes itchy, raw pockmarks, which mostly heal without scarring...

 and measles
Measles
Measles, also known as rubeola or morbilli, is an infection of the respiratory system caused by a virus, specifically a paramyxovirus of the genus Morbillivirus. Morbilliviruses, like other paramyxoviruses, are enveloped, single-stranded, negative-sense RNA viruses...

. Tests with leaf extracts have shown in vitro activity against the herpes simplex
Herpes simplex
Herpes simplex is a viral disease caused by both Herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 . Infection with the herpes virus is categorized into one of several distinct disorders based on the site of infection. Oral herpes, the visible symptoms of which are colloquially called cold sores or fever...

 type 1 virus, apparently due to unidentified compounds other than the momordicins.

Laboratory tests suggest that compounds in bitter melon might be effective for treating HIV
HIV
Human immunodeficiency virus is a lentivirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome , a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive...

 infection. As most compounds isolated from bitter melon that impact HIV have either been proteins or lectin
Lectin
Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that are highly specific for their sugar moieties. They play a role in biological recognition phenomena involving cells and proteins. For example, some viruses use lectins to attach themselves to the cells of the host organism during infection...

s, neither of which are well-absorbed, it is unlikely that oral intake of bitter melon will slow HIV in infected people. It is possible oral ingestion of bitter melon could offset negative effects of anti-HIV drugs, if a test tube study can be shown to be applicable to people.

Cardioprotective


Studies in mice indicate that bitter melon seed may have a cardioprotective effect by down-regulating the NF-κB inflammatory pathway.

Diabetes


In 1962, Lolitkar and Rao extracted from the plant a substance, which they called charantin
Charantin
Charantin is a chemical substance obtained from the Asian bitter melon , reputed to be responsible for the hypoglycaemic properties of those plants. It was identified by Lolitkar and Rao in 1960. It was also found in the similar African species M. foetida, by A...

, which had hypoglycaemic effect on normal and diabetic rabbits. Another principle, active only on diabetic rabbits, was isolated by Visarata and Ungsurungsie in 1981. Bitter melon has been found to increase insulin sensitivity. In 2007, a study by the Philippine Department of Health determined that a daily dose of 100 mg per kilogram of body weight is comparable to 2.5 mg/kg of the anti-diabetes drug glibenclamide
Glibenclamide
Glibenclamide , also known as glyburide , is an antidiabetic drug in a class of medications known as sulfonylureas, closely related to sulfa drugs...

 taken twice per day. Tablets of bitter melon extract are sold in the Philippines as a food supplement and exported to many countries.

Other compounds in bitter melon have been found to activate the AMPK, the protein that regulates glucose uptake
Glucose uptake
Method of glucose uptake differs throughout tissues depending on two factors; the metabolic needs of the tissue and availability of glucose. The two ways in which glucose uptake can take place are facilitated diffusion and secondary active transport .- Facilitated diffusion :There are over 10...

 (a process which is impaired in diabetics).

Bitter melon also contains a lectin
Lectin
Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that are highly specific for their sugar moieties. They play a role in biological recognition phenomena involving cells and proteins. For example, some viruses use lectins to attach themselves to the cells of the host organism during infection...

 that has insulin-like activity due to its non-protein-specific linking together to insulin receptors. This lectin lowers blood glucose concentrations by acting on peripheral tissues and, similar to insulin's effects in the brain, suppressing appetite. This lectin is likely a major contributor to the hypoglycemic effect that develops after eating bitter melon.

Anticancer


Two compounds extracted from bitter melon, α-eleostearic acid (from seeds) and 15,16-dihydroxy-α-eleostearic acid
15,16-Dihydroxy-alpha-eleostearic acid
15,16-Dihydroxy-α-eleostearic acid, or 15,16-Dihydroxy--9,11,13-octadecatrienoic acid, is an organic compound with formula , or H3C-CH2-23-7-OH...

 (from the fruit) have been found to induce apoptosis
Apoptosis
Apoptosis is the process of programmed cell death that may occur in multicellular organisms. Biochemical events lead to characteristic cell changes and death. These changes include blebbing, cell shrinkage, nuclear fragmentation, chromatin condensation, and chromosomal DNA fragmentation...

 of leukemia
Leukemia
Leukemia or leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called "blasts". Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases...

 cells in vitro. Diets containing 0.01% bitter melon oil (0.006% as α-eleostearic acid) were found to prevent azoxymethane
Azoxymethane
Azoxymethane is a carcinogenic and neurotoxic chemical compound used in biological research. It is the oxide of azomethane. It is particularly effective in inducing colon carcinomas....

-induced colon carcinogenesis
Carcinogenesis
Carcinogenesis or oncogenesis is literally the creation of cancer. It is a process by which normal cells are transformed into cancer cells...

 in rat
Rat
Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodents of the superfamily Muroidea. "True rats" are members of the genus Rattus, the most important of which to humans are the black rat, Rattus rattus, and the brown rat, Rattus norvegicus...

s.

Researchers at Saint Louis University claims that an extract from bitter melon, commonly eaten and known as karela in India, causes a chain of events which helps to kill breast cancer cells and prevents them from multiplying.

Other uses


Bitter melon has been used in traditional medicine for several other ailments, including dysentery
Dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

, colic
Colic
Colic is a form of pain which starts and stops abruptly. Types include:*Baby colic, a condition, usually in infants, characterized by incessant crying*Renal colic, a pain in the flank, characteristic of kidney stones...

, fevers, burns, painful menstruation
Menstruation
Menstruation is the shedding of the uterine lining . It occurs on a regular basis in sexually reproductive-age females of certain mammal species. This article focuses on human menstruation.-Overview:...

, scabies
Scabies
Scabies , known colloquially as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin infection that occurs among humans and other animals. It is caused by a tiny and usually not directly visible parasite, the mite Sarcoptes scabiei, which burrows under the host's skin, causing intense allergic itching...

 and other skin problems. It has also been used as abortifacient
Abortifacient
An abortifacient is a substance that induces abortion. Abortifacients for animals that have mated undesirably are known as mismating shots....

, for birth control
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

, and to help childbirth
Childbirth
Childbirth is the culmination of a human pregnancy or gestation period with the birth of one or more newborn infants from a woman's uterus...

.

Cautions


The seeds of bitter melon contains vicine
Vicine
Vicine is an alkaloid glycoside found in fava beans. Vicine is toxic, causing the disease favism, in individuals who have a hereditary loss of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase,-External links:*...

 and therefore can trigger symptoms of favism in susceptible individuals. In addition, the red aril
Aril
An aril is any specialized outgrowth from the funiculus that covers or is attached to the seed. It is sometimes applied to any appendage or thickening of the seed coat in flowering plants, such as the edible parts of the mangosteen and pomegranate fruit, the mace of the nutmeg seed, or the...

s of the seeds are reported to be toxic to children, and the fruit is contraindicated during pregnancy
Pregnancy
Pregnancy refers to the fertilization and development of one or more offspring, known as a fetus or embryo, in a woman's uterus. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations, as in the case of twins or triplets...

.

See also

  • Momordica cochinchinensis (gac)
  • Momordica balsamina
    Momordica balsamina
    Momordica balsamina is a tendril-bearing annual vine native to the tropical regions of Africa, introduced and invasive in Asia, Australia, and Central America. It has pale yellow, deeply veined flowers and round, somewhat warty, bright orange fruits, or "Apples". When ripe, the fruits burst...

     
    (balsam apple)
  • Momordica foetida
    Momordica foetida
    Momordica foetida is a perennial climbing vine native of tropical Africa, closely related to the bitter melon and balsam apple . Its species name refers to its unpleasant smell. It was previously named M. morkorra and M...

  • Momordica cymbalaria
    Momordica cymbalaria
    Momordica cymbalaria is a vine of the Momordica genus found in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh,...


External links