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Bitter Gourd - Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd

Botanical Name: Momordica charantia

Family Name : Cucurbitacease

Definitely an acquired taste, bitter gourd (Latin Momordica charantia) is also called Balsam pear or bitter melon. The bitter gourd has excellent medicinal virtues. It is antidotal, antipyretic tonic, appetizing, stomachic, antibilious and laxative. The bitter gourd is also used in native medicines of Asia and Africa.

The bitter gourd is a common vegetable cultivated extensively all over India. It is 10 to 20 cm. long, tapering at the ends and covered with blunt tubercles. The seeds are white in raw fruits and become red when they are ripe. There are two varieties of this vegetable. The large kind is long, oblong and pale green in color. The other kind is small, little oval and dark green. Both the types are bitter in taste.

Origin and Distribution

Its origin is not known but it is native to tropics. It is cultivated during hot season and is available in India, China, Sri Lanka, Malaysia etc.

Properties of bitter gourd

Hypoglycemic (blood sugar reducer), astringent (arresting secretion), anti-haemorrhoidal (checks bleeding of piles), stomachic (appetizer and digestive), emmenagogue (inducing menstruation), galactogogue (increases milk secretion), hepatic stimulant (liver corrective), anthelmintic (removes worm) and blood purifier.

Forms of Use :- Juice, as vegetable, soup & juice mixed with honey.

Food Value of bitter gourd

Analysis of 100 gm's edible portion of bitter gourd gives the following composition:

Moisture 92.4%
Protein 1.6%
Fibre 0.8%
Carbohydrate 4.2%
Phosphorus 70mg
Fat 0.2%
Calcium 20 mg
Vitamin C 88 mg
Iron 1.8 mg

Medicinal Uses & benefits

  1. The bitter gourd has excellent medicinal properties and is used as a folk medicine for diabetes. It has hypoglycemic or insulin-like principal, known as "plantinsulin". It reduces the blood and urine sugar levels. For better results, the diabetic should take the juice of about four or five fruits every morning on an empty stomach.
  2. Diabetics usually suffer from malnutrition. They are normally under-nourished. Bitter gourd is rich in all the vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, B1, B2, C and iron. Its regular use prevents many complications such as hypertension, eye complications, neuritis and defective metabolism of carbohydrates. It increases body's resistance against infection.
  3. Juice of the fresh leaves of bitter gourd is valuable in piles. Three teaspoonfuls of this juice mixed with a glassful of buttermilk should be taken each morning for about a month in this condition.
  4. Bitter gourd is highly beneficial in the treatment of blood disorders like blood boils, scabies, itching psoriasis, ringworm and other fungal diseases. A cupful of fresh juice of bitter gourd mixed with a teaspoonful of lime juice should be taken, sip by sip, on empty stomach daily for four to six months for these conditions.
  5. Its juice also works as preventive measure against leprosy cases.
  6. Bitter gourd plant roots are used in folk medicine against respiratory troubles from ancient times. A teaspoonful of the root paste mixed with equal amount of honey or basil (tulsi) leaf juice, given once every night for a month acts as an excellent medicine for asthma, bronchitis, pharyngitis, colds and rhinitis.
  7. Leaf juice is beneficial in the treatment of alcoholism. It is an anti dose for intoxication caused by alcohol. It also tones up the liver affected by alcohol.
  8. Diarrhea and cholera can also be controlled by giving fresh leaf juice. Two teaspoonfuls of juice plus equal quantity of white onion juice along with one teaspoonful lemon juice should be given in these conditions.

The bitter gourd is cooked and eaten as a vegetable in India and the Far East. The bitterness is reduced by steeping the peeled fruit in salt water before cooking. It is also used in pickles and as an ingredient of curries. The seeds of the ripe fruit are used as a condiment in India. The tender shoots and leaves are used as spinach.

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