Bitter Melon (Ku Gua)
Botanical Name: Momoridica charantia
Bitter melon is a tropical fruit-like gourd that appears more like a prickly or lumpy cucumber. It can be eaten raw or cooked or used in tea for its health benefits. It contains compounds that help treat diabetes. The juice is often called Karela juice. Bitter melon is high in nutrients.
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Also Known As: Bitter Gourd, Wild Cucumber, Karela, Africa Cucumber, Balsam Pear, Ampalaya, Bitter Squash
Organs/Systems: Immune System, Digestion, Respiratory System
Key Actions: Antioxidant, Antiviral, Anti-inflammatory, Anticancer, Antidiabetic, Antibacterial, Immunomodulating, Anti-obesity, Stomachic, Laxative, Emetic, Antibilious, Anthelmintic
Medicinal Uses: Diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, asthma, skin infections, reduce cholesterol, upset stomach, kidney stones, liver disease, psoriasis, abscesses, wounds, cough, respiratory diseases, ulcer, gout, rheumatism, HIV, AIDS, menstrual disorders.
Also Known As: Marakheenouk
Meridians: Heart, Lung, Spleen, Liver
Key Actions: Cleanses the Blood, Clears Liver Heat, Cools Summer Heat, Nourishes Blood, Moves Qi, Eliminates Inflammation, Tonifies the Liver
Medicinal Uses: Stomach disorders, constipation, ulcers, malaria, cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disorders, lowers cholesterol, colic, fever, chronic cough, painful menstruation, skin conditions, acne, eczema, psoriasis, heal wounds, measles, chicken pox, burning pain in the stomach, sunstroke, excess sweating, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, controls vomiting, type 1 herpes simplex virus.
Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Cool
Caution: Bitter melon is generally considered safe. It is not recommended for pregnant women as it may cause uterine contractions. Some people may experience an upset stomach and over use of the juice can cause headaches and possible fevers. Excessive use of the seeds can cause coma.
Key Constituents: Cucurbitacins, Quinine, Catechin, Gallic acid, Epicatechin, Chlorogenic acid, Lectin, Flavonoids, Phenols, Vitamin C, Vitamine A, Vitamin E, Potassium, Zinc, Folate, Iron, Fiber, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Calcium.
History/Folklore: Bitter melon has a long history of medicinal use in Asia and Africa. In Turkey it has been used to treat stomach complaints and in India and China it is very popularly used to treat diabetes. Bitter melon can help your cells utilize glucose and move it to your liver, muscles, and fat. Studies reveal it may also help your body retain nutrients by blocking their conversion to glucose that can end up in your blood stream. It continues to be studied for its ability to help manage blood sugar and aid the treatment of diabetes.
Bitter melon was introduced into China in the 14th century from India. It is now a common household vegetable popular in many Chinese dishes. A bitter tasting herb, its texture can be crunchy or soft depending on how you prepare it. Besides being popularly used to treat diabetes, it is also considered able to detox your body and liver. The melons is sometimes called “cooling cucumber” due to its ability to clear Heat from the blood, organs, and body.
In Asia, the herb is said to have a “glowing” effect on the skin. Besides treating acne, eczema, psoriasis, and the signs of aging, slices of fresh melon are used on the face to help calm irritable, burning skin caused by excess heat.
The fruit is typically eaten when green or as it begins to turn yellow. At this stage the flesh will be crunchy and watery in texture, like a cucumber, but bitter. The bitter flavor is reduced during cooking but makes for a popular addition to dim sum, soups and herbal teas. The pith at this stage will be sweet and intensely red, and can be eaten uncooked. It is a popular ingredient in Southeast Asian salads. The fruit is truly ripe when it turns orange and splits into segments that peel back exposing the interior seeds covered in a bright red pulp. The Chinese also use it as a substitute for hops in some beers.
Li Shizhen (1518-1593), one of the great Chinese herbalists, ranked bitter melon as the best melon on earth for its ability to expel Heat, sharpen vision, improve liver function, support heart health, and relieve the body of toxins.
It is considered the most bitter of all fruits and vegetables.
The dried leaves are commercially available as tea bags. And a tea made from an infusion of the dried slices of melon is called gohyah tea and it is used to treat liver disorders, sore throats, and aid digestion. The seeds can be dried and powdered and added to food. However, use the seeds cautiously as used in excess they may cause fever, headaches, and even coma.
The young shoots and leaves can be eaten as greens. In India, bitter melon is often served with yogurt as a side dish or in curry dishes. In Nepal it is prepared as a fresh pickle. In Pakistan it is often cooked with garlic, red chili powder, turmeric, salt, coriander, and a pinch of cumin seeds. In Japan, in Okinawan cuisine, it is a very popular ingredient in many local dishes. In Thailand, bitter melon is often stuffed with minced pork and garlic and prepared in a clear broth.
The compound, Chlorogenic acid, found in bitter melon is known to be a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your cells from damage. The cucurbitacins found in bitter melon contribute the fruits bitter flavor and ability to cleanse and invigorate the blood, helping to balance blood sugar levels, prevent cancers, and fight viruses. The compound lectin, also helps to reduce blood sugar levels and is a major contributor to the melons hypoglycemic properties. Bitter melon also contains high levels of quinine which is used to treat malaria.
Bitter melon is used to help promote fresh beginnings, healing, and renewal. It is an excellent herb for cleansing and purification.
When shopping for bitter melon, bigger is not better, just more bitter. The best are small to medium-sized and are firm. Store in your refrigerator as you would a cucumber.
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Take FULL advantage of the healing powers of this herb!
What are the benefits of Bitter Melon (Ku Gua)? How can it be used? Get Eastern and Western perspectives about how and why Bitter Melon works. Get recipes, gardening tips, insights, and much, much more.
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