BITTER GOURD (KARELA): HEALTH BENEFITS
DR. S. M. ALAM
Oct 3 - 9, 2011
The bitter gourd is a popular vegetable in Asian, Pakistani, and Indian cooking. The bitter gourd is known by a number of names including the balsam pear or bitter melon. In Urdu, it is known as Karela.
The bitter gourd is a member of the squash family and has a close resemblance to a cucumber with a bumpy skin over a ridged body. Bitter gourds contain an array of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B1, B2 and C along with iron, calcium, copper, phosphorous and potassium.
The bitter gourd is a green in color when young and not yet ripe. The vegetable turns a bright green before becoming a yellow-orange color. Young bitter gourds are best for cooking when they are bright green. Beneath the skin of the bitter gourd, the flesh is white and contains small fibrous seeds.
Before cooking, the seeds of the bitter gourd are discarded and the flesh is usually boiled before being added to a sauce. Eastern medicine has used the bitter gourd for many centuries, claiming its medicinal benefits include stimulating the liver, helping digestion problems and purifying the blood.
The foremost aim of parting our knowledge by writing this article according to Hakeems is to reach simple Pakistani home remedies to the world's urban homes who are alienated from traditional practices where patients are often drugged and even over drugged for the most trivial of health problems. Partly due to the patient's impatience and partly due to the utter callousness of commercial medicine the present day man/woman is often over medicated than under medicated.
THE MEDICINAL QUALITIES
Bitter gourd or Karela is seasonal vegetable and very bitter in taste. It is a rich source of phosphorous. The needs of phosphorous in human body are fulfilled by regular use of bitter gourd. Bitter gourd is a blood purifier, activates spleen and liver and is highly beneficial in diabetes. It is a purgative, appetizer, digestive, anti-inflammatory and has healing capacity.
* Very low in calories provides only 17 cal per 100g. The pods are rich in phytonutrients like dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants.
* Bitter melon notably contains phytonutrients, polypeptide-P; a plant insulin known to lower blood sugar levels. In addition, it also contains hypoglycemic agent called charantin. Charantin increases glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis in the cells of liver, muscle, and adipose tissue. Together, these compounds are thought to be responsible for reduction of blood sugar levels in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.
* Fresh pods are an excellent source of folates; contain about 72 mcg/100g (Provides 18 per cent of RDA). Folate helps reduce incidence of neural tube defects in pregnant mothers when taken during early pregnancy.
* Fresh bitter melon is an excellent source of vitamin-C (100g of raw pod provides about 140 per cent of RDI). Vitamin-C, one of the powerful natural antioxidant, helps body scavenge deleterious free radicals one of the reasons for cancers development.
* It is also an excellent source of health benefiting flavonoids such as b-carotene, a- carotene, lutein, zeaxanthins. It also contains good amount of vitamin A. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease processes.
* Bitter melon stimulates digestion and peristalsis, which can be helpful in relieving indigestion and constipation problems.
* The vegetable is also good source of Niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vit.B-5), pyridoxine (vit.B-6) and minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and magnesium.
* Early laboratory tests suggest that compounds in bitter melon might be effective for treating HIV.
Eastern medicine has used the bitter gourd for many centuries, claiming its medicinal benefits include stimulating the liver, helping digestion problems, and purifying the blood. Bitter gourd is low in calories but big on nutrients with twice as much potassium as a banana and twice the beta-carotene of broccoli. It is also a good source of folic acid, zinc, magnesium, fiber and phosphorous. The uses of bitter gourd are as:
ARTHRITIS: Massage on the affected body part with the juice of bitter gourd or eating the green cure joint pains.
DIABETES: Taking 5-10 grams of bitter gourd juice with or without water three times a day for 2-3 months eliminates the sugar problem. Regular intake of bitter gourd along with your food helps to control diabetes effectively.
LEUCORRHOEA: To cure leucorrhoea, take half table spoon of bitter gourd juice twice a day regularly for a month or two.
JAUNDICE: Fresh juice of bitter gourd of 1-2 tablespoon with water twice a day cures jaundice. Intake of juice should be immediately stopped when the yellowishness in eyes disappears.
LIVER TROUBLE: For children of 3-8 yrs, Ω-table spoon of bitter gourd juice is a preventive against liver disorders. In enlarged liver, 50 grams juice with water is advised.
STOMACH WORMS: A daily teaspoon bitter gourd juice intake sometime destroys stomach worms.
PILES: One tablespoon bitter gourd juice with sugar twice a day stops blood oozing from piles.
CONSTIPATION: Half a tablespoon of bitter gourd juice twice a day will cure constipation. Bitter gourd generates heat and is harmful if taken excessive quantity. Always take in small quantities for smaller period.
IMMUNE SYSTEM: Bitter gourd can help boost the immune system because it provides vitamin-rich nutrients.
BLOOD SUGAR: A British clinical study has shown that consumption of bitter gourd can help lower blood sugar since it contains an insulin-like principle known as plant-insulin.
ENERGY: Bitter gourd has been shown to increase energy and stabilize sleep patterns.
PSORIASIS TREATMENT: Bitter gourd has been shown to be helpful in treating psoriasis since it can inhibit the activity of the guanylate cyclase enzyme, which has been known to be involved in the skin disorder.