Bitter melon (karela) is a vegetable that is grown in several parts of Asia, East Africa, and South America. In India and China bitter melon has been used to treat diabetes for centuries.

How it works

According to studies bitter melon probably lowers blood sugar by increasing the activity of enzymes that help in metabolism of glucose (helps to convert glucose or blood sugar into glycogen). Glycogen is stored in liver and used later as required for energy. According to experts, bitter melon can help to lower blood cholesterol as well. But the evidence to support effectiveness of bitter melon in lowering blood sugar is still not very convincing.

How to take it

You can take bitter melon juice, remove the seeds of bitter melon and then blend and puree it with equal amount of water to make juice. Drink about 1/4 to 1/2 cup daily. Or you can eat it after steaming it, slice the unpeeled fruit and remove the seeds and steam or boil it till it is well cooked. Natural liquid extract of bitter melon is also available. Take 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon up to three times daily or as recommended. The bitter gourds that are firm and green in colour should be preferred while those with orange spots should be ignored.

Be cautious

Some studies have shown that bitter melon is tolerated and assimilated well by the patients. But it has been shown to cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea, headache, or fever. Before taking bitter melon for diabetes to lower blood sugar levels consult your doctor. Do not stop your medication for diabetes without consulting you doctor. Extra caution is recommended if you are pregnant or nursing.

Consumption of bitter gourd as a vegetable or as juice regularly may alter your condition of diabetes and blood sugar level. This means you will need to change the dosage of drugs as you may not need as strong a dose as you used to. Be in touch with your physician to know how far your condition has improved. Pregnant women should be wary of taking too much of bitter gourd as it can stimulate uterus and cause preterm labour.