Bitter Melon Diabetes News

The case for bitter melon in diabetes keeps looking better and better. New information and new products have come out, though there are still no large studies on humans.

To review: Bitter melon is a fruit and a vegetable, nobody can decide which. It grows in most tropical countries in Asia, Africa, Australia, South America, and the Caribbean. It goes by the names bitter melon, bitter gourd, bitter squash, karela, and goya, among many others. The scientific name is Momordica charantia. It seems to lower blood sugar well.

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Look at the comments to my 2013 article on bitter melon or read customer reviews for any bitter melon product such as teas or capsules. You will find overwhelming agreement that Momordica works. The main complaints are about taste, and some people get digestive upset, as can happen with metformin.

There seems to be a risk of going too low if you take bitter melon along with certain diabetes medicines such as insulin or a sulfonylurea. There may also be a risk of going low using bitter melon along with metformin. You’ll have to proceed carefully and speak to your health-care provider if you’re on these or other medicines, as bitter melon can interact with a variety of drugs, but a number of readers commented that they lowered their doses or stopped meds completely with their doctor’s approval.

How bitter melon works is not known, but at least three active ingredients have been isolated in the lab. An article in The Open Medicinal Chemistry Journal in 2011 listed multiple chemicals from bitter melon that could lower sugar. The authors believed the strongest chemical was charantin, which appears to act similarly to insulin. It gets glucose into the cells like insulin does and keeps excess glucose in the liver like insulin and metformin do.

It may be that nature developed us to have more than one way to burn glucose, and bitter melon is one of those ways.

How to take it
My article in 2013 focused on bitter melon tea. Many readers commented that juicing a raw bitter melon worked for them. Others suggested chopping it up and nibbling the pieces for snacks, or using it in cooking. The problem with all those natural ways is the taste. Some people like it, but others hate it. Some readers asked about bitter melon capsules, which appear to work well with no taste problems.

Now there are some new ways to get bitter melon. Some might be easier and tastier for you.

One group of these products is called Carela. The company sent me some varieties to try, and they tasted good. The tea comes in six flavors. It is made from chopped up bitter melon mixed with tea leaves and “other ingredients.” Carela coolers are made with liquefied bitter melon and slightly sweetened with sucralose, which does not raise blood sugars or insulin levels. The coolers come in peach and cranberry flavors.

Carela cofounder Daniel Casanas said it took years of work to create a good-tasting drink while maintaining the health benefits of bitter melon. The ingredients are a trade secret, so I can’t estimate the dose of Momordica you will get in each drink.

One user, a woman with Type 1 named Katie Drinkwater, told me she uses Carela to supplement her insulin. She said one 12-ounce bottle lowered her sugars about 100 mg/dl over an hour. A blogger with Type 1 named Libby reported even stronger results. A cooler kept her sugars in normal range for hours even after eating a bagel and cream cheese, which she said had never happened before.

Casanas believes bitter melon will be the next kale — soon, everyone will be eating it. I hope he’s right, because Momordica is one of the world’s great healers. It has been found to have powerful anti-cancer properties in mice, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. One of our commenters on this site said he started bitter melon tea for glucose control and his adrenal tumor disappeared. Momordica also appears to slow the progression of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

I wonder how such a healing plant evolved, or how we evolved to get so much benefit from it. I also wonder why so few people in the West know about it. Why there has been so little research? Hopefully there will be more soon. Carela is raising money for human studies on bitter melon at this site.

Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for large studies if we don’t want to. We’ve got animal and lab studies to give us a hint, and hundreds of thousands of anecdotal reports to get us started. You can read some of these ecstatic reviews here or here or in the comments section of any bitter melon diabetes article. Try it and add your own voice to the chorus.

About to embark on a new journey with a continuous glucose monitor, Scott Coulter has an insight about how to best evaluate the data it will provide. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.

  • RAWLCM

    My experience with bitter melon Keep in mind I live in the second largest city in my state, home to a major university and very diverse:

    The fresh fruit is available locally at Asian grocery stores, but not consistently. I am not a fan of bitter tastes, so munching wasn’t on the agenda. It’s fine in Asian dishes as a limited ingredient. We used it like zucchini. No way I could get enough to be therapeutic in dietary form.

    The tea was also available locally at Asian markets. The flavor of the tea is tolerable. I sometimes would mix it with another herbal tea to make a palatable “cocktail” of flavors. The effect on my digestive system was less pleasant. If you’ve had a reaction to a statin it was about the same -in other words, miserable. In the end, I wasn’t able to adapt and abandoned it.

    The capsules were available locally at health food and vitamin stores, but the cost was astronomical (at least five times the cost online). I also ordered online, however shipping ate up most of the savings. I had no side effects from the pills, however the cost and inconvenience made me unlikely to reorder. I have multiple local resources for supplements, varying from very low prices (mass-marketers) to very high prices (specialty shops). None of the low price sources carry it, making what should be a very inexpensive product into a budget-buster for me.

    Effect: While on the pills, my daily readings drooped an average of 15-20 points. The tea seemed to have no effect except to make me feel ill. If it did influence glucose, the effect was lost by the stress of being miserable.

    Carela sounds interesting, although probably not the coolers due to the inclusion of a sweetener. I’ve never acquired a taste for sweetened teas -herbal or otherwise. I’ll look for it, but again, price will be an influencing factor. No matter how you package it, it’s still ground up squash, common as dirt in most of the world.
    Question? Has anyone tried cultivating this in the U.S. either commercially, or in their back yard?

    • Melvin

      Bitter melon is a tropical vege/fruit. They are also annuals. They can grow during the summer in places where it is hot like CA. In non-tropical conditions, they can be cultivated in greenhouses. You have to acquire the taste to appreciate them as regular food. The leaves are also edible.

    • Roben

      RAWLCM, try Swanson’s Vitamins. They have Bitter Melon capsules 500mg #60 for $2.99. Shipping is $5 but its free if you order $50 or more. They often have specials with free shipping with orders over $25. I don’t work for Swanson’s, I just wanted to give you a heads up.

      • Gwen Zeckser

        Is this the cancer fighting one? And i live in Nebraska where can I order this?

        • Roben

          Hi Gwen. I have heard that bitter melon has cancer fighting properties. My husband is using it to lower his glucose level. He didn’t like the smell or taste of the tea so I ordered the capsules on http://www.swansons.com (Swanson’s Vitamins). We got his results back yesterday and his fasting glucose didn’t improve much (117 to 114) but his triglycerides dropped from 199 to 141 and his LDL cholesterol dropped substantially as well. His A1c is now 5.7 but I don’t know what it was before.

  • crabbyoldlady

    I live where there is a large Asian community even here the melon is difficult to obtain and tasted positively nasty when I found it. I found a ‘drink’ in one of the stores, but it had so much sugar in it to make it barely palatable, it raised my blood sugar. I agree, the cost of the pills makes it available only for those NOT on a fixed income, as I am. I’m passing on this stuff.

  • Jeffrey Moore

    I do not like the taste of raw bitter melon but I’ve found that if I slice it up and then dehydrate it, I can eat it without any problems. They dry out to make very thin strips. You do have to to chew and swallow them rather quickly or the bitterness will start to come out but in this form, they’re very crisp and crunchy and taste very similar to fried okra in my opinion. I’ve also steeped them in green tea without any adverse affect on the flavor. I don’t know what effect it has on my blood sugar though as I don’t eat it regularly enough and then check my blood glucose.

  • A.Patel

    Did you know you can get Green Guar of which Guar Gum is made at Indian Vegetable Shops.Guar can be cooked by boiling it ,with a little salt, Turmarik (Haldi)and Youguart. Guar Gum is known to reduce Sugar Level!

    • Angie unduplicated

      You can get guar bean seeds on
      ( so help me ) eBay, as well as seeds for fenugreek and tindora.

      Anyone tried crape myrtle leaves yet?

  • Kathy

    I bought bitter melon powder, but don’t know how much to use. I tried putting 1T in a shake and have had some GI distress. Is that too much?

    • Kathy, what does it say on the label? Is there a content in milligrams (mg) or a recommended dose or something?

  • Pam

    My husband tried it in capsul form for puritan pride. Gave him very very bad headace

  • Harmony Crystal

    Where can you buy this product you are referring to?

  • patricia sutton

    I ended up getting 2 big bitter melons from a food bank. I am a severe diabetic. I take 6 shots a day and 2 pills a day. How do I cook the bitter melons?

    • There is now a national bitter melon council at bittermelon.org They have many recipes, and you can find others on the Web. Some people juice their bitter melon.

    • Victoria Lanakila Generao

      You can create a Filipino dish that features bitter melon … we call bitter melon “ampalaya”. This dish is called “Pinakbet” (bitter melon stew). Over medium heat, you can saute in 1 TB vegetable oil 1/2 onion, 1 large tomato (the more tomato, the less bitter the dish becomes), 2 cloves minced garlic until the onion is transparent, then add small chunks of pork (1 cup) and saute’ until meat is tender and just cooked through. Stir in Chinese long beans snapped in 2″ pieces, Kambocha squash (peeled and cut into 1″ chunks) and 1 TB of shrimp paste (can find in Asian food section or at an Asian grocery store) with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water. Put the lid on the pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Open the lid and lay on top of the mixture 1/2 cup of bitter melon cut into 1″ pieces (remove the seeds), then close the lid and allow the veggies to steam and gently cook into this stew for about 5 minutes. Uncover and gently incorporate the bitter melon pieces into the stew and cook for another 5 minutes. (This is the secret to making the dish tasty, but not overly bitter … lots of tomato and cooking the bitter melon on top and mixing it in towards the end of the cooking time.) Serve with hot Jasmine rice. This is a very popular dish in the Philippines. Enjoy!

      • Thanks for the recipe, Victoria. Sounds delicious. I wonder if there’s a vegetarian version.

        • Victoria Lanakila Generao

          Sure there is, David … This dish is delicious without the pork and shrimp … just substitute Vegan seitan and wheat gluten, 1″ pieces of Chinese eggplant (it’s sweeter), vegetarian shrimp flavor boullion and sea salt. Most home-cooked Filipino foods back in P.I. are vegetarian, actually … as it is in most Third World countries. The addition of meat is a way to utilize leftovers in preparation of festivals, etc., and the use of shrimp, bagoong and Patis is attributed to the Island culture of Southeast Asia generally. Thanks for checking out Mom’s recipe!

    • nomadicwanderer

      Bitter melon is staple diet in Kerala, a southern state of India. Google ” Karela recipes” and you will get lots of Indian recipes, as it is called Karela in India.

  • Paula A Sanford

    I love it and can attest to its effectiveness.

    My blood sugar was a whopping 400. I drank a cup of bitter melon tea on my way to my doctors office. When my blood sugar was tested, it had dropped 118 points. Also, my AIC level went down from 17 to 13.5. (Just from one cup) Although those are very high levels, I am encouraged and prefer lowering my numbers naturally, as I am not on Metformin or other drugs. My doctor asked me what I did. I told her about the Bitter Melon Tea.

    • Thanks for sharing this story Paula. If your A1C is really 13.5, you should be taking the tea at least twice a day. Please keep us informed how it’s going.

    • Gwen Zeckser

      Where can I buy this tea?

      • You can find bitter melon tea at most Asian groceries or herb stores or online — search for bitter melon tea.

    • meir

      Hi Paula, How is your experiment with Bitter Melon Tea going on? Are you still taking it?

  • Angie unduplicated

    I can’t handle the bitterness. Tindora, another cucurbit, is alleged to have anti-diabetic properties, so I’ve ordered seeds. It can be found in Indian groceries during the summer. In subtropical zones, it becomes invasive but freezing should keep it under control in N GA.

  • RAWLCM

    Congratulations on your crop. I’m told that in Asia they are used pretty much like cukes or summer squash -eaten raw as part of a salad, or stir-fried with other vegetables. They are also used dried make tea. As the name implies, they are bitter, and some people like bitter taste in salads or vegie dishes, but I am not one of them. As for making capsules, the main drawback to that is, as with all whole herbs, potency may vary wildly from crop to crop or even plant to plant, so estimating a therapeutic dose is difficult. You’ll probably have to experiment and keep a close watch on your glucose. People of a certain age may remember a commercial for a laxative that showed a young mother fretting over giving he son prunes for constipation. “Is four enough? Six too many?” It was silly, but they had a real point. She wasn’t going to hurt her kid with too many prunes, but the results might be inconvenient.

  • J S

    Hello – I’m currently on 20 units of Insulin, as well as take 1000 mg Metformin in the morning and 1000 at night. I’ve been experimenting with Bitter Melon the last couple of days. I basically juice a whole one, about 2.5 oz weight, and drink it. My question is, when can I expect to see some changes to the sugar number ? My late morning reading is about 230, and it hasn’t changed much from the bitter melon the last 2 days. Can someone provide some insight ? Do I need to have MORE of it ?

    Thanks.

    • Hi JS, It seems bitter melon isn’t working for you. Sorry to hear that. The effect is usually immediate. You might try bitter melon tea, but perhaps for some reason your body is resistant to it.

    • Renata

      I started seeing a change in my second week of drinking 2oz of juice twice daily and I would also do the tea occasionally during the day. I also did a reboot, juicing for 5 days when I got started. I am also eating healthier, trying to avoid carbs as much as possible and exercising – nothing strenuous. My main goal is to come off of my medication so I am willing to give up some things especially since the bitter melon is a positive.

    • Peter Mc

      Hi, if bitter melon tea does not work for you, try Guava Tea. You get it from most Asian grocery stores. The theory is that bitter melon tea helps get the glucose into the muscles, but guava tea helps make your blood more insulin sensitive.