• Gee Gahir

Bitter Gourd (melon) - plant-based medicine that Lowers Blood Sugar & Cholesterol.

Updated: Mar 14

How many of you struggle with sweet tooth cravings or have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes and want to know how to lower or manage blood sugar naturally?


What if a plant medicine exists with insulin-like properties and lowers blood sugar naturally?


WARNING - AVOID BITTER GOURD IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR TAKING DIABETIC MEDICATION DUE TO ITS BLOOD SUGAR LOWERING EFFECT - PLEASE CONSULT YOUR HEALTHCARE PHYSICIAN BEFORE IMPLEMENTING DIETARY CHANGES.


Diabetes mellitus is among the most common disorder in developed and developing countries, and the disease is increasing rapidly in most parts of the world.


It has been estimated that up to one-third of patients with diabetes mellitus use some form of complementary and alternative medicine.


Herbs for diabetes treatment are not new. Medicinal plants and their products continue to be an important therapeutic aid for alleviating the ailments of humankind.


Since ancient times, plants and plant extracts were used to combat diabetes. Many traditional medicines in use are derived from medicinal plants, minerals, and organic matter.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed 21 000 plants, which are used for medicinal purposes around the world. Among them, 150 species are used commercially on a fairly large scale.


Bitter Gourd Medicinal Properties

A spikey green-skinned vegetable found growing wild in hedges across Asia, has received the most attention for its anti-diabetic properties is bitter melon, Momordica charantia (M. charantia), commonly referred to as bitter gourd, karela and balsam pear.

It has a distinguishing bitter taste, which is more pronounced as it ripens, hence the name and offers a natural proactive preventative solution to lower blood sugar and manage prediabetes.

The chemical that induces the bitterness of the vegetable is called momordicine. The main ingredient that serves as a hypoglycaemic effect is charantin - insulin like chemical that lowers blood sugar.

It has been used for the treatment of diabetes and related conditions amongst the indigenous populations of Asia, South America, India, and East Africa.


As well as blood sugar lowering properties, bitter gourd also ;

  • stimulates digestion

  • lowers cholesterol

  • reduces inflammation

  • used in detoxification

  • balances hormones

  • reduces fevers

  • used as a skin cleanser

  • has antiviral and bacterial properties

WARNING - AVOID BITTER GOURD IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR TAKING DIABETIC MEDICATION DUE TO ITS BLOOD SUGAR LOWERING EFFECT - PLEASE CONSULT YOUR HEALTHCARE PHYSICIAN BEFORE IMPLEMENTING DIETARY CHANGES.

Abundant pre-clinical studies have documented the anti-diabetic and hypoglycaemic effects of M. charantia through various mechanisms. However, clinical trial data with human subjects are limited and flawed by poor study design and low statistical power, mainly due to lack of financial resources - and pharmaceutical prejudice that may impact drug use.


The natural antioxidants and polyphenols found in the vegetable help the cells utilize glucose healthily in the body, and may also help the body retain nutrients by blocking their conversion to glucose that ends up in the bloodstream.


Diabetes

A disease close to my heart, as it took the life of my nan in 1990. This inspired my first research associate position at Barts Hoispital, with Professor Edwin Gale and his team in an international trial, nicotinamide, to prevent diabetes type 1, ENDIT.

Clients in the wellbeing clinic will often present with prediabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol seeking lifestyle and dietary modifications to create balance naturally.

Treatments

New drug treatments for the management of diabetes are continuously being developed.


Complementary and alternative medicine involves the use of herbs and other dietary supplements as a proactive prevention model to mainstream medical treatment.

A recent study has estimated that up to 30% of patients with diabetes mellitus use complementary and alternative medicine. Promising drug molecules of natural origin.


Research and evidence

Plant-based medicine has been used cost-effectively worldwide to treat diabetes.

In fact, in many parts of the world, especially poor countries, this may be the only form of therapy available to treat diabetic patients.

Bitter gourd is not an approved treatment or medication for prediabetes or diabetes despite

evidence that it can manage blood sugar. Biochemical and animal model experiments have produced abundant data and hypotheses accounting for the anti-diabetic effects. In comparison, clinical studies with human subjects are sparse and low quality in design.



Ayurveda (historical overview) and other traditional medicinal systems (WHO publication) for the treatment of diabetes describe a number of plants used as herbal drugs- due to fewer side effects and low cost.



  • Hyperglycemia is involved in the etiology of the development of diabetic complications. Hypoglycemic herbs increase insulin secretion, enhance glucose uptake by adipose or muscle tissues and inhibit glucose absorption from the intestine and glucose production from the liver (Hypoglycaemic herbs and their action mechanisms)


  • Insulin and oral hypoglycemic agents like sulphonylureas and biguanides are still the major players in the management, but there is the quest for the development of more effective anti-diabetic agents.


There are several reviews by different authors about anti-diabetic herbal plants.



Plant-based recipe to balance sugar cravings

I often signpost my prediabetics and diabetics to bitter gourd for a bitter-sweet experience through the taste buds. It is a go-to recipe in Indian and Asian households.

The recipe I am sharing has been modified over the years from the traditional way bitter gourd is cooked (usually fried) - for therapeutic benefits.

Bitter gourd with tamarind is palatable for those who are trying the vegetable for the first time, and also a delicious alternative for those seeking an alternative way to cook them.


Bitter Gourd with Tamarind - a favorite spring recipe

Ingredients

  • Bitter gourd (bitter melon or kerela)

  • Onions (optional)

  • Garlic

  • Tamarind (wet)

  • Lemon

  • Cumin

  • Turmeric

  • Fresh Tomatoes (optional)

  • Rock salt

  • Jaggery

  • Rice bran oil (or oil of choice)


Preparation

  1. Prepare bitter gourd, wash thoroughly and scrape the outer skin. Cut into pieces, including the seeds.

  2. Add salt, turmeric, cumin, raw garlic, sliced onions and half lemon

  3. Drizzle oil over mixture

  4. Prepare tamarind paste - add warm water to 'wet tamarind' and massage with fingers until pureed. Remove stones from the mixture. Add a spoonful of jaggery to compliment the sour taste of tamarind.

  5. Add this mixture to the bitter gourd and fold using hands, so that the ingredients are covered.

  6. Place mixture on baking tray and place in oven, middle shelf for 60 mins gas mark 4.


This recipe can also be prepared without tamarind, for a more bitter experience. I personally love the combination of bitter gourd, offset with the sweetness of jaggery, and sour tamarind. A perfect trinity to massage the palate!


Serve with lentil soup, eat with chickpea pancakes , with kichari / congee or enjoy as a snack by themselves.


Risks & Complications

My experience with bitter gourd over the last 40 years is positive. No client has ever complained about 'side effects or complications. Eaten as part of a balanced meal, bitter gourd is an enjoyable tasty accompaniment at mealtimes. In any case, for a holistic overview, here are some 'proposed' risks that have been associated with bitter gourd consumption.

Healthline


WARNING - AVOID BITTER GOURD IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR TAKING DIABETIC MEDICATION DUE TO ITS BLOOD SUGAR LOWERING EFFECT - PLEASE CONSULT YOUR HEALTHCARE PHYSICIAN BEFORE IMPLEMENTING DIETARY CHANGES.


Please use a common-sense approach to lifestyle modifications and introducing new recipes to your diet. Contact a healthcare professional or book here for a personalized naturopathic consultation.


Wishing you vibrant health, as Mother Nature intended


Gee xox



Working with Gee Gahir, a Pioneer of holistic wellbeing services within the NHS, and Co-founder of Wellbeing Wizards, a podcast platform that provides insights into transforming wellbeing, Gee is an accredited EMCC intuitive lifestyle coach providing preventative naturopathic mind-body-space solutions to facilitate vibrant health and balanced lifestyles.

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