Momordica charantia or karela or Bitter Gourd is a tropical vegetable. The vegetable skin is warty in nature like that of a crocodile. It is bitter to taste. The plant is slender and is a climber. It bears yellow flowers. The bitter gourd is available in many sizes. The fresh juice of the vegetable is used to treat various ailments like diabetes, colic, sores, fungal infections, etc., Young immature biter gourds are best to cook. The skin in dark green in colour and the flesh is white and the seeds are tender. Its also known as Karela, Balsam pear or Bitter melon.
Bitter gourd is rich in vitamin A, B1, B2 and c and contains minerals like calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper and potassium. It aids purify blood tissue, enhances digestion, and stimulates the liver. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid eating bitter gourd. Since ancient times, the extracts of Bitter gourd have been used in natural medicine. Bitter gourd is a blood purifier, activates spleen and liver. It is a purgative, appetizer and digestive. All parts of the plant, the seeds, leaves and vines, are used for medicinal purposes. Like most bitter fruits and vegetables it promotes digestion. Primarily Asians used bitter gourd to treat malaria. Its is said to have a positive effect in controlling the blood sugar level and is termed as ‘Plant Insulin’. Three active constituents in bitter melon know as steroidal saponins (charntin, insulin-like peptides, and alkaloids) are believed to be responsible for the blood-sugar lowering. Rich in iron, bitter melon has twice the beta carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, twice the potassium of bananas. Its is used to treat blood disorders like blood boils, scabies, ring worm etc.,
The juice of the leaf is used to treat alcoholism and piles. The juice of the Bitter Gourd leaves are used to treat cholera. It is useful as an emtic, purgative. Excessive ingestion of bitter melon juice, much more than the amount recommended may lead to diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Bitter melon is seldom mixed with other vegetables due to its strong bitter flavour. The Chinese used the bitter melon in stir fry dishes and soups. Bitter melon capsules are also available in the market.
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