Monday, July 12, 2010

Bitter Melon: A Safe Supplement for Type II Diabetes?

Wikipedia's description of Bitter Melon

1. Bitter Melon (Ampalaya).  This is a tropical and subtropical vegetable vine with oblong-shaped fruit, green when unripe, yellow when ripe, with distinct warty-looking exterior containing a bitter taste from its compound called momordicine. It is a safe traditional supplement of insulin for type II diabetes.

2 . Diabetes Mellitus (Type II Diabetes).  This is a nutritional disorder, characterized by elevated blood glucose (sugar),  excretion of excess glucose in the urine, resulting from lack of insulin which leads to abnormal metabolism of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

Some  Established Scientific Findings About the Health Benefits of Bitter Melon

1. Bitter melon is refuted to be highly beneficial in treating diabetes. It contains an insulin-like principle, a plant insulin, found effective in lowering blood glucose.
2. Bitter melon is more effective than a conventional drug in lowering elevated blood glucose, with no known side effects.

3. Bitter melon is the best herbal medicine for diabetes management, recently recommended by the Department of Health, Philippines.

Three Major Components Responsible for the Sugar-level Lowering Action

Bitter melon has three major compounds and other minor compounds working with each other to give it its potency.  Recommendation of its use is therefore viewed as safe and effective.

1. Charantin - This compound is mixed with streroids, more effective than tolbutamide- an oral hypoglycemic drug.

2. Polypeptide P - (bouvine insulin) - It appears to lower blod glucose level in type I insulin-dependent diabetes.

3. Oleanolic acid glycocides -  It is found to improve glucose tolerance in type II diabetes by promoting absorption of sugar from the intestine.

Bitter melon has been reputed to help increase the number of beta cells (cells that secrete insulin in the pancreas) thereby improving the body's capability to produce natural insulin. Insulin promotes the uptake/absorption of sugar from the blood by cells and tissues. Other compounds that make the potency of bitter melon are its flavanoids and alcaloids content.

How Does Bitter Melon Work For Better Health?

First - It controls blood sugar by two-fold.

1. Its combined compounds control blood sugar or serve as mediator between the cells in the body and the insulin already produced in the pancreas. It must be noted that type II diabetics and most people with high blood glucose still produce insulin, but their bodies have become resistant to it.

2. Bitter melon blocks the formation of glucose in the bloodstream by breaking down the barriers that prevent body cells from using their natural insulin.

Second - This anti diabetic supplement has been known to increase production of beta cells by the pancreas, thus, improving the body's ability to produce and release insulin. Bitter melon has become a most widely used traditional remedy for diabetes , famous among the Chinese and in most Asian countries. It is proven to increase glucose tolerance and to help the body process blood sugar. It is likewise given wide approval as a safe and effective insulin supplement because aside from it being grown naturally, it is also used with no artificial additives or preservatives.

A Testimony

I'm a type II insulin-dependent diabetic user of bitter melon (ampalaya) in different forms- fruits, leaves, vines added in menus with meat, fish, eggs, and other vegetables for my diet plan.  Instead of coffee or milk, I go for ampalaya tea for my hot or cold beverage. With the high cost of the injectable insulin for my weekly medication to control my blood glucose levels, I'm often faced with a dilemma. Very often, this commodity is out of stock. I feel panic whenever I were told to wait for days before delivery of the goods resume. Having researched quite enough about the insulin content, I would buy the Charantia fruit bits  in tea bags or capsule form for short-term alternate until the injection becomes available. However, I do a lot of finger-pricking  to monitor my sugar levels. And it really works!

Instead of drinking fruit concentrate with sugar or cola drinks, I prefer my home-made ampalaya tea. When I'm in trouble between my morning and evening insulin shots when I'm not supposed to pump more or less, I go for a hot cup of my home-made concoction. One such instance happened one evening at around 10:00 during the wake of my late brother.  I was away from home.  I was feeling weak and sleepy- signs that are hard to differentiate if it was hyperglycemia (elevated Blood Glucose) or hypoglycemia( dropped BG).  My daughter quickly  gave me a prick and found out I had 297mg/dl BG count. I begged that someone find me ampalaya fruits or leaves to boil into a concoction- the bitter, the better.

In no time at all, I was given a hot cup of ampalaya tea. I rested for about two hours. The next prick yielded a lower count. Another cup gave me a good night sleep. The following morning, my prick showed 107mg/dl. But I always saw to it that I don't do it in a drastic manner- meaning decreasing at a breakneck speed. This gives my body a time to adjust slowly. I had been saved on several occasions of irritating feelings of both hyper and hypo. This makes me believe that bitter melon helps control my BG to at least near normal range (I seldom arrive at the normal).

Ready-Made Sundried Ampalaya Tea For My Pantry

Yes, I have a good stock of sun-dried ampalaya fruits in my pantry. In May, summertime, the small deep green variety of bitter melon is abundant in the market. And besides drying them out under the sun is very easy. This is a very  practical move. Sufficiently dried fruits kept in tight canisters or glass  bottles can go year-round without spoilage. They are just ready for boiling anytime of the day.

Why Not Prepare Your Own Sun-Dried Ampalaya Tea?

Three kilos of bitter melon at 45 pesos per kilo will go a long way. How do you prepare your stock?

1. Wash the fruits thoroughly under a running faucet or with any clean, potable water source to wash away impurities.

2. Slice each fruit  in thin circles,from end to end, seeds included,  not too thin to give allowance for drying with the end in view of making them crispy and stiff.

3. Arrange the slices neatly spaced for even drying in a clean "bilao"- a round flat native bamboo basket.

4. Set the "bilao"  where the sun directly shines. Never leave it under the rain, which sometimes come unexpectedly even at summertime. Soaking it makes drying difficult. Chances are, before the slices have dried, they would  ripen which make them soft and limp to touch.

5. Takes from 4 to 5 days to really dry. It's sufficiently dried if they give that aromatic smell.

6. Let the sun-dried  pieces cool overnight. Don't refrigerate, less they become damp and at risk of spoilage.

You're now ready to get a pinch, depending on your taste, drop these in boiling water. You may drink the concoction hot or cold. I even add milk to perk up the bitter taste. Sugar is a no-no, of course.

Bitter melon may have additive effects when taken with other drugs whose action is to lower BG levels. Care must be exercised especially when used in addition to insulin. Spacing the time of your shots and drinking the beverage will be safe. There are no traditional dose of use of ampalaya in any of its form as in juice, powder, vegetable pulp, or tea/beverage. But further studies are underway, about use of ampalaya with no known side effects that will compromise one's health. Just the same, a doctor's recommendation must always be considered.


  1. Very well written - I learned quite a bit, thanks
    Mr Monkey (glad your posting more)

  2. Thanks for visiting again. Quite an effort to post because I'm busy attending to my daughters. I'm back home but only for few days. They're burning the lines asking me when am I going to return to them. The internet often fails even here. Bad weather. Yes, I'll try my best. Godbless!

  3. I just read your latest post my dear, sorry that you had such a scary time of it. Diabetes is the one thing I've not been struck with - YET! I am taking medication for high cholesterol, and I know the last time I had blood work, I was told I was pre-diabetic. Soo, I have to be careful and watch what I eat. I was FINALLY approved for disability in May. It's made my life a bit less stressed. I've never heard of this fruit you talk about in your post. Does it really lower blood glucose levels that quickly?? Anyway, this comment comes with hopes you are doing well now. ((Hugs))

  4. JulyJeanie,
    "Ampalaya" can be easily grown anywhere where there's good loamy soil in Asian countries. My own backyard teems with this vegetable vine. And yes, it's long been approved by the BFAD for its therapeutic value, in particular, of decreasing BG levels. Yes, life to me is on the balance always taking care not to over or under indulge with carbs and sweets and at the same time taking my oral meds and shots very religiously.

    Hope you're now enjoying your retirement. At your age, I believe you're not predisposed to diabetes. Thank God for that. Take care.

  5. Good to know. My sister has Diabetes type 2 and has difficulties finding right food. Very useful information, I will forward her your blog link. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Anavar,
    I appreciate that very much. If my experiences here as a diabetic could help guide your sister, especially on her choice of food, this blog has done its primary purpose. My diabetologist says, "I'm not telling you what to eat or what not to eat, but to eat with moderation". Thanks for stopping by and for the blog link. I wish you and your sister good health.

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