Healthline: Medical information and health advice you can trust. (2023)

Bitter melon is high in vitamins A and C and other nutrients. It contains compounds that may have health benefits. But it may cause some side effects.

Bittermelon — also known as bitter gourd or Momordica charantia — is atropical vine that belongs to the gourd family and is closely related tozucchini, squash, pumpkin, and cucumber.

It’scultivated around the world for its edible fruit, which is considered a staplein many types of Asian cuisine.

TheChinese variety is typically long, pale green, and covered with wart-likebumps.

Onthe other hand, the Indian variety is more narrow and has pointed ends withrough, jagged spikes on the rind.

Inaddition to its sharp flavor and distinct appearance, bitter melon has beenassociated with several impressive health benefits.

Hereare 6 benefits of bitter melon and its extract.

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1. Packs several important nutrients

Bittermelon is a great source of several key nutrients.

100 grams of raw bitter melon provides (1):

  • Calories: 21
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Vitamin C: 99% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin A: 44% of the DV
  • Folate: 17% of the DV
  • Potassium: 8% of the DV
  • Zinc: 5% of the DV
  • Iron: 4% of the DV

Bitter melon is especially rich in vitamin C, an important micronutrient involved in disease prevention, bone formation, and wound healing (2).

It’s also high in vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes skin health and proper vision (3).

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It provides folate, which is essential for growth and development, as well as smaller amounts of potassium, zinc, and iron (4).

Bittermelon is a good source of catechin, gallic acid, epicatechin, and chlorogenicacid, too — powerful antioxidant compounds that can help protect your cellsagainst damage (5).

Plus,it’s low in calories yet high in fiber — fulfilling approximately 8% of yourdaily fiber needs in a single one-cup (94-gram) serving.


Bitter melon is a good source of nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, folate and vitamin A.

2. Can help reduce blood sugar

Thanks to its potent medicinal properties, bitter melon has long been used by indigenous populations around the world to help treat diabetes-related conditions. In recent years, several studies confirmed the fruit’s role in blood sugar control (6).

A 3-month study in 24 adults with diabetes showed that taking 2,000 mg of bitter melon daily decreased blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c, a test used to measure blood sugar control over three months (7).

Anotherstudy in 40 people with diabetes found that taking 2,000 mg per day of bittermelon for 4 weeks led to a modest reduction in blood sugar levels.

What’s more, the supplement significantly decreased levels of fructosamine, a short term marker of long-term blood sugar control (8).

Bitter melon is thought to improve the way that sugar is used in your tissues and promote the secretion of insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels (9).

However,research in humans is limited, and larger, more high-quality studies are neededto understand how bitter melon may impact blood sugar levels in the generalpopulation.


Bitter melon has been shown to improve several markers of long-term blood sugar control, including levels of fructosamine and hemoglobin A1c. Still, more high-quality research is needed.

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3. May have cancer-fighting properties

Researchsuggests that bitter melon contains certain compounds with cancer-fightingproperties.

For example, one older test-tube study showed that bitter melon extract was effective at killing cancer cells of the stomach, colon, lung, and nasopharynx — the area located behind the nose at the back of your throat (10).

Another combined test-tube and animal study had similar findings, reporting that bitter melon extract was able to block the growth and spread of breast cancer cells while also promoting cancer cell death (11).

Keepin mind that these studies were performed using concentrated amounts of bittermelon extract on individual cells in a laboratory.

Furtherresearch is needed to determine how bitter melon may affect cancer growth anddevelopment in humans when consumed in the normal amounts found in food.


Test-tube studies show that bitter melon may have cancer-fighting properties and could be effective against stomach, colon, lung, nasopharynx, and breast cancer cells.

4. Could decrease cholesterol levels

Highlevels of cholesterol can cause fatty plaque to build up in your arteries,forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood and increasing your risk ofheart disease (12).

Severalanimal studies found that bitter melon may decreasecholesterol levels to supportoverall heart health.

One human study found that administering water-soluble extract of bitter melon led to significant decreases in levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, compared to a placebo (13).

However, one study in mice noted that bitter melon didn’t result in improvement of cholesterol levels or the development of atherosclerosis (14).

Additional studies are needed to determine whether these positive effects on humans eating the gourd as part of a balanced diet are consistent.

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Animal and human studies show that bitter melon extract may decrease cholesterol levels, which could help support heart health. Nonetheless, more research to confirm these effects.

5. Improves fiber intake

Bitter melon makes an excellent addition to a weight loss diet, as it’s low in calories yet high in fiber. It contains approximately 2 grams of fiber in each 100-gram serving (1).

Fiber passes through your digestive tract very slowly, helping keep you fuller for longer and reducing hunger and appetite (15).

Bitter melon also has laxative properties, which may help to support digestion if you are constipated (16).

Therefore,swapping higher-calorie ingredients with bitter melon could help increase your fiberintake and cut calories topromote weight loss.

Notethat these studies were performed using high-dose bitter melon supplements. Itremains unclear whether eating bitter melon as part of your regular diet wouldhave the same beneficial effects on health.

6. Versatile and delicious

Bittermelon has a sharp flavor that works well in many dishes.

Toprepare it, start by washing the fruit and cutting it lengthwise. Then use autensil to scoop out the seeds from the center, and cut the fruit into thinslices.

Bittermelon can be enjoyed raw or cooked in various recipes.

Infact, it can be pan-fried, steamed, baked, or even hollowed out and stuffedwith your choice of fillings.

Hereare a few interesting ways to add bitter melon to your diet:

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  • Juice bitter melon along with a few other fruits and vegetables for a nutrient-packed beverage.
  • Mix bitter melon into your next stir-fry to bump up the health benefits.
  • Sauté bitter melon alongside tomatoes, garlic, and onions and add to scrambled eggs.
  • Combine seedless bitter melon with your choice of dressing and garnish for a savory salad.
  • Stuff with ground meat and vegetables and serve with a black bean sauce.


Bitter melon is easy to prepare and can be used in many different dishes and recipes.

Potential side effects

Whenenjoyed in moderation, bitter melon can be a healthy and nutritious addition toyour diet.

However,consuming high amounts of bitter melon or taking bitter melon supplements maybe associated with several adverse effects.

In particular, bitter melon has been linked to diarrhea and abdominal pain (17).

It’salso not recommended for women who are pregnant, as its long-term effects onhealth have not been extensively studied.

Dueto its impact on blood sugar, you should consult with your healthcare providerbefore eating it if you’re taking any blood sugar-lowering medications.

Also,talk with a healthcare professional before supplementing with bitter melon if you have any underlying healthconditions or are taking any medications, and be sure to use as directed.


Bitter melon may be associated with adverse side effects. Pregnant women, people with underlying health problems, and those taking blood sugar-lowering medications should consult their doctor before use.

The bottom line

Bittermelon is a fruit in the gourd family with a unique appearance and flavor.

It’snot only rich in several important nutrients but also linked to numerous healthbenefits, including improved blood sugar control and cholesterol levels.

Notethat people who are pregnant or on certain medications — particularly bloodsugar-lowering medications — should speak to their healthcare provider beforeconsuming high amounts or taking supplements.

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Still,in moderation, bitter melon makes for a flavorful, nutritious, and easyaddition to a healthy, well-rounded diet.


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