When it comes to natural remedies, it seems that ancient Oriental medicine often has a leg up on Western medical practitioners. This holds true when it comes to the plant called bitter melon, which is especially popular among Japanese living in Okinawa.
Based on the many health benefits it brings—perhaps it’s no coincidence that folks on this Japanese island live longer than almost anyone else on the planet. Keep reading and discover the benefits of this natural remedy.
Bitter melon is commonly found in Asia, the Caribbean, East Africa, and South America. It has a green, bumpy outer skin and looks like a type of squash. A bitter melon that isn’t fully ripe can produce an unpleasant taste. But what the fruit lacks in looks and flavor it makes up in its healing powers.
Bitter melon has long been prepared as an herbal remedy for use in traditional Asian medicine. According to the Philippine Department of Health, the fruit can be used to treat:
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Diarrhea and other stomach problems
- Respiratory problems
- Skin eruptions
Filipinos often grind bitter melon leaves and seeds into a juice to drink for various stomach problems. They also use warmed bitter melon leaves as a topical treatment for burns or cuts.
Recently, U.S. medical practitioners have begun to embrace the antiviral, antioxidant and anti-diabetes health benefits this plant provides.
For example, information from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Research Center shows bitter melon contains compounds that help your cells absorb and process glucose—just as insulin naturally does.
This could prove to be a health bonanza for the thousands of people dealing with blood sugar imbalances such as type II diabetes.
But scientists are most excited about recent research that shows the plant may be a powerful natural cancer cure.
Pancreatic Cancer Gets A Smack Down!
A team of researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center bought a Chinese variety of bitter melons from a local grocery store. They used a regular juicer to remove the pulp and seeds, then tested some of the remaining juice directly on cell cultures.
Bitter melon juice—diluted to just five percent in water—was amazingly effective at reducing the viability of all four pancreatic cancer cell lines tested!
After just 72 hours of treatment, the bitter melon juice reduced the viability of BxPC-3 and MiaPaCa-2 cancer cells by a whopping 98 percent!
It was almost as efficient against the AsPC-1and Capan-2 cancer cell lines, reducing their viability by 90 percent.
Researchers found that bitter melon juice launched a two-pronged attack by:
- Inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis) along several different pathways, and
- Starving cancer cells of the sugar they need to survive.
Mouse Tumors Shrank
The investigators also implanted mice with MiaPaCa-2 human pancreatic cancer cells to test the effectiveness of the juice in vivo (that is, on live subjects).
For six weeks, they fed half of the mice five milligrams daily of freeze dried bitter melon powder. The researchers were amazed to find that the mice fed with juice powder had pancreatic tumors 64 percent smaller than the untreated mice—with no visible side effects!
What’s more, these results are similar to those achieved with the most popular chemo drug used to treat pancreatic cancer.
In a different study using the same type of animal and cancer cells lines, the chemo drug reduced tumor growth by 52 percent after 18 days.
But pancreatic cancer isn’t the only type of cancer that bitter melon is able to clobber…
Bitter Melon Blows Away Breast Cancer
Ratna B. Ray, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pathology at Saint Louis University, is convinced that bitter melon extract “can be utilized as a dietary supplement for the prevention of breast cancer.”
In the 2010 study published in Cancer Research, Dr. Ray’s team conducted in vitro experiments using the extract on breast cancer cells and primary human mammary epithelial cells.
The researchers found that bitter melon significantly slowed cell growth and division. What’s more, they found that the extract also caused breast cancer cells to self-destruct.
According to a Science Daily report, the researchers are using several cancer cell lines to conduct follow-up studies to examine how the extract discourages cancer cell proliferation.
They also plan to conduct a preclinical trial to evaluate how well it performs when administered orally.
But one way to enjoy the health benefits of bitter melon is to eat it! Many people around the globe enjoy the fruit with meals, although it may be an acquired taste for people who aren’t used to it.
The ripe fruit has a sweet flavor that you may enjoy. But if you’re not sure you want to add bitter melon to your meals—it’s also available in the U.S. and many other countries as a supplement.
Be sure to talk with your doctor before using bitter melon, especially if you have diabetes. Its natural ability to moderate blood sugar may interact negatively with diabetes medications. But that’s true of nearly all natural remedies for high blood sugar. Used correctly, they reduce your need for drugs, often to zero. But you have to monitor the process to make sure your blood sugar doesn’t plummet too low.
And with proper use, you may find that bitter melon is a safe and effective way to enjoy sweet success against cancer!