Bitter melon; Momordica charantia
A relatively common food item, bitter melon was traditionally used for a dazzling array of conditions by people in tropical regions. Numerous infections, cancer, leukemia, and diabetes are among the most common conditions it was believed to improve. The leaves and fruit have both been used occasionally to make teas and beer or to season soups in the Western world. Bitter melon as an unripe fruit is commonly eaten as a vegetable, Bitter melon has been used as a folk remedy for tumors, asthma, skin infections, GI problems, and hypertension. The plant has been used as a traditional medicine in China, India, Africa, and the southeastern US. The plant has been used in the treatment of diabetes symptoms. In the 1980s, the seeds were investigated in China as a potential contraceptive. Morphologically, the bitter melon is an herbaceous vine which bears tendrils and it creeps along supports. Leaves are simple and alternate, and flowers are yellow. Male and female flowers grow on separate plants. The fruit of the plant, which is known as the bitter melon, has an oblong shape with a warty exterior and is dark green in color. At least three different groups of constituents in bitter melon have been reported to have blood-sugar lowering actions of potential benefit in diabetes mellitus. These include a mixture of steroidal saponins known as charantin, insulin like peptides, and alkaloids. It is still unclear which of these is most effective, or if all three work together. Some clinical trials have confirmed the benefit of bitter melon for people with diabetes.