Looking like crinkly cucumbers, bitter gourds are famed for their healing properties and used in an array of recipes and remedies. Learn more about health benefits of bitter gourd.
Sanskrit: Kāravella, Kāravelli, Kāravellaka
English: Bitter gourd, bitter melon
Rasa: Bitter, pungent
Guna: Light, dry
V 0 P -K - Kaphapitta shāmaka
Glycosides: momordin, charantin
Glycoproteins: alpha-momorcharin, beta-momorcharin, lectins
Others: vicine (pyrimidine
Constutuents with known hypoglycaemic properties include
- Charantin, a mixture of two steroidal saponins
- An insulin-like peptide
- Momordicin, an alkaloid, imparting the characteristic bitter taste.
- Pittasāraka (stimulates bile flow)
- Rochana—stimulates appetite
- Dipan—kindles digestive fire
- Pachan—aids digestion
- Āmapachan—burns toxins
- Rakta shodhan—blood cleanser
- Good for heart
- May lower libido if consumed in excess
- Destroys kahpa plegn buildup
- Sthanyashodhan—cleanses breast tissue
- Kusthaghna—good for skin diseases
- Helps weight loss
- Cleanses and heals wounds and ulcers, may be used as a poultice
- Calms burning sensations
- Intestinal parasites
- Skin diseases
- Liver disorders such as NASH and hepatitis C
- Cough and dyspnea
- Menstrual disorders
- Breast disorders
Who should use bitter gourd
While most can enjoy it as a vegetable once or twice a week, pregnant women should not use kāravella as a herbal medicine, drink it as a juice or eat it for daily diet. Men with concerns about sexual functioning should not use it as a medicine in high doses or consume it to excess.
- Diabetes: Take fresh bitter gourd juice daily. Use a maximum of two small bitter gourds or half a cup of pre-made juice. Be sure not to juice the seeds as the raw seeds are toxic. If you get mild abdominal pain or diarrhoea, stop the juice for three days and reintroduce at a smaller amount, If you are already taking a medication to reduce blood sugar, introduce bitter melon juice gradually in consultation with your doctor and while doing regular self-monitoring of blood sugar levels. Combining two agents that lower blood sugar could set off severe hypglycaemia, so care and caution is needed.
- Diabetes: Alternatively, you can use just two Tbsp. bitter gourd juice with ¼ tsp. turmeric, 15 minutes before meals. If you are already taking a medication to reduce blood sugar, introduce this remedy gradually in consultation with your doctor and while doing regular self-monitoring of blood sugar levels. Combining two agents that lower blood sugar could set off severe hypglycaemia, so care and caution is needed.
- Fever: Fresh bitter gourd juice 2Tbsp. 3 x daily. Don’t use this remedy if pregnant.
- Intestinal parasites: 1 Tbsp. fresh bitter gourd juice with a pinch of trikatu 3x daily, half an hour before meals. Trikatu is a combination of equal parts dry ginger, black pepper and long pepper.
- Hangover: Sip ¼ cup bitter gourd juice in the morning on an empty stomach to cleanse the liver.
- Migraine or hyperthyroid: Instill 5 drops of fresh bitter gourd juice into each nostril morning and evening on an empty stomach.
- Sores or leg ulcers: Pound a fresh bitter melon and apply externally as a poultice.
- Hair conditioner: Mix bitter gourd juice in yoghurt and apply as a conditioner.
- Dandruff: Mix a quarter cup of bitter gourd juice with two Tbsp. lime juice and add enough cumin powder to create a paste. Apply to the scalp, leave on for half an hour and then rinse out.
Alakananda Ma A.D., M.B., B.S. (Lond.) is an Ayurvedic Doctor and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic and Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is a well known and highly respected practitioner in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.
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