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Bitter Melon (Momordica Charantia) - Uses, Health Benefits, Dosage, Medicinal Properties

karela natural herbs

Momordica charantia

English: Bitter melon, bitter gourd

Hindi: Karela

Sanskrit: Karavellalw, angarvelli

Karela has been used in the folk medicine in China, India, Africa, the West Indies and elsewhere, from ancient times. The fruits are pickled and used as a relish and the seed as a condiment. The bitterness can be reduced by steeping them in salt water, removing the outer skin and cooking. For use out of season, the fruits are preserved after slicing and drying.

Karela Saar (Pure Bitter gourd + Amla Juice)

Karela Saar

Krishna Herbal Company has launched blend of Bittergourd juice with Amla Juice for Diabetic patients. The Juice contains pure Karela Saarorganically grown bittergourds mixed with fresh Amla fruits. Bittergourd is known as one of the best naturally occurring Anti-diabetic herb and Amla alongwith it's Anti-Diabetic properties provides nourishment to the body. Regular use of Karela Saar controls the sugar levels and also the fluctuations in the Sugar level. It also provides vitamins and minerals needed by our body for metabolism and assimilation of Sugar in our body.

Benefits and Curative Properties of Bitter gourd
The bitter gourd has excellent medicinal virtues. It is antipyretic tonic, appetizing, stomachic and laxative. The bitter gourd is also used in native medicines of Asia and Africa. Read more

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The plant is common throughout India and grown widely as a vegetable crop all over the tropics, especially in India, China, Africa and parts of America.

Botanical description

Karela is an annual creeper with branched stems, twining and slender (Plate 37). The leaf blades are 5-12 cm in diameter, reniform or suborbicular, prominently nerved, 5-7 lobed with irregular margins. Tendrils simple, slender and pubescent. Flowers monoecious, yellow in colour; male flowers solitary and female flowers bracteate at the base with a fusiform and muricate ovary. Fruits muricate or tuberculate, oblong, 2.5-7 cm long with tapering ends, green or yellowish in colour with numerous soft triangular spikes on the surface. Seeds 1.3 cm long, compressed, with a sculptured surface.

Parts used

Whole plant, leaves, but mainly fruits.

Traditional and modern use

The plant is highly recommended for the treatment of diabetes, both as part of the general diet and in the form of an extract or as a herbal tea made from the leaf. It is also used in asthma, skin infections, gastrointestinal problems and hypertension,

Ethnoveterinary usage

The herb is used widely in veterinary medicine for tetanus, eye disorders, abdominal pain, liver fluke and constipation. It is given to animals to promote digestion and urination. In cattle, it is used to expel the placenta and stop lactation after the death of a calf. The prophylactic effects of karela were compared to those of salinomycin and bakin (Melia azedarach) against coccidiosis. Broiler chicks inoculated with mixed species of coccidia showed a better gain in body weight with the karela treatment.

Major chemical constituents

A series of cucurbitane-type triterpene glycosides called goyaglycosides a-h have been isolated along with the momordicosides A-L. Oleanane-type triterpene saponins, termed goyasaponins 1, II and III, were also identified in the herb. The pyrimidine arabinopyranosides charine, vi cine and others, along with the triterpenes momordicin, momordicinin and cucurbitanes 1, II and III, have also been reported.


a, ? and y Momorcharins, with N -glycosidase activity, and momordins a and b, were identified along with ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs) and lectins.

Sterols and fatty acids

Palmitic and oleic acids are the major components, with minor constituents such as stearic, lauric, linoleic, arachidic, myristic and capric acids. Conjugated octadecatrienoic acids form 63-68 % of the oil content, together with ?-Sitosterol, campesterol, daucosterol, stigmasterol and momordenol (3-?- hydroxystigmasta -5,14- dien-16-one). The 4-monomethylsterols obtusifoliol, cycloeucalenol, 4-a-methylzymosterol, lophenol and the desmethylsterols spinasterol (chondrillasterol), and others were also identified.

Volatile constituents

Valerie acid, aldehydes (mainly pentanal, 2-hexenal, 2-heptenal and nonadienal), amyl formate, amylvalerate, 2-butylfuran and 2-hexanone, p-cymene, menthol, nerolidol, pentadecanol, hexadecanol, myrtenol, 3-hexenol, benzyl alcohol, 1-penten-3-ol, cis- 2-penten-1-ol, trans- 2-hexenal, cis-sabinol and others have been identified.

Medicinal and pharmacological activities

Anticancer activity: The aqueous extract killed human leukaemic lymphocytes in a dose-dependent manner, whilst not affecting the viability of normal human lymphocytes. A partially purified factor showed an inhibitory action on both viral and host cell RNA and on protein synthesis. This factor was found to be a single component with a molecular weight of 40 000 daltons. The crude extract acted rapidly on human lymphocytes and leukaemic lymphocytic cells and was reported to inhibit guanylate cyclase activity, preventing the growth of concanavalin A-stimulated rat splenic lymphocytes. An injection of the extract resulted in cytotoxicity against YAC-1 targets in a short-term assay and implicated a non-adherent cell population, which was capable of killing NK-sensitive celliines. In experimental studies the ribosome-inactivating protein momordin was found to be specifically cytotoxic to the Thy 1. I-expressing mouse lymphoma cell line AKR-A in vitro. A glycoprotein from the seeds inhibited protein synthesis by mitogen-stimulated normal and leukaemic lymphocytes, with a subsequent decrease in DNA formation and cell viability, which was more potent than haemagglutinin, possibly due to a greater penetration of lymphocytes by the lectin.3 Application of Momordica proteins to MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells resulted in inhibition of cell proliferation as well as the inhibition of the expression of the HER2 gene in vitro, suggesting a potential therapeutic use against carcinoma of the breast.

Momordin 1 and momordin 2 from the seeds inhibited protein synthesis in rabbit reticulocyte lysate and showed potent cytotoxic activity against target Molt-4 cells, making them useful in allogenic bone marrow transplantation. Momordin 2, conjugated to H65 monoclonal antibody, recognised human T lymphocyte CD5 surface antigen using a heterobifunctional crosslinking reagent, 2-iminothiolane. The resulting immunotoxins had no effect on human haematopoietic cells, but suppressed tumour growth. {X.-Momorcharin inhibited the incorporation of [3H]leucine and [3H]uridine into P388 (mouse monocyte-macrophage),774 (Balb/c macrophage), AR (human placental choriocarcinoma) and sarcoma S180 cell lines. The most potent inhibitory effect was exerted on the P388 cell line, with the enhancement of the tumoricidal effect on mouse mastocytomal (P815) cells. Tumour cell lines from renal, non-small cell lung and breast responded better to the proteins isolated from the plant. A comparative study evaluating the inhibitory potential of Momordica charantia peel, pulp, seed and whole fruit extract on mouse skin papillomagenesis indicated that the peel is the most effective. Topical application also produced a significant elevation of sulfhydryl (-SH), cytosolic glutathione S-transferase (GST) and microsomal cytochrome.

An anti-CD5 monoclonal antibody (mAb), linked to momordin (a type-l ribosome-inactivating protein), was studied for in vitro cytotoxicity, measured as the inhibition of protein and/or DNA synthesis using isolated human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMe) and neoplastic T lymphocytes. The potency of the immunotoxin on PBMC was very high and it was very efficient in the inhibition of the proliferative response in a mixed lymphocyte reaction, suggesting a possible use of anti-CD5-momordin conjugate in the treatment of some leukaemias and lymphomas.

Hypoglycaemic activity: Extracts of Momordica charantia rapidly decreased and normalised blood sugar levels in alloxan- or streptozotocin-induced diabetes mellitus. The water-soluble peptide fraction (named MC6) was found to be effective on oral administration. The effect of the insulin-like peptide on the lipid profile is not clear since it had no action on steroidogenesis, but other studies showed fractions with antilipolytic activity. Fruit extracts reversed some of the complications of diabetes in the liver and kidney in experimental diabetes, with effective glucose control, and reversed the effect of chronic diabetes on the modulation of both P450-dependent monooxygenase activities and GSH-dependent oxidative stress. In a clinical study of Momordica in diabetic patients, hypoglycaemic effects were accompanied by significant adaptogenic properties indicated by a delay in the appearance of cataracts and other secondary complications of diabetes.

Antifertility activity: The momorcharins are effective in inducing early and mid-term abortions, but have teratogenic effects. Intraperitoneal administration to mice of ?-momorcharin on days 4 and 6 of pregnancy led to an inhibition of pregnancy with the disturbance of periimplantation development. The termination 'of early pregnancy in the mouse may h'aye resulted from an inhibitory effect of the abortifacient protein on the differentiating endometrium. a and ?-momorcharin inhibit embryonic implantation, probably by inhibiting cell free protein synthesis.

Antilipolytic activity: Different fractions of the fruits and seeds exhibited antilipolytic activity, resembling insulin by inhibiting hormone-induced lipolysis, Two of the active compounds were identified as pep tides with similar aminoacid compositions.

Antigenotoxic activity: Momordica charantia decreased the genotoxic activity of methylnitrosamine, methanesulfonate and tetracycline, as shown by the decrease in chromosome breakage.

Anthelmintic activity: Momordica was more effective than piperazine in the treatment of Ascaridia galli.

Antimicrobial activity: M. charantia has shown antibacterial effects in several standard test systems.3 Extracts of the dried powder alone, and in combination with the fruits of EmbZica officinaZis and rhizomes of Curcuma Zonga (qv) , showed antibacterial activity.

Antiviral activity: Proteins MAP30 and GAP30, isolated from M. charantia, are active against the infection and replication of Herpes simplex virus, comparable in effect to aciclovir. MAP30 inactivated viral DNA and specific cleavage of 28 S rRNA, which may, regulate HIV replication in conjunction with steroidal and non-steroidal inhibitors of prostaglandin synthesis. The use of the plant protein, in combination with dexamethasone and indomethacin, was therefore suggested for anti-HIV therapy. The inhibition of HIV-l integrase suggests that impediment of viral DNA integration may playa key role in the anti-HIV activity and the effect on cell-free HIV-l infection and replication was proportionate to the dose.

Hepatoprotective activity: Feeding kareZa to diabetic rats brought levels of aminopyrene N-demethylase close to that of control animals, while ethoxycoumarin-O-deethylase was further reduced to 60% of the control value, with the normalisation of cytosolic glutathione. It involved in vitro metabolic activation of aflatoxin Bland benzo[a]pyrene and demonstrates that the fruits contain monofunctional phase II enzyme inducers and compounds capable of repressing some monooxygenases, especially those involved in the metabolic activation of chemical carcinogens. This shows potential as a chemopreventive agent.

Safety profile

As it is used so widely as a food, the fruit is thought to be reasonably safe, although the cytotoxic and other effects indicate that caution is required; hence it should not be taken by pregnant women. Overdosage may induce emesis and some of the toxic proteins will be degraded during cooking. Momordin 1 was shown to have an LD50 value of 8.8 mglkg in mice. The insulin-like polypeptide did not have any crossreaction with bovine insulin. When used as an antiobesity agent, no side effects were observed.


  • Expressed juice of the whole plant or fruit: 10-30 ml

Ayurvedic properties

  • Rasa: Tikta (bitter), katu (pungent)
  • Guna: Ruksha (dry), laghu light)
  • Veerya: Ushna (hot)
  • Vipaka: Katu (pungent)
  • Vasha: Pacifies pitta and kapha

Where to Buy Karela Powder?

Click here to buy this powder online.