The bitter gourd is a common vegetable
native to tropical countries such as India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka,
Malaysia, the Philippines and China. It is 10 cm to 20 cm long,
tapering at the end and covered with blunt tubercles and is bitter in
The bitter gourd is cooked and eaten
mainly as a vegetable in countries in India and South East Asia.
However it is specifically used as a folk medicine because of its
medicinal and curative properties. Researchers have established that
it contains a hypoglycemic or insulin like compound which is highly
beneficial in lowering blood and urine sugar levels. Eating bitter
gourd liberally is highly recommended for those suffering from
diabetes. For better results diabetics should take the juice of four
or five fruits on an empty stomach.
Bitter gourd is also rich in essential
vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, B1, B2, c and Iron. Its
regular consumption could prevent hypertension, eye complication and
neuritis. It also increases the body's resistance to infection.
Bitter gourd is highly beneficial in the
treatment of blood disorders such as boils, scabies, itching, ring
worm and fungal diseases. A cupful of fresh juice of bitter gourd
mixed with a teaspoon of lime juice should be taken on an empty
stomach for a few months.
The juice of the fresh leaves of bitter
gourd is also beneficial for piles. Three teaspoonfuls of leaf juice
mixed with a glass of butter-milk taken every morning for about a
month is valuable for those with piles. A paste of the roots of the
plant can also be applied over the piles with beneficial results.
Since olden days the roots of bitter
gourd plants have been used in folk medicine for respiratory
disorders. A teaspoonful of the root paste mixed with honey taken once
nightly is good medicine for asthma, bronchitis, and colds. Fresh
juice of leaves is also beneficial in the treatment of alcoholism and
in early stages of cholera and diarrhea.
The bitterness of the gourd can be
reduced by steeping of the peeled fruit in salt water before cooking.
It is also used in pickles and curries. Indeed the bitter gourd is a
vegetable with excellent medicinal values.