Bitter melon extract-at first glance it doesn't sound too tempting, but this particular plant is said to boast a variety of health benefits for anyone who is willing to try it. You can find it at your local drugstore or vitamin shop, but it is most commonly found in Asian supermarkets. Read on to learn more about this exotic, yet medicinally useful plant.
What is bitter melon extract?
This particular type of melon is a tropical vining plant that can be found in Asia, China, Africa and the Caribbean. If you're wondering what it looks like, just picture a cucumber, as it looks very similar. However, unlike a cucumber, this plant has a very extensive history of being used for medicinal needs in the Eastern world. Nowadays, you can find it in liquid extract or tablet form, and it is used frequently in Asian foods, especially curries. Although it has always been valued in its countries of origin, it has only begun to make a stir in the West.
How can it benefit me?
According to experts, bitter melon extract's claim to fame is its effects on people who suffer from diabetes. As such, it can mimic insulin and its natural role within the body. It can help to lower blood sugar, as well as aid digestive issues.
It can also be beneficial in treating ulcers, colitis, constipation, intestinal worms and general gastrointestinal upset. Not only that, but it has shown usefulness for people who suffer from kidney stones, liver disease and psoriasis. When used topically, it can treat skin infections and wounds. Although studies have shown bitter melon's usefulness in more areas, even more studies are needed to determine its utmost effectiveness.
Does it have side effects?
Bitter melon extract is pretty safe, but as with everything it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Ingesting excessive amounts of the extract can lead to pain in the stomach and abdomen, and eating too many seeds can lead to a fever or headache.
Health experts advise pregnant women and people with hypoglycemia to avoid bitter melon extract because it lowers blood sugar. It can also interfere with drugs that are prescribed for diabetics, so it's important to consult a doctor before taking it. Such drugs include glimepride, glyburide, insulin, pioglitazone and glipizide.
Pregnant women should avoid this supplement at all costs because it contains chemicals that can induce menstrual bleeding and could cause a miscarriage. People who have recently had surgery should also be wary as it can affect blood sugar levels. Doctors recommend that patients stop taking the supplement at least two weeks prior to surgery.
Worth a try?
The positive effects of bitter melon extract far outweigh the negatives for people who are truly suffering from the health conditions that it has been shown to treat. If you can take a relatively safe herbal supplement rather than be on prescription medications your whole life, there's little doubt you'll be better off health-wise. But again, talk to your doctor first and see if it's a viable option for you.
Read more on our medicinal herbs page or return to the HSG home
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