Momordica charantia L. (Bitter gourd) is a flowering vine in the family of Cucurbitaceae. It contains an array of novel and biologically active phytochemicals including triterpenes, proteins and steroids. Medicinally, the plant has a long history of use by the indigenous people as a folk medicine. Bitter gourd is often used in Chinese cooking for its bitter flavor, typically in stir-fries, soups, and also as tea. Pakistan, Philippines, Panama and Nepal also use this bitter vegetable for culinary purposes in addition to India. Several medicinal properties of the bitter gourd have been studied by various researchers, such as anti-diabetic, anti-ulcerogenic, anti-mutagenic, antioxidant, anti-tumour, anti-lipolytic, analgesic, abortifacient, anti-viral, hypoglycemic and immunomodulatory. In vitro studies reveals that the bitter gourd proteins (α-and β-monorcharin) have inhibitory effect against HIV virus, and leaf extracts have broad-spectrum anti-microbial activity as well. Many in vivo studies have demonstrated the relatively low toxicity of all parts of the bitter gourd plant when ingested orally. This review also addresses taxonomy, phytochemical, culinary practices and pharmacological properties in detail. Over the years scientists have verified many of the traditional uses of this bitter plant that continues to be an important natural remedy in herbal medicine systems. Bitter gourd products such as concentrated fruit and seed extracts can be found in capsules and tablets, as well as in whole herb/vine powder forms and these supplements are becoming more widely available in many countries nowadays as prophylactic or therapeutic agents.
Kandangath Raghavan Anilakumar,
Garlapati Phani Kumar,
Nutritional, Pharmacological and Medicinal Properties of Momordica Charantia, International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences.
Vol. 4, No. 1,
2015, pp. 75-83.
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