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Bitter melon extract, also called Momordica charantia or Karela, comes from a fruit that is commonly used in homeopathic medicine to treat a wide range of illnesses. For example, it is often recommended by practitioners to regulate a person’s blood sugar levels and thereby prevent or treat diabetes. In addition, recent studies have shown that bitter melon extract may fight the growth of breast cancer cells. Other studies have shown that it may help people infected with the HIV virus as well.
Commonly grown in areas of India, China, the Caribbean, and Africa, the bitter melon plant grows as a vine with yellow flowers and green fruit. The fruit looks similar to a cucumber, but it is covered with larger and more pronounced bumps. When it is unripe, the seeds and pith are white. The pith or pulp turns red when it is ripe.
Homeopathic medicine practitioners have recommended bitter melon extract to treat a variety of ailments for years. For example, it is often used as a digestive aid and may be used to help a person suffering from constipation. Some practitioners claim that it may also be used to treat malaria, and some clinical studies have shown that it may prevent malaria in laboratory animals.
People infected with the HIV virus are often recommended bitter melon extract as well. Although it is not believed to treat the illness directly, it is believed to counteract the side effects associated with the drugs prescribed to the infected person. Additional research is necessary before the extract can be ruled out as a treatment because there is some evidence that it may improve the function of immune cells.
One study has shown that bitter melon extract significantly affects the growth of breast cancer cells. In fact, it may become a chemopreventative product against breast cancer. Specifically, the extract has been shown to decrease breast cancer cell growth and kill breast cancer cells.
Many homeopathic remedy practitioners also recommend bitter melon extract to prevent or fight type-2 diabetes. In one study, the extract seemed to increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin. In another study, the extract appeared to lower blood sugar levels.
Although bitter melon extract may be consumed as a liquid tincture, the juice from the fruit may also be consumed. In most cases, a person would consume 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of the extract several times each day. As with any remedy, people should understand that there are side effects. For example, if an excessive amount of bitter melon extract is consumed, it may cause diarrhea and stomach pains. In addition, pregnant women and people with low blood sugar should avoid using the extract.