Parts Used & Where Grown
Bitter melon grows in tropical areas, including parts of East Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America, where it is used as a food as well as a medicine. The fruit of this plant lives up to its name—it tastes bitter. Although the seeds, leaves, and vines of bitter melon have all been used, the fruit is the safest and most prevalent part of the plant used medicinally.
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For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Type 2 Diabetes
2 grams daily
Bitter melon may help lower blood glucose levels and improve overall metabolism in people with type 2 diabetes.
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is a common vegetable in parts of Asia and has been used historically to treat diabetes. Constituents from bitter melon were shown to have anti-inflammatory activity and the ability to inhibit enzymes needed for carbohydrate breakdown and glucose absorption in the gut. Two meta-analyses that each included four trials found bitter melon had no significant effects on HgbA1c or blood glucose levels. A more recent meta-analysis that included ten trials found positive effects on glycemic control, but noted the evidence was primarily from low-quality studies. One placebo-controlled trial with 24 participants with type 2 diabetes found taking 2,000 mg of bitter melon per day for three months resulted in reductions in weight, body fat, waist circumference, and HgbA1c, and improved blood glucose control and insulin secretion in response to glucose. A ten-week trial with 95 participants with type 2 diabetes compared bitter melon extract (2,000 mg per day) to the anti-diabetes drug glyburide (DiaBeta®, 5 mg per day); bitter melon was more effective at lowering cardiac risk but not as effective at lowering blood glucose levels.
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
Refer to label instructions
Bitter melon acts as a digestive stimulant and may be helpful for indigestion.
Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production. As a result, they are particularly used when there is low stomach acid but not in heartburn (where too much stomach acid could initially exacerbate the situation). These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine , wormwood , gentian, dandelion , blessed thistle , yarrow , devil's claw , bitter orange, bitter melon, juniper , andrographis , prickly ash , and centaury .. Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Being a relatively common food item, bitter melon was traditionally used for an array of conditions by people in tropical regions. Numerous infections , cancer, and diabetes were among the most common conditions it has been purported to improve.1 The leaves and fruit have both been used in the Western world to make teas and beer or to season soups.
How It Works
How It Works
At least three different groups of constituents in bitter melon have been reported to have blood-sugar lowering actions of potential benefit in diabetes mellitus. These include a mixture of steroidal saponins known as charantin, insulin-like peptides, and alkaloids. It is still unclear which of these is most effective, or if all three work together. Some clinical trials have confirmed the benefit of bitter melon for people with diabetes.2
In traditional herbal medicine, bitter melon—like other bitter-tasting herbs—is thought to stimulate digestive function and improve appetite. This has yet to be tested in human studies.
How to Use It
For those with a taste or tolerance for bitter flavor, a small melon can be eaten as food, or up to 3 1/3 ounces (100 ml) of a decoction or 2 ounces (60 ml) of fresh juice can be drunk per day.3 Though still bitter, tinctures of bitter melon (1 teaspoon [5 ml] two to three times per day) are also sometimes used. The amounts recommended would be appropriate for people with diabetes .
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
Ingestion of excessive amounts of bitter melon juice (several times more than the recommended amounts) can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea .4 Excessive ingestion of the seeds had been associated with headache, fever, and coma. Bitter melon is not recommended for pregnant women. People with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) should not take bitter melon, because it may trigger or worsen the problem. This effect has been reported in two young children and one adult patient with diabetes .
1. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 315-6.
2. Raman A, Lau C. Anti-diabetic properties and phytochemistry of Momordica charantia L (Curcurbitaceae). Phytomed 1996;2:349-62.
3. Werbach MR, Murray MT. Botanical Influences on Illness. Tarzana, CA: Third Line Press, 1994, 139-41.
4. Brown DJ, Gaby A, Reichert R, Yarnell E. Phytotherapeutic and nutritional approaches to diabetes mellitus. Quart Rev Nat Med 1998;Winter:329-54.
Last Review: 06-08-2015
Copyright © 2020 TraceGains, Inc. All rights reserved.
The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.