What is Ampalaya?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2019
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Commonly known as bitter melon, ampalaya is a plant that grows in tropical and sub-tropical areas around the world. The fruit of the plant can be used as a seasoning in many types of cuisine, as well as serve as an herbal remedy for a couple of health issues. While the use of ampalaya is more common in India, China, Africa, and parts of the Caribbean, its use is beginning to spread, especially among those who rely upon homeopathy to maintain their good health.

In appearance, ampalaya is oblong and sports an exterior that appears to be covered with warts. Inside, a ripe plant will have a thin outer layer of flesh, as well as pith that is red in color, and somewhat sweet. There is also a cavity that is filled with flat seeds. When ampalaya is fully ripe, the seeds are also somewhat red in color. If the interior is white, that means the fruit has yet to ripen and may not be ready for use in some recipes where the idea is to add a touch of bitterness to the flavor.


Ampalaya is used in a number of different types of cuisine. At times, the flesh and pith are used as ingredients in dishes. When the recipe calls for using ampalaya that is somewhat sweet, this means that the flesh is used before the plant is fully ripened. Should the recipe call for adding something bitter, then mature ampalaya must be used. The flesh and pith may be consumed raw, or cooked along with other ingredients to obtain the ideal texture and combination of flavors.

When used in herbal remedies, ampalaya is often dried and crushed into a powder. The powder can then be mixed with other herbs and compounds, or consumed alone to treat different health issues. Over the years, people have claimed that bittermelon helps with various types of digestion issues, eases constipation, and aids in the treatment of malaria. Many practitioners of homeopathic medicine do not recommend the use of this particular remedy for anyone who has ulcers or is prone to heartburn, since taking the substance may worsen those conditions.

In recent years, some research has indicated that ampalaya may have some effect on treating HIV infections, or at least alleviating some of the symptoms that develop during the use of other anti-HIV medications. This small body of research is not widely accepted as proof positive by many in the medical field. At present, there is a need for more testing before the level of effectiveness that this plant has on HIV symptoms can be properly assessed.


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