Bitter gourd, also called bitter melon, is a tropical plant that has a history of use as an herbal remedy. Tea is made from the stems and leaves of the Momordica charantia plant, and it is also commercially available as a powder or extract. The potential benefits of drinking bitter gourd tea may include blood sugar regulation, cancer prevention and antioxidant protection.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Bitter gourd tea was traditionally used in Africa, Asia and Latin America to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. The University of Maryland Medical Center lists bitter gourd as an herb that may have a role in the management of diabetes, based on preliminary clinical studies. Natural Standard, an evidence-based compendium on natural therapies, states that although bitter melon is sometimes called “vegetable insulin,” human studies are inconclusive for any therapeutic benefit.
Some of the components of bitter gourd tea may have anti-cancer properties, according to a study published in 2010 in the journal “Cancer Research.” The scientists found bitter gourd extract inhibited growth of breast cancer cells in the laboratory. It’s possible that drinking bitter gourd tea may help prevent cancer, although no clinical trials have been performed yet, according to Natural Standard.
Antioxidants help protect the cells in your body by reducing the damage done by free radicals, which come from smoking, pollution, environmental toxins and as a byproduct of normal metabolism. Research published in "Phytotherapy Research" in 2005 concluded bitter melon extracts contain a large number of antioxidants and that heating them may increase the antioxidant activity.
Bitter gourd tea may have some health benefits, but you should speak with your doctor before using it as a natural remedy for any health conditions. Furthermore, it may interact with certain medications. Natural Standard warns that bitter gourd is not recommended for pregnant women because some of the components have caused aborted pregnancies in lab animals.
- Natural Standard; Bitter Melon (Momordica Charantia) and MAP30; Ethan Basch
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Diabetes
- Cancer Research: Bitter Melon (Momordica Charantia) Extract Inhibits Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation by Modulating Cell Cycle Regulatory Genes and Promotes Apoptosis