Herb Library: Natural Herbs and Herbal Supplements Directory: Bitter Melon


Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon


This fact sheet provides basic information about Bitter Melon. Bitter melon is an annual plant growing to 2m tall. It is cultivated in Asia, Africa, South America, and India and is considered a tropical fruit. The plant has lobed leaves, yellow flowers, and edible (but bitter-tasting), orange-yellow fruit. The unripe fruit is green and is cucumber-shaped with bumps on its surface. The parts used include the fruit, leaves, seeds, and seed oil.

Common Names

Bitter Melon, Balsam Pear, Bitter Cucumber, Balsam Apple, "Art Pumpkin", Cerasee, Carilla Cundeamor

Latin Names

Momordica charantia

What It Is Used For

  • Bitter melon's possible effects include hypoglycemic, antimicrobial, and antifertility.

How It Is Used

Historically bitter melon has been used as a remedy for an assortment of conditions. The leaves and fruit have both been used to season soups and to make teas and beer. Bitter melon may be consumed in the following ways: as food, a decoction of as much as 3 1/3 ounces (100 ml), or 2 ounces (60 ml) of fresh juice (daily). Though still bitter, tinctures of bitter melon (1 teaspoon [5 ml] two to three times per day) may also be used. The above dosages would be appropriate for diabetics.

    What the Science Says

    • Bitter melon juice has been recommended for diabetes at daily doses of 50 to 100 mL; 900 mg of fruit 3 times /day also has been given for the same indication. There are no clinical trials available to substantiate these doses.
    • Roots and leaf extracts of bitter melon have shown antibiotic activity.
    • Research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding bitter melon as an antimicrobial agent.

    Side Effects and Cautions

    • Currently, no well-known drug interactions with bitter melon exist.
    • Documented adverse effects, including emmenogogue and abortifacient effects. The plant is not recommended in pregnant women because it may cause uterine bleeding and contractions or may induce abortion.
    • The red arils around bitter melon seeds are toxic to children.
    • Excessive ingestion of bitter melon juice (several times more than the amount recommended above) may lead to diarrhea and abdominal pain.


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