Nature is a rich source of natural products, and among these more attention is given to medicinal plants and phytochemicals with respect to drug discovery because of their wide safety profile, multi-targeted activities and potential to treat a wide range of diseases. The Indian medicinal plants described in Ayurveda are, bitter gourd, turmeric, and bael which have been proven their importance in the treatment of various diseases, including diabetes and cancer.
This article will deal with the health benefits of bitter gourd.
The other names of bitter gourd are bitter melon or karela or bitter cucumber. Bitter gourd belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae. However, commonly it is recognized by its characteristics bitter taste, the taste is more pronounced as the fruit ripens.
The plant is being cultivated all over the world including tropical areas of Asia, Amazon, east Africa, and the Caribbean. Among developing countries, bitter gourd is being cultivated in India, China, Brazil, Cuba, Columbia, Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Nicaragua, and Malaya. These are used as the anti-viral, anti-malarial, and anti-bacterial agent. It is applied for healing wounds and treatment of peptic ulcers. Other uses of bitter gourd in Indian medicinal systems includes anti-diabetic, anti-helminthic, anti-malarial, and laxative properties.
- 1 Nutritional Value
- 2 Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd
- 2.1 Treatment of Diabetes and Blood Sugar Management
- 2.2 Enhances Immunity
- 2.3 Relief in Hemorrhoid
- 2.4 Sharper Vision
- 2.5 Relief in Asthma
- 2.6 Relief in Skin Conditions
- 2.7 Inhibits the Proliferation of Cancer Cells
- 2.8 Lowers Bad Cholesterol levels
- 2.9 Promotes Bone Health and Wound Healing
- 2.10 Promotes Weight Loss
- 3 How to make bitter gourd less bitter?
Bitter gourds are a rich source of carbohydrates, protein, fibers, vitamins, and minerals. These are a rich source of phytochemicals and hence the plant and its parts are used for extracting chemical constituents for treating various diseases. The major chemical constituents are cucurbitane type triterpenoids, cucurbitane type triterpene glycoside, phenolic acids, flavonoids, essential oils, fatty acids, amino acids, sterols, and saponins.
Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd
The health benefits of bitter gourd are discussed below:
Treatment of Diabetes and Blood Sugar Management
Bitter gourd is used as an alternative therapy for lowering blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. In Asian countries drinking a decoction of bitter gourd is prevalent for managing diabetes mellitus. The possible modes of action of bitter gourds and its extracts are it stimulates the utilization of glucose by peripheral and skeletal muscles, inhibition of adipocyte differentiation, suppression of key gluconeogenic enzymes, stimulation of the key HMP pathway, and preservation of the islet beta cells and their functions.
Bitter gourds have abundant antioxidants which help in constituting an impregnable line of defense against harmful viruses. Hence, the fruit or juice in your diet helps you to recover from common illnesses and decreases your susceptibility to infections. The antioxidants in the bitter gourds attack the free radicals present in the body and eliminate other harmful compounds causing many ailments.
Relief in Hemorrhoid
The anti-inflammatory properties of bitter gourds help individuals suffering from piles or hemorrhoids. You can prepare a lotion using the roots of the plant and apply it to the swelling venous to alleviate the pain and stop bleeding. This lotion can also be used for treating sores and other skin conditions.
The flavonoids in the bitter gourds that are beneficial for better vision are α-carotene, β-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Apart from enhancing the eyesight and night vision, these compounds also decelerate macular degeneration. The other important role of these compounds is fighting the effects of aging, eliminating the oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species leading to many complications.
Relief in Asthma
The anti-histaminic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral properties of bitter gourd help in reducing the symptoms of certain respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and hay fever. It also helps in promoting sound sleep.
Relief in Skin Conditions
The anti-fungal and anti-bacterial compounds in bitter gourd fight many skin infections, namely, ringworm, scabies, and also psoriasis. The mode of action is by stopping the guanylate cyclase activity that is responsible for worsening psoriasis. As discussed above you can apply the lotion of bitter gourd to the affected area for reducing the irritation and swelling.
Inhibits the Proliferation of Cancer Cells
The abundant antioxidants in bitter gourds combat free radicals and create a strong defense against the common diseases. The free radicals destroy the healthy cells and hence accelerate the process of aging and lead to various complications including cancer. There are clinical trials and pharmacologic studies reporting a beneficial effect of consuming bitter gourd and reduction in the tumor in persons with breast, cervical, and prostate cancer.
Lowers Bad Cholesterol levels
Bitter gourd’s anti-inflammatory properties help in lowering the bad cholesterol levels in our body. It is rich in potassium, which absorbs the excess sodium present in your body. It is also rich in iron and folic acid that are known for reducing the risk of stroke and hence keeps your heart healthy.
Promotes Bone Health and Wound Healing
Bitter gourds are a rich source of vitamin K, which is essential in regulating normal blood clotting. It is also useful in calcium distribution throughout the body, thus increases bone density and in turn, reduces the risk of bone fracture.
Promotes Weight Loss
Although bitter gourds are low in calories, they are a rich source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The fibers present aids in proper digestion and smooth peristaltic movement and improve bowel movement. Thus, there will be no issue of indigestion and constipation if you consume bitter gourd regularly. The significant levels of charantin increase your glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis, which helps in losing excess weight by decreasing the fat storage in cells
How to make bitter gourd less bitter?
- Applying salt to the bitter gourd pieces and keeping it for about 10-15 minutes will minimize the bitterness and make the gourd more palatable.
- You can soak the bitter gourd in tamarind juice for 10 minutes.
- Boil equal parts sugar and vinegar. Pour this mixture on the bitter gourd and let it soak for 15-20 minutes.
- Sauté it in olive oil.
Being bitter in taste, bitter gourd possesses a wealth of health benefits as discussed above. To name few benefits, it has antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-fungal, antiviral, and anti-parasitic properties. You can consume bitter gourd in vegetable form, juice, or make a smoothie by adding other fruits such as apples and spinach.
Stay Fit, Happy, and Healthy!!!