Health Benefits, Medicinal Properties and Uses of Bitter Gourd (Melon)

Scientific name: Momordica charantia.

Family: Cucurbitaceae.

Sanskrit name: Karavella, Karavelli, Karavellaka.

Sanskrit Synonyms of Bitter Melon Karavellaka: It is helpful in relieving fever and other conditions.

Katilla: It spreads its properties.

Hindi: Karela.

English: Bitter Gourd, Bitter Melon.

Varieties of Bitter Gourd According to the Ayurvedic text Dravyaguna Vijnana (Ayurvedic Herbology), Bitter Gourd comes in two varieties depending on their shape.

Large Bitter Gourd: Large varieties are called Karavellaka. These generally grow during summer.

Small Bitter Gourd: Small varieties are called Karavelli or Karelli. They generally grow during monsoon. While many people consider it an herb or a vegetable, Bitter Gourd are technically fruits because they contain seeds (the name “melon” makes this easy to remember). Bitter Gourd has similar nutrients to dandelions and is beneficial for health. They are used in some continents like Asia, South America, and Africa to help control blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy system. Additionally, the Chinese used this fruit as part of their daily diet to “clean” their system. Bitter Gourd is an excellent source of nutrients.

They have:

Twice the calcium of Spinach.
Twice the potassium of Banana.
Twice the beta-carotene of Broccoli.

The medicinal value of Bitter Gourd comes from its high antioxidant properties because of its phenols, flavonoids, isoflavones, terpenes, anthraquinones, and glucosinolates, all of which confer a bitter taste.

Bitter Gourd  Nutritional Information:

Low in calories, just 17 calories/100 gms, Rich in phytonutrients proteins, polysaccharides, flavonoids, triterpenes, saponins, ascorbic acid, and steroids have been found in this plant. and dietary fiber. The plant insulin, polypeptide-P is a notable phytonutrient.

It also contains Charatin – a hypoglycemic agent Excellent source of folates with 100 gms providing 18% of the daily requirement, 100 gms provides 16% of daily Vitamin A and 140% of daily Vitamin C requirement, Contains flavonoids like alpha-carotene, beta carotene, lutein, and has good amounts of the B complex vitamins – niacin, pantothenic acid, and pyridoxine and the minerals, iron, zinc, potassium, manganese, and magnesium.


Why is  Bitter gourd bitter? Where did the bitterness of Bitter gourd come from?

There is a legend that could explain why? It says, once the bitter Gourd because of its pale color and unexplainable taste got jealous of other vegetables, stole all the good qualities from all the vegetables, and became so beautiful. All the vegetables complained about that to the vegetable fairy. After the trial, all the qualities that were stolen from all the vegetables were returned back to them, their taste, skin, and beauty, just like the fairy’s promised. After the trial, the fairy as a punishment asked Bitter Gourd to keep all the qualities he had stolen from his fellow vegetables. This made Bitter Gourd secretly happy. “And just what kind of punishment was that?” the cunning Bitter Gourd thought to itself. And just when Bitter Gourd was about to celebrate as it thought it got away from the crime that was done, something happened. All the stolen tastes inside got all mixed up. And the smoothness and roughness of the stolen skins resulted in wrinkled skin.

Since then, Bitter Gourd has become unpleasing to the eye, and the taste was unlikable also. It tasted bitter. Bitter Gourd repented and became humble. So the punishment was set aside. Except for the taste and appearance, all the nutritional qualities were retained in the vegetable which now was used as an alternative remedy.


Internally, the bitter taste of Bitter Gourd helps to balance Pitta and Kapha. It decreases water retention and is used as a tonic for a congested liver. Bitter Gourd is cleansing and helps to take away the burning and itching sensations. In excess Bitter Gourd can aggravate Vata and dehydrate the body. The astringent taste internally purifies the blood and helps balance Pitta and Kapha. This plant is traditional herbal medicine, Bitter Gourd possesses various pharmacological functions, namely antidiabetic, abortifacient, anthelmintic, contraceptive, antimalarial, and laxative. It is used for the treatment of dysmenorrhea, eczema, gout, jaundice, leprosy, piles, pneumonia, psoriasis, rheumatism, and scabies.


It cleanses and heals wounds and ulcers, may be used as a poultice. The paste is used for various skin problems, wounds, and hemorrhoids, antiparasitic, and Calms burning sensations.  Bitter Gourd has been beneficial in handling psoriasis and ringworm. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory abilities decrease irritating and itching related to skin conditions and infections. The juice taken out from the leaves can be the best cure for these disorders, topically applied to the affected areas.

It is useful in treating Eczema. Bitter Gourd possesses wound healing activity.

Bitter Gourd is helpful in problems related to loss of taste. It has a mild laxative effect and is useful for constipation. Bitter Gourd is useful for treating worm infestations. It aids in digestive strength, stimulates bile flow, stimulates appetite, aids digestion, to cleanse the liver. The fruit extract of Bitter Gourd has been demonstrated to possess activity against H. pylori, which could induce stomach ulcers.

Studies also reported that Bitter Gourd has anthelmintic activity against a variety of helminths like Ascaris sum, Ascaridia galli, Fasciola hepatica,  Stellantchasmus falcatus, Strongyloides sp. and Caenorhabditis elegans.  Anthelmintics are helpful in expelling helminths or parasitic worms from the body. This suggests that Bitter Gourd is beneficial for keeping the digestive tract clean. Leaf juice is taken as a vermifuge for children.

Some studies also suggest that Bitter Gourd possesses anti-inflammatory properties. It’s one of the many benefits of Bitter Gourd. The anti-inflammatory qualities present in bitter Gourd makes it very good for piles, commonly known as hemorrhoids. Make a paste from the root of the Bitter Gourd plant and apply it topically to decrease inflammation and relieve pain and bleeding. By drinking Bitter Gourd juice, you can also obtain similar benefits too!

Bitter Gourd also possesses antiviral activity. A variety of compounds isolated from Bitter Gourd have antiviral activity. Ethanolic extracts from leaves and stems of bitter melon highly inhibit HSV-1 and SINV viruses. Bitter Gourd also possesses antimicrobial effect. The aqueous extract from Bitter Gourd seed exhibited significant antimicrobial activity against several bacteria in the following ascending order: P. multocida, typhi, S. epidermidis, and L. bulgaricus.

The antioxidants present in Bitter Gourd may help to seek out and destroy free radicals that can cause diseases (including numerous forms of cancer), but that is not the only benefit the fruit has in terms of cancer. Bitter Gourd has been widely studied as an anti-tumor and anti-carcinogenic agent all by itself, along with its natural boost to antioxidant numbers in the body.  Primarily, studies have shown positive correlations between eating Bitter Gourd and the prevention or reduction in TUMOR growth for cervical, prostate, and breast cancer patients. Some of this is due to the fruit’s ability to induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancerous cells. However, more studies are being done all the time to find out more about the powerful anti-cancer properties that this unassuming fruit seems to possess, and which other types of cancer patients it could benefit.

Animal studies and human trials have shown that Bitter Gourd has an anti-diabetic effect. Bitter Gourd contains polypeptide, an insulin-like compound called and charantin, which has anti-diabetic properties.  These components actively help in reducing the blood sugar levels.

It also helps to prevent unpredictable spikes and drops in insulin levels by regulating the metabolism and use of sugar the body has consumed.  Bitter Gourd acts as a hypoglycemic agent.

It is a rich source of soluble fiber and is low in the glycemic index, which helps in lowering the blood sugar level. It also relieves the dehydration that frequently accompanies diabetes.

It also plays a role in the renewal of β cells in STZ (streptozotocin)-diabetic rats or the recovery of destroyed β cells. Bitter Gourd might encourage the release of insulin when needed the most. Some studies have suggested that the ant diabetic mechanism of Bitter Gourd extracts may be due to enhancing insulin secretion by the islets of Langerhans, reduces glycogenesis in liver tissue, enhancing peripheral glucose utilization, and increasing serum protein levels. It may be helpful in diabetes and problems related to the urinary tract.

There have been a number of studies that showed Bitter Gourd as a means of getting relief from respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, and hay fever (rhinitis). It’s antihistamine, suppressant, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and antiviral properties make it an ideal booster for respiratory health.

Bitter Gourd may also be helpful in removing impurities from the body. It is useful in various blood-related problems. It is useful in purifying the blood; it is helpful in cough and cold.  Bitter Gourd juice is highly beneficial for treating blood disorders like blood boils and itching due to toxemia.

Bitter Gourd also possesses hypolipidemic activity. According to experts, bitter gourd also helps in lowering the bad cholesterol levels in our body.  A study done on rats for 30 days showed that the cholesterol level was reduced after they were given Momordica charantia. Hence, it reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. It is also rich in potassium which maintains the blood pressure and absorbs excessive sodium from the body and keeps a check on your heart health

Bitter Gourd helps in treating numerous mental and emotional disorders like anxiety and depression which are cured with regular consumption of Vitamin B9 rich foods like Bitter Gourd.

Bitter Gourd helps us to keep our blood pressure under control. Potassium present in Bitter Gourd is helpful in balancing normal blood pressure. Apart from that, it helps to decrease the chances of hypertension as well as heart diseases.

It also has immunomodulatory activity. The antioxidants present in the Bitter Gourd makes it a powerful defense mechanism against illness in the body. Antioxidants scavenge the body for free radicals- hazardous compounds released throughout cell metabolism may cause any number of different illnesses. With the addition of Bitter Gourd in the diet, you can significantly increase the chances of defending against serious diseases. In vitro, studies have confirmed that M. Charantia proteins (α- and β-momorcharin) have an inhibitory effect against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Its extract can also be used as a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent to fight off infections.

Bitter Gourd contains antioxidants, which help to flush out our system. Bitter Gourd is low in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. These properties together help in weight management. Apart from helping digestion and avoiding constipation, dietary fiber adds bulk to the diet that is a key factor for losing body weight and maintaining body weight. It keeps you full for longer, so you avoid overeating. Bitter Gourd stimulates the liver to secrete bile acids that are essential for metabolizing fat in the body. Moreover, Bitter Gourd contains 80-85% water, which is a universal suppressant of hunger. It also improves metabolism.

The high beta-carotene and other properties in Bitter Gourd make it one of the finest vegetable-fruit that helps to alleviate eye problems and improving eyesight.

Obesity may improve with the use of Bitter Gourd. Drinking the juice will help to get over Hangover. The Bitter Gourd is useful in treating Migraine or hyperthyroid,  Sores or leg ulcers, menstrual problems, etc…

The juice is also a good Hair conditioner and helps to get rid of Dandruff. Bitter gourd  is traditionally regarded useful for preventing and treating malaria by Asians, Leaves are used as an external application in different skin ailments, leprosy, burns and scalds and as a poultice for headaches

Few Words of Caution:

However, make sure you don’t take Bitter Gourd in excess.
Bitter Gourd is contraindicated in pregnant women since it can encourage bleeding, contractions, and miscarriage. Bitter Gourd may cause allergic reactions in people with an allergy or hypersensitivity to members of the Cucurbitaceous family. This Plant has been documented to reduce fertility in both males and females and should therefore not be used by those undergoing fertility treatment or seeking pregnancy.

People suffering from hypoglycemia must not consume Bitter Gourd as it might make their condition worse. Bitter Gourd lowers the level of blood glucose, it can cause coma in those vulnerable to hypoglycemia. Breastfeeding women should avoid consuming Bitter Gourd as the active chemicals are transferred in the milk. Excess consumption can cause abdominal pain or diarrhea.

To conclude, Good health comes at a price and in this case at a slightly bitter price. So, in reality, the truth about the Bitter Gourd is not so bitter which can actually sweeten your health as it is loaded with vitamins and nutrients. And because of its protecting nature for many of the dreaded diseases, we can honor Bitter Gourd with the “GOURD OF HONOUR” award.

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