Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Bitter melon is known for its blood sugar-lowering effect. In this article you will learn how bitter melon can be used to treat diabetes or obesity. We have compiled the latest scientific findings on the effect of bitter melon. This will give you an overview of the possible applications of the plant.

In our big bitter melon test 2021 we show you what the most important criteria are when buying bitter melon products. We also present the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of products. With the help of this guide, you can find the right bitter melon product for you.




The most important facts

  • Bitter melon can be taken in the form of capsules, tea, powder or fresh. Which alternative you prefer depends on your taste.
  • Bitter melon can be used to support the treatment of diabetes and cancer patients. But bitter melon is also a suitable remedy for obesity, infections and viruses.
  • The unripe fruit of the bitter melon plant is usually eaten. It tastes bitter and can be boiled, fried or blanched.

The Best Bitter Melon: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for bitter melon products

When buying bitter melon, you can pay attention to various aspects, such as:

By making the right choice for you, you can save money and also ensure that you don't give your body anything it doesn't need. Therefore, always look for high quality and, if necessary, ask to see the manufacturer's certificates.

Quality

The quality of bitter melon is an important criterion when buying bitter melon products. Especially if you want to use the bitter melon fresh, you should pay attention to high quality.

Since bitter melon is rarely found in supermarkets, you can also grow it yourself. This way you can be sure that they have been grown without pesticides. Organic bitter melon is also grown without chemicals and additives.

If you want to take bitter melon in the form of tea, tablets or capsules, you should watch out for additives. Tablets often contain fillers, but these are harmless. In tea, other herbs or spices are added to support the effect of bitter melon.

Form of administration

Bitter melon can be consumed in various forms. There are bitter melon capsules, tea and extract. Capsules have the advantage that they can be taken quickly on the go and do not take long to prepare. Tea and extract can simply be taken as a drink.

Fresh bitter melon can also be prepared in many ways. However, you should make sure that the fruit is unripe. Ripe bitter melons are inedible due to their bitterness. Depending on the effect you want to achieve with bitter melon, different forms are best suited.

Additives

Depending on the purpose for which you want to take bitter melon, additives can support the effect of bitter melon. Especially in tea and capsules, other herbs and substances are often added.

For example, additives such as cinnamon, turmeric and ginger are added to improve blood sugar levels. Chromium is also often added to bitter melon products, as a chromium deficiency can lead to various diseases.

Adequate chromium supply is beneficial for blood sugar levels, diabetics and a healthy weight.

Package size

Bitter melon products come in different pack sizes. Bitter melon capsules and extract are available in larger quantities. As the quantity increases, the price per kilo decreases. However, you should consider how much you will actually consume before buying.

Bitter melon capsules have a long shelf life. If you take them regularly, it is worth buying a larger pack. If you are trying bitter melon for the first time, a small pack size is best. Both bitter melon capsules and bitter melon extract should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. This way they will keep for as long as possible.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about bitter melon products answered in detail

In order to inform you comprehensively about the effectiveness of bitter melon and to give you an understanding of the current state of science, we have summarised all the important information in the following sections.

What is bitter melon and how does it work?

The bitter melon belongs to the cucurbit family. It is also known as bitter cucumber or balsam pear and originates from the area around India and China. The bitter melon is a climbing plant and forms nubby, cucumber-like fruits after flowering.(3)

The fruits of the bitter melon are mostly eaten. They should be harvested unripe, as they taste very bitter when ripe. The unripe fruit can be recognised by the fact that it is still green. When it ripens, it takes on a yellow colour and bursts open. Inside the fruit are the seeds and placenta.

Bittermelone-1

Bitter melon contains many healthy nutrients and vitamins.
(Image source: Megan Thomas / Unsplash)

Bitter melon contains many healthy ingredients and vitamins. The plant contains vitamins A, C, E and B, among others. Minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium are also present in the plant. In addition, there are antioxidants that have many positive effects on health and can prevent diseases.(4, 7)

Bitter melon is especially known for its effect on diabetes. However, it can also support the treatment of cancer and infections. Details on the effects of bitter melon can be found in the following paragraphs.

Bitter melon for diabetes

Bitter melon can be a suitable means of supporting treatment for people with type 2 diabetes. Due to the charantin and p-insulin contained in bitter melon, the plant has a hypoglycaemic effect. This means that it lowers blood sugar.(1, 3)

In studies on the effectiveness of bitter melon as a blood sugar-lowering agent, various forms of application were examined. It was found that an aqueous extract of boiled bitter melon is the most effective. Bitter melon extract and juice also have a blood sugar-lowering effect.(1, 2)

In addition to this effect, support for wound healing in diabetics was found.(5)

If bitter melon is taken for diabetes, attention should also be paid to adequate diet and exercise. Before taking it, a doctor should always be consulted and the compatibility with medications taken should be checked.

Detailed clinical studies on the effectiveness of bitter melon in humans are not yet sufficiently available. Furthermore, nothing is known about the long-term consequences of taking bitter melon.(3, 5)

Bitter melon for obesity

Obesity is a factor that increases the risk of various diseases. The metabolic syndrome plays an important role in this. The metabolic syndrome is a collective term for various risk factors and diseases related to the cardiovascular system. These include, for example, obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

Bitter melon can help reduce the accumulation of fat on the upper body and weight gain. Bitter melon also contains substances that lower blood sugar. This can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.(7)

However, it should not be forgotten that if you eat a high-fat diet, you will gain weight despite taking bitter melon. The fat merely accumulates less on the belly.

Bitter melon against cancer

Bitter melon can support the treatment of cancer and prevent the disease. The plant contains bioactive ingredients such as the proteins a- / and b- momordin. These ingredients have anti-carcinogenic properties and thus counteract the formation of tumour cells.(3, 6)

The cytotoxic effect of bitter melon is effective against various types of cancer cells. These include skin cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer. Especially in the case of breast cancer, a preventive effect has been observed. The treatment of cancer with the help of chemotherapy can also be supported by taking bitter melon.(8, 9)

Bitter melon against viruses

Bitter melon has antiviral properties that act against viruses and support the immune system. These properties are due to the MAP30 protein. The MAP30 protein inhibits virus replication and activates the body's natural killer cells that work against the virus.(3, 5)

Bittermelone-2

Bitter melon can support recovery from infections or a virus.
(Image source: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels)

The ingredients of bitter melon can also inhibit the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Here, the replication of the virus is also inhibited.(6, 8)

Bitter melon against infections

Bitter melon can also support recovery in the treatment of infections. Since the plant contains antibacterial ingredients, it helps fight infections.(10)

However, the antibacterial effect is limited to one group of infections. Most antibacterial ingredients are contained in the leaves, but the skin, seeds and juice of the plant also have antibacterial properties.(5)

When and for whom is it useful to take bitter melon?

Bitter melon is well suited to support various treatments. The antioxidants contained in bitter melon play a decisive role. Taking bitter melon can be useful for the following illnesses and complaints:

  • Diabetes
  • Overweight
  • Cancer
  • Viruses
  • Infections

Diabetes patients should always consult a doctor before taking bitter melon. Especially if other medicines are taken, it should be ensured that there are no interactions.

Bitter melon should not be taken by pregnant women, as it has shown abortive effects in animal studies. (6) Children and people who have an allergy or intolerance to cucurbits should also not take bitter melon.(11)

How much do bitter melon products cost?

Depending on which form of bitter melon you have chosen, the prices differ. To give you an overview of the price ranges, we have compiled the following overview for you:

Type price per 100 grams
Capsules 10 to 40 euros
Tea 5 to 25 euros
Extract 10 to 40 euros

If you have tried bitter melon before and take it regularly, it is worth buying a larger pack.

What types of bitter melon products are there?

Bitter melon can be taken in the form of capsules, tea or fresh. You can find out which type of product is right for you in the following sections.

Type Description
Bitter melon capsules High-dose bitter melon extract with filler in capsule form.
Bitter melon tea Dried bitter melon, usually in combination with other herbs and spices.
Fresh bitter melon Fresh fruit of the bitter melon, usually consumed unripe.

In the following paragraphs we have summarised the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of products and their special features.

Bitter melon capsules

Bitter melon capsules are practical if you regularly take bitter melon. The capsules usually contain high doses of bitter melon extract and a filler. In addition, substances such as chromium or vitamins are added to some capsules. Which ingredients you need depends on the purpose for which you need the capsules.

Advantages
  • Exact dosage
  • Contains high-dose bitter melon extract
  • Can be taken on the go
Disadvantages
  • Contains fillers
  • Overdose can occur more quickly
  • Suitable storage required

One advantage of the capsules is that the dosage is very accurate. In addition, the tablets can be taken along in a small tin. This means that bitter melon can also be taken on the go. The recommended dosage for bitter melon capsules is 2 capsules per day.

Bitter Melon Tea

Bitter melon tea can be bought packaged in tea bags or as loose tea. Often other herbs and spices are added to the tea to support the effect of bitter melon.

Bittermelone-3

Bitter melon tea is often combined with cinnamon to enhance its effect.
(Image source: Content Pixie / Unsplash)

Cinnamon is often included in herbal tea blends with bitter melon because cinnamon improves blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

The tea should be poured with boiling water and left to steep for about 3 to 5 minutes. Which tea blend you prefer depends on your taste.

Advantages
  • Easy to prepare
  • Better effect due to additional ingredients
Disadvantages
  • Suitable storage required

The preparation is simple, but suitable storage is also necessary.

Fresh bitter melon

The fresh fruit of the bitter melon can be prepared in many ways. In Indian dishes, it is often added as a vegetable. Because of its bitter taste, eating the fruit raw is not particularly tasty. It is therefore prepared fried, boiled or blanched.

Advantages
  • Various ways of preparing it
  • Fresh use
Disadvantages
  • Bitter taste
  • Imprecise dosage
  • Not available everywhere

To reduce the bitter taste of bitter melon, it is often pickled in salt. If you want to use bitter melon for cooking, you can find instructions for preparing bitter melon below.

How should bitter melon be dosed?

For normal use, bitter melon capsules should be taken 2 times a day after a meal. Sufficient water should be drunk with the capsules. Bitter melon tea can be drunk about 2 to 3 times a day.

When it comes to the dosage, you should pay attention to whether it is a normal powder or a high-dose extract.

Bitter melon in powder form can be taken in quantities of up to 2 tablespoons daily. Bitter melon extract should be consumed in smaller quantities.

How can bitter melon be consumed?

Bitter melon can be prepared in various ways. In traditional Indian medicine, the seeds, roots and leaves of the bitter melon are used in addition to the fruit.(3)

If you want to eat the bitter melon fresh, you should make sure that the fruit is still green and unripe. Unprocessed bitter melon fruit tastes bitter. To use the fruit of the bitter melon for cooking, you should prepare it as follows:

  1. Cut off the ends of the fruit.
  2. Cut the fruit in half.
  3. Peel the skin off the fruit.
  4. Remove the seeds from inside the fruit.
  5. Cut the bitter melon into pieces as you like.

After you have prepared the bitter melon fruit, you can cook it according to your preferences. Bitter melon can be boiled, blanched or fried. In Asia, it is often added to dishes as a vegetable or marinated in salt.

How can you grow the bitter melon?

The fresh bitter melon is rarely found in German supermarkets. If you like to garden and have a green thumb, an alternative is to grow bitter melon yourself.

The plant needs a warm, humid and sunny location. That's why it's safest to grow it in a greenhouse. In mild climates, bitter melon can also be planted outside.

Bittermelone-4

In a greenhouse you can grow the bitter melon warm and protected.
(Image source: zanda photography / Unsplash)

Bitter melon seeds should be sown in March to April. This is best done indoors or in a greenhouse, as they need warmth and light to germinate.

The seeds should always be kept moist. After about 2 weeks the first seedlings should be visible. From a size of 15 centimetres you can repot the plants in larger pots.

To ensure that the bitter melon grows well, you should set up a climbing aid. A warm, sheltered place is also important so that the plant has the right climate to grow. When caring for the plant, make sure that you water and fertilise it sufficiently. The plant needs nutrients to produce fruit.

About 3 weeks after flowering, the fruits should be ready for harvesting. You should bear in mind that the fruits are harvested unripe.

What are the alternatives to bitter melon?

Depending on the effect you want to achieve, different alternatives are best suited. Below is an overview of various alternatives:

Complaint Alternative
Diabetes Medication
Overweight Healthy diet, dill, chives
Infection / virus Medication, thyme, peppermint, chamomile

For diabetics, there are various medicines to normalise blood sugar levels. If you are diabetic and want to take new medication, you should always consult a doctor before using it.

If you want to lose weight, there are several dietary supplements that can help you do this. The most important thing for healthy weight loss is a balanced diet and regular exercise.

You can use various herbs and spices to help you lose weight. For example, dill and chives stimulate the metabolism and fat loss.

In the case of infections and viruses, thyme, peppermint and camomile, for example, can support recovery. How effective the individual plants are, however, depends very much on the region of the body and the type of illness.

Image source: Schweitzer / 123rf

References (11)

1. Hartajanie L, Fatimah-Muis S, Heri-Nugroho Hs K, Riwanto I, Sulchan M. Probiotics Fermented Bitter Melon Juice as Promising Complementary Agent for Diabetes Type 2: Study on Animal Model. J Nutr Metab. 2020;2020:6369873. Published 2020 Feb 28.
Source

2. Leatherdale BA, Panesar RK, Singh G, Atkins TW, Bailey CJ, Bignell AH. Improvement in glucose tolerance due to Momordica charantia (karela). Br Med J. 1981;282:1823–1824.
Source

3. Baby Joseph, D Jini. Antidiabetic effects of Momordica charantia (bitter melon) and its medicinal potency. Asian Pac J Trop Dis. 2013 Apr; 3(2): 93–102.
Source

4. Budrat P, Shotipruk A. Extraction of phenolic compounds from fruits of bitter melon (Momordica charantia) with subcritical water extraction and antioxidant activities of these extracts. Chiang Mai J Sci. 2008;35(1):123–130.
Source

5. Jia S, Shen M, Zhang F, Xie J. Recent Advances in Momordica charantia: Functional Components and Biological Activities. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(12):2555. Published 2017 Nov 28.
Source

6. Grover JK, Yadav SP. Pharmacological actions and potential uses of Momordica charantia: a review. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;93:123–132.
Source

7. Alam MA, Uddin R, Subhan N, Rahman MM, Jain P, Reza HM. Beneficial role of bitter melon supplementation in obesity and related complications in metabolic syndrome. J Lipids. 2015;2015:496169.
Source

8. Haque EM, Alam BM, Hossain SM. The efficacy of cucurbitane type triterpenoids, glycosides and phenolic compounds isolated from Momordica charantia: a review. IJPSR. 2011;2(5):1135–1146.
Source

9. Ray RB, Raychoudhuri A, Steele R, Nerurkar P. Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) extract inhibits breast cancer cell proliferation by modulating cell cycle regulatory genes and promotes apoptosis. Cancer Res. 2010;70(5):1925–1931.
Source

10. Saeed S, Tariq P. Antibacterial activities of Mentha piperita, Pisum sativum and Momordica charantia. Pakistan J Botany. 2005;37:997–1001.
Source

11. Hudson T. Bitter Melon: A review of its indications, efficacy and safety. 2005.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Wissenschaftliche Studie
Hartajanie L, Fatimah-Muis S, Heri-Nugroho Hs K, Riwanto I, Sulchan M. Probiotics Fermented Bitter Melon Juice as Promising Complementary Agent for Diabetes Type 2: Study on Animal Model. J Nutr Metab. 2020;2020:6369873. Published 2020 Feb 28.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Leatherdale BA, Panesar RK, Singh G, Atkins TW, Bailey CJ, Bignell AH. Improvement in glucose tolerance due to Momordica charantia (karela). Br Med J. 1981;282:1823–1824.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Baby Joseph, D Jini. Antidiabetic effects of Momordica charantia (bitter melon) and its medicinal potency. Asian Pac J Trop Dis. 2013 Apr; 3(2): 93–102.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Budrat P, Shotipruk A. Extraction of phenolic compounds from fruits of bitter melon (Momordica charantia) with subcritical water extraction and antioxidant activities of these extracts. Chiang Mai J Sci. 2008;35(1):123–130.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Jia S, Shen M, Zhang F, Xie J. Recent Advances in Momordica charantia: Functional Components and Biological Activities. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(12):2555. Published 2017 Nov 28.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Grover JK, Yadav SP. Pharmacological actions and potential uses of Momordica charantia: a review. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;93:123–132.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Alam MA, Uddin R, Subhan N, Rahman MM, Jain P, Reza HM. Beneficial role of bitter melon supplementation in obesity and related complications in metabolic syndrome. J Lipids. 2015;2015:496169.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Haque EM, Alam BM, Hossain SM. The efficacy of cucurbitane type triterpenoids, glycosides and phenolic compounds isolated from Momordica charantia: a review. IJPSR. 2011;2(5):1135–1146.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Ray RB, Raychoudhuri A, Steele R, Nerurkar P. Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) extract inhibits breast cancer cell proliferation by modulating cell cycle regulatory genes and promotes apoptosis. Cancer Res. 2010;70(5):1925–1931.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Saeed S, Tariq P. Antibacterial activities of Mentha piperita, Pisum sativum and Momordica charantia. Pakistan J Botany. 2005;37:997–1001.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Hudson T. Bitter Melon: A review of its indications, efficacy and safety. 2005.
Go to source
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