As we all know, today, Diabetes is a major health problem throughout the world which has a tremendous negative impact on wellness of the global community. This chronic condition that creates an impaired blood glucose regulation in the body can lead to number of life threatening conditions as cardiovascular complications, kidney failures, blindness, and stroke. In fact, according to WHO, by the year 2012, it is considered as the 8th leading cause of death in the world. Therefore, the world is continuing to find effective pharmacological, non-pharmacological and dietary means of prevention and management of diabetes. While most of us are depending on pharmacological methods of diabetes management, number of people have looked at finding herbal or natural substitutes to control the progression of Diabetes.
Momordica Charantia or also known as Bitter Melon or bitter guard is one of the main edible natural fruit/vegetable that has hypoglycemic or the required medicinal properties to lower or balance the blood glucose levels. This tropical plant is mainly cultivated in Asia, South America, Africa and the Caribbean. Today, this is readily available to purchase around the world including North America. However, although its medicinal uses in Diabetes was acknowledged by the western world quite recently, it had been used as a medicine to manage symptoms related to poor blood glucose regulation (Diabetes) since several thousands of years back by the Ayurveda medicine in India as well as in some other parts of the Asia.
During the recent decades, the scientists have been able to identify 3 specific components that give the plant its hypoglycemic properties. Charantin, a chemical compound that has been proven to be able to lower blood glucose levels by acting quite similar to insulin. Then, it consists of a chemical molecule called Polypeptide-P, also known as insulin-p, which mimics the function of insulin in regulating blood glucose levels of the body. Further, scientists claim that it has another substance called Vicine that is also capable to lowering blood glucose levels. In addition, it has a substance which can help to relieve the symptom of excessive hunger related to diabetes by suppressing the satiety center of the brain which is responsible in creating appetite/hunger. To make this little clearer, let’s look at why managing appetite is important. Another important function of insulin is to regulate appetite. When one has diabetes, he/she either doesn’t have sufficient insulin or cells are less sensitive to insulin. In any case, if look at the whole picture: you have enough glucose in your blood, but, unable to efficiently take them into the cells because due to diabetes. Then, the body misinterprets that it has low glucose levels in blood which leads to break down of fat/proteins to glucose + creating an unnecessary hunger to influence more food intake. Here all the misdirected processes lead to excessive blood glucose levels of the body and still the brain thinks that the body doesn’t have enough glucose. This is same as your car’s fuel level-sensor is dysfunctional and has a fuel block at the same time where you see in the display that your tank is empty and no matter how much you fill, it won’t respond or start. So, fixing the hunger is like fixing your fuel-capacity sensor to prevent over-pumping gas/food.
Usually, people make number of dishes out of this vegetable and consume as side dishes with the main. Also, some people simply make a juice off of the fruit and drinks it. Further, you are able to find powdered, and dried versions of this medicinal fruit. However, if you intend to replace or incorporate this with hypoglycemic drugs, it is important to talk to your physician before initiating consistent use.
Global report on diabetes. World Health Organization, Geneva, 2016.
Gene cloning and expression of a novel hypoglycaemic peptide from Momordica charantia.[J Sci Food Agric. 2011]
Research Journal of Medicinal Plants
Wang BL, Zhang WJ, Zhao J, Wang FJ, Fan LQ, Wu YX, Hu ZB
J Sci Food Agric. 2011 Oct; 91(13):2443-8.
Rahman, Inavat U., et al. “Lower Hypoglycemic But Higher Antiatherogenic Effects of Bitter Melon Than Gilbenclamide In Type 2 Diabetic Patients.” Nutrition Journal. 14.1 (2015): 1-7. Academic Serach Complete. Web.3 Dec.2016.
Ying, Zhu, et al. “Effect Of Superfine Grinding On Antidiabetic Activity Of Bitter Melon Powder.” International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 13.11 (2012): 14203-14218. Academic Search Complete. Web.3 Dec.2016.