Better Guard Bitter Gourd
Written by Dr. Parveen Kumar   

Bitter gourd is a valuable herb gifted to us by Mother Nature. It is one of the healthiest vegetables known to man. It is particularly reputed as a folk medicine due to its vast therapeutic properties. Bitter gourd is a tropical vegetable, which is cultivated mainly in the Asian and African countries. It is also known by the name of ‘Karela’ and has a rough, warty skin which is green in color. As the name suggests, the vegetable is bitter in taste. There are two varieties of this vegetable: One is the smaller variety which grows less than 10 cm long, oval and has a darker green color. The other grows to about 20 cm long, is oblong and pale green in color. Both varieties have seeds that are white when unripe and that turn red when they are ripe. The vegetable-fruit turns reddish-orange when ripe and becomes even more bitter.

Nutritional Benefits: Bitter gourds are very low in calories but rich in precious nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, phosphorus, manganese and has high dietary fiber. It is rich in iron, contains plenty of beta-carotene, calcium potassium. Bitter gourd contains a unique phyto-constituent that has been confirmed to have a hypoglycemic effect called charantin. It has another insulin-like compound known as polypeptide P.
Bitter gourd has a great medicinal value. It has antipyretic, tonic, appetizing, stomachic, antibilious and laxative properties. The major health benefits of this vegetable are as follows.
Benefits of Bitter Gourd
Good for stomach: It contains cellulose which is a very good source of fiber thus preventing constipation. It also good digestive agent and very helpful for people with dyspepsia. However, sometimes it may worsen heartburn and ulcers.
Aids weight loss: It stimulates liver for secretion of bile juices that are very essential for metabolism of fats. Thus, if you want to have a perfect, slim figure, then bitter gourd can help you.
Eye care: It has high amount of beta-carotene that helps alleviate eye problems and improving eyesight.
Skin care: Bitter gourd is also effective in treating skin diseases or skin infections, eczema and psoriasis. It also helps in keeping the skin free from blemishes and keeps the skin glowing. Its blood purifying properties prevent acne.
Blood disorders: Bitter gourd juice is highly beneficial for treating blood disorders like boils and itching due to toxemia. Mix 2 ounces of fresh bitter gourd juice with some lime juice. Sip it slowly on an empty stomach daily.
Diabetes mellitus: Bitter gourd contains a lectin that has insulin-like activity. This lectin lowers blood glucose concentrations by acting on peripheral tissues and similar to insulin's effects in the brain, suppressing appetite. This lectin is likely a major contributor to the hypoglycemic effect that develops after eating bitter gourd. Bitter gourd juice has been shown to significantly improve glucose tolerance without increasing blood insulin levels.
Eye problems: The high beta-carotene and other properties in bitter gourd makes it one of the finest vegetable-fruit that help alleviate eye problems and improving eyesight.
Alcoholism: Leaf juice is beneficial in the treatment of alcoholism. It is an antidote for alcohol intoxication. It is also useful in liver damage due to alcoholism.
Immune booster: This bitter juice can also help to build your immune system.
Piles: Mix three teaspoonfuls of juice from bitter gourd leaves with a glassful of buttermilk. Take this every morning on empty stomach for about a month. To hasten the healing, use the paste of the roots of bitter gourd plant and apply over the piles.
Respiratory disorders: Take two ounces of fresh bitter gourd juice and mix withjuice of tulsi leaves and a cup of honey diluted in water.
Toxemia: Bitter gourd contains beneficial properties that cleanses the blood from toxins. Sip two teaspoonfuls of the juice daily to help cleanse the liver.
HIV: Laboratory tests suggest that compounds in bitter gourd might be effective for treating HIV infection. In one preliminary clinical trial, an enema form of a bitter gourd extract showed some benefits in people infected with HIV.
Precautions:
1. Do not consume more than two ounces of bitter gourd.
2. Excessive consumption may cause mild abdominal pain or diarrhoea.
3. Diabetics taking hypoglycemic drugs will need to alter the dosage of their drugs if they consume bitter gourd on a regular basis.
4. Please consult your doctor.
5. In addition, the red arils of the seeds are reported to be toxic to children,
and the fruit is contraindicated during pregnancy.
Lecturer, Deptt. of Panchkarma,
Dayanand Ayurvedic College,
Jalandhar-144008 (Pb.)
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