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Bitter melon - an outstanding health potential

Bitter melon (Momordica charantia), also known as bitter gourd, is an annual climbing vine from the Cucurbitaceae family i.e., gourd family consisting of 965 species from 95 genera. This means that bitter melon is closely related to other members of this big family, such as squash, zucchini, cucumber, and pumpkin. Native to Asia, bitter melon is cultivated in other tropical and subtropical parts of the world, including Africa and the Caribbean, where edible, bitter fruit is consumed a lot. In some parts of the world, bitter melon is considered an invasive species since it can interfere with the growth of other plants and vegetables.
bitter melon or gourd fruit Widely known as balsam pear, Momordica charantia's slender vine can reach 5 m (16 ft) in length. The vine itself is usually hairless, but it can be slightly hairy in some cases. Alternate leaves ranging in length from 4 to 12 cm (1.6-4.7 inches) sit firmly on this delicate vine. Each leaf has three to seven deeply separated lobes. Vibrant yellow flowers are found on each plant, and they usually thrive or bloom in a June-July period while the fruit appears between September and November in the Northern Hemisphere. The oblong-shaped fruit has a thin layer of flesh formed around the seed cavity, and it's usually eaten when still green or starting to turn yellow. Then, the fruit has a texture similar to that of cucumber; watery and crunchy.
The bitter flavor of Momordica charantia is the reason why the fruit is used for culinary purposes throughout Asia. In India, bitter melon is often served with yogurt, which dampens its bitterness while in China, it's added to stir-fries, some herbal teas, soups, and other foods.
Besides, culinary uses bitter melon is well-known for its health potential, and people from different cultures have used it for centuries to treat some ailments. In Turkey and Jamaica, it was mainly used to treat stomach problems in India for diabetes, and it is also used for medical purposes in China, such as treatment of dry cough, throat problems, and bronchitis.*
The fast-growing plant is an abundant source of various nutrients such as vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, zinc, and iron. Additionally, bitter melon is rich in powerful antioxidant compounds, including gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, and chlorogenic acid. The powerful active compounds and nutritional content of bitter melon could help reduce blood sugar and aid the management of diabetes.* Moreover, bitter melon may have cancer-fighting properties, and it has the potential to decrease LDL or bad cholesterol and triglycerides levels.*
Since the bitter fruit is high in fiber and water content, but low in calories, it may encourage weight loss.* This explains why many weight loss products nowadays contain bitter melon in the ingredients list.
Consumption of this fruit may inhibit the activity of an enzyme involved in psoriasis.* In Ayurvedic medicine, bitter melon was often used to address some skin problems, especially scabies.* Bitter melon is present in various natural products due to its outstanding health potential.
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