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What Are the Health Benefits of Bitter Melon?

Patients should first consult with a licensed physician before pursuing any herbal treatment.
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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 09 August 2014
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There are many potential benefits of bitter melon, although a doctor should be consulted before beginning any new herbal treatment. The primary use of bitter melon is the prevention and treatment of diabetes, although it is thought to have several additional benefits as well. This herb may also help to lower cholesterol levels and is thought to reduce cancer risks. Protection from infection is another of the possible benefits of bitter melon due to its natural antiviral and antibacterial properties. Bitter melon is reputed to have antioxidant properties and as such may improve immune system function.

The treatment of diabetes is one of the most well-known benefits of bitter melon. This herb is thought to contain chemicals that resemble a hormone known as insulin. This hormone occurs naturally in the body and is responsible for maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Some studies have suggested that long-term use of bitter melon may alleviate the need for prescription insulin among diabetic patients. Bitter melon should be used to treat diabetes only under the direct supervision of a doctor, as it can lower blood sugar levels too much, leading to diabetic coma or death.

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Cardiovascular benefits of bitter melon may include lowered cholesterol levels, reduced inflammation, and improved cell health. Regular use of this supplement may also lower blood pressure levels among those with hypertension. Bitter melon is widely believed to stimulate the immune system and assist the body's natural ability to fight infection. The antibacterial and antiviral properties of this herb may also reduce the risks of infection, adding to the potential benefits of bitter melon. The risk of developing certain forms of cancer, especially those involving the digestive tract, may be lowered by the use of a bitter melon supplement.

While the benefits of bitter melon outweigh the potential risks for most people, a doctor should be consulted before beginning treatment with this herb. Abdominal pain, headache, and anemia are possible side effects of bitter melon usage, especially if taken for an extended period of time or in large doses. Historically used to induce miscarriage, this supplement should not be used by women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Any new or bothersome symptoms that develop after beginning treatment with this herbal remedy should be reported to a doctor for further evaluation. Some medications may not work properly when combined with bitter melon, so the supervising physician should be made aware of any over-the-counter or prescription medications being used.

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