Chinese Bitter Melon

Momordica charantia L.       Pinyin: ku gua.

The Chinese bitter melon, which looks more like a gourd than a typical melon, was brought to my attention by a local friend of mine, John Crow, who supplied at least one of the photos included in this monograph page, and allowed me to photograph his growing vines through the growing season, (in Silver City, New Mexico).

"In recent years, Mormordica charantia, (family Cucurbitaceae), has attained favor as a monoherbal medicine... for diabetes mellitus, exhibiting certain effectiveness in treating mild and moderately chronic cases, reducing blood glucose and urine glucose, and the frequency of urination. Experimental research shows that the herb does not promote the secretion of insulin but does increase the utilization of carbohydrates. Clinical trials with fresh fruit juice in 160 diabetics controlled, but did not heal diabetes. Once again, we see proof of an old folk remedy for diabetes, e.g. in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the West Indies. Crude aqueous extracts, cytostatic and cytotoxic, are competitive inhibitors of guanylate cyclase. One factor is antiviral to the vesicular stomatitis virus." (Ref. "Medicinal Plants of China" by James A. Duke and Edward S. Ayensu, copyright 1985, (part of a multi-volume set called "Medicinal Plants of the World" ISBN 0-917256-20-4).

Growing the vine:
The dark black seed is planted after danger of frost (or is started inside, if the growing season is short in the area where one resides.) The vine should begin to grow within 7 - 10 days. The vine should be trained onto a trellace, with morning (Eastern) sun, and shade in the afternoon (West). Each vine produces an abundance of fruits, however, just like most melons, it requires regular watering (unless one lives in a very moist climate). We are able to grow this vine well at the edge of the Chihuahuan desert, at 6,000 ft. elevation. Since this fruit is probably not widely available on the market, lt is recommended to grow enough of these plants that a years supply of the fresh fruit (during summer), and the dried fruit (during winter, spring, and early summer) is accumulated; (probably as many as 10 to 12 vines). Horizon Herbs is a source for seed for this plant, as well as many others.

Preparation & Doseage:
When using the fresh fruit, it has been observed that 1/4 of a fruit is adequate to modify blood glucose levels in a downward direction. This dose may need to be taken only once per day, or as many as three times per day, depending upon the severity of the diabetes, and whether the person taking the remedy is able to modify dietary patterns away from refined carbohydrates, towards a more complex carbohydrate based diet, using the glycemic index concept. I want to stress that each person is an individual, with a unique dietary pattern and a unique metabolism and lifestyle, and so I attempt here to give only general starting points as far as doses which seem to be effective (for those with whom I've had direct experience and observations).

Chinese melon, opened to show blood red seeds (photo by John Crow)

Preparation and doseage of Fresh & Dried Fruits :
The fresh fruits have been used as follows: Take the fresh, ripe fruit and cut in halves. remove the brightly-colored red seeds and remove the red, gelatinous coating (by sucking on them) until only the dark, back/brown seed remains. These seeds should be dried on paper for several days, and then stored in a protective container, away from moisture and light until they are needed for plantings. After removing all the seeds, cut each half of the fruit in half again. Take one of the quarters of the fruit and put it into 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water in a pan. heat until boiling, reduce heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes. During this time, a spoon can be used to smash the fruit, so that more of the tissue is available to the water, for extraction.. After five minutes of simmering has elapsed, stop the heat, and cover. Allow the fruit to steep in the liquid for another 10 to 15 minutes. After the required steeping time, strain the tea out into a cup. After cooling, drink the slightly bitter tea, and eat the soft fruit. It actually has an interesting flavor, which is slightly, but not offensively bitter, and in a way, is also "buttery" tasting.

Directions for ingesting the dried fruits are numerous, however, the dried fruit, should be stored in halves or quarters of fruits, after drying, to preserve their medicinal strength. Approximately 18 grams (just a bit more than 1/2 oz.) per day is the dose level found to be effective in the studies quoted above. The dried fruits may be ground into powder as needed, and either put into capsules, or into a tea (the grounds should be ingested after drinking the liquid tea, which should be made as a standard infusion, but which should probably be allowed to steep slightly longer than ususal).

Although these studies were done using a mono herbal medicine protocol, it is probable that using a multiple, or "poly-herbal" protocol would yield even better results.

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