Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia)

Alternate names

Balsam pear

Bitter gourd

African cucumber

Bitter apple

Wild cucumber

Native to

Tropical and subtropical climates

Medicinal parts used

All parts of the plant, the seeds, leaves, and vines are used for medicinal purposes

The actual fruit of the bitter melon is most commonly used


Cancer prevention



Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)


Menstrual disorders

How it works

Compounds in bitter melon:

Increase glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis in the liver, muscle, and adipose tissue

− Improve glucose tolerance

In vitro and animal studies indicate anticancer, antiviral, and lipid-lowering effects

Side effects and warnings

Is generally regarded as safe when used properly

May cause abdominal pain and diarrhea with excessive dose

Is associated with headache, fever, and coma with excessive ingestion of seeds

Can increase the effects of diabetes drugs and may lead to hypoglycemia

Do not take during pregnancy or lactation

May reduce fertility in women and men

Do not take with herbs or medications that may lower blood sugars

Use with caution in patients with impaired hepatic function

Dosage recommendations

Fruit juice: A dose of 50

100 milliliters (approximately 3

6 tablespoons) of bitter melon fruit juice is used, but this is not substantiated by sufficient clinical trial evidence

References and recommended readings

Drugs.com. Bitter melon. Available at: http://www.drugs.com/npp/bitter-melon.html


Accessed March 14, 2011.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Bitter melon. Available at: http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/69138.cfm

. Accessed March 14, 2011.

Review Date 5/11