How Bitter Gourd Can Be Really Sweet on Your Health!

July 06, 2008

Kukku, aged 6, was crying aloud in school and the teacher came running. To the relief of the teacher the child was not crying due to any injury. She started crying when she saw the Bitter-gourd curry, her mother had given her for lunch. Kukku is not the only one who dislikes bitter gourd. Many of us adults also do not prefer bitter gourd owing to its bitter taste. My uncle can have bitter gourd partially cooked with just coconut oil, salt and green chillies. Whereas I can only think of deep fried bitter slices.

Bitter gourd or karela (Momordica charantia) is a vegetable widely grown in the Asian countries. It has a significant place in the traditional medicine systems and the cuisines of Asian countries. Though named after its taste, Bitter gourd is a candy in the field of medicine. We have heard of bitter gourd being used to treat Diabetes (Diabetes Mellitus). What else can it do? Let’s see those sweet facts.

Facts about Bittergourd or Karela

Bitter gourd contains :

  1. No fat
  2. Calcium
  3. Phosphorus
  4. Potassium
  5. Iron
  6. Carbohydrates
  7. Proteins
  8. Beta carotene
  9. Vitamins C and B 1 to 3
  10. Fiber
  11. 92% moisture
  12. and Essential minerals

Bitter gourd is considered a herb as it has many medicinal uses known to man. It is held to be anticancerous, antiviral, antibacterial and hypoglycaemic. Many of the uses are not supported by research records but by the traditional medicines.

  1. Bitter gourd is credited of cleansing the blood and treating many infections if taken regularly. It can thus cure many skin related problems caused by the impurities in the blood. Ayurveda claims that bitter gourd is an effective treatment for problems like psoriasis, scabies, ringworm infection, and other fungal infections. Some medicines used for the treatment of rashes and allergies have the essence of bitter guard in them.
  2. Bitter gourd increases appetite and digestion while helping with constipation. Bitter gourd stimulates pancreas and liver and thus helps in the absorption of food.
  3. It controls infection in the body, aids the function of the digestive tract and regularises the urinary tract.
  4. Diabetic enteropathy is a complication arising from diabetes. Bitter gourd is used in the traditional medicines to improve gastrointestinal functions and thus help patients with Diabetic enteropathy.
  5. Ayurveda maintains that bitter gourd can successfully treat piles, jaundice and cholera in its early stages.
  6. Respiratory disorders like asthma, bronchitis can be alleviated by bitter gourd.
  7. Bitter gourd is said to be good for the liver and can prevent the damage to liver as a result of alcoholism.

Thinking of a cup of bitter gourd juice in the morning?

Rumours

Since there are no available records supporting these effects of bitter gourd I categorise them as rumours. Many hold them true while many find them to be arbitrary. Yet, I could not neglect them as they are crucial to this article on bitter gourd.

  • The bitter gourd leaf is an effective deterrent and treatment to malaria in many parts of Asia and Columbia.
  • Treats HIV! Bitter gourd is said to be an immunomodulator which can treat cancerous cells and tumors. Even if it cannot treat HIV it should certainly enhance the immunity of the body.
  • Bitter gourd is antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic and antiseptic.
  • It is carminative (expels gas) and purgative.
  • It can reduce fever and lower blood pressure.
  • Traditional medicine also calls it lactagogue as it promotes milk flow.
  • Stories say that it can cause abortion but treat menstrual disorders.
  • Children are not encouraged to eat it as it is potentially toxic. Wish I had heard of it in my childhood!
  • The intake of bitter gourd may worsen heartburn and ulcers and causes stomach pain and diarrhea.

However, most clinical studies ascertain that it doesn’t contain any side effects.  Extensive research is called for on such grounds.

-Aparna K V

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