Ampalaya (Momordica charantia)

Momordica charantia

Other names: amargoso, margoso, paria, bitter melon, bitter gourd

A fruiting vine that belongs to family of Cucurbitaceae, ampalaya is also called bitter melon for its taste (due to the presence of a substance known as momorcidin). In the Philippines, its fruits is eaten as vegetable; usually combined with other vegetables or sautéed alone. The interest in this herb rise when it is proven clinically to help in the management of patients with diabetes.

Ask around you, may it be your classmate, your officemate or your frequent blog buddy, if they have in their immediate family who is a diabetic, chances are there is at least one. Diabetes is now a pandemic disease affecting millions of people worldwide, most of which are unaware of their problem until severe complications struck them. The sad part, people diagnosed with diabetes will have it for the rest of their life. There is no cure for diabetes; exercise, healthy diet, insulin (for type I DM) and/or oral hypoglycemic agents will only manage the problem.

Ampalaya can play a major role in this aspect particularly to those affected with type II diabetes. Recent studies confirm that it can mimic the actions of oral hypoglycemic agent by lowering blood glucose level. Its active ingredients include steroidal saponins (known as charantins), polypeptide-P (insulin-like peptides) and alkaloids. These components have shown to enhance uptake of glucose into the cell by helping insulin activates its receptor sites. It also promotes the release of insulin from the pancreas to help decrease the saturation of glucose in the blood.

The herb is traditionally used in patients with rheumatism and gout. Its antipyretic property is used in fever and cough remedy. Some studies suggest it can prevent certain type of cancer because of its high antioxidant content. It is antibacterial and can enhance immune system to fight infection.