Health Guide

Bitter melon

What is it?

Bitter Melon is an herbal medicine used to treat diabetes, cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, stomach problems, and to increase appetite (appetite stimulant).

Other names for Bitter Melon include: Balsam Pear, African Cucumber, Bitter Apple, Karla, Wild Cucumber, Margose, and Momordica charantia.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you need more information about this medicine or if any information in this leaflet concerns you.

Before Using:

Tell your doctor if you

  • are taking medicine or are allergic to any medicine (prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) or dietary supplement)
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medicine
  • are breastfeeding
  • have liver disease
  • have any other health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart or blood vessel disease


Talk with your caregiver about how much Bitter Melon you should take. The amount depends on the strength of the medicine and the reason you are taking Bitter Melon. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the medicine bottle. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to.

To store this medicine:

Keep all medicine locked up and away from children. Store medicine away from heat and direct light. Do not store your medicine in the bathroom, near the kitchen sink, or in other damp places. Heat or moisture may cause the medicine to break down and not work the way it should work. Throw away medicine that is out of date or that you do not need. Never share your medicine with others.

Drug and Food Interactions:

Do not take Bitter Melon without talking to your doctor first if you are taking:

  • Diabetic medication to lower blood sugar (examples: metformin (Glucophage(R)), chlorpropamide (Diabinese(R)), glyburide (Diabeta(R) Glynase(R)), glipizide (Glucotrol(R)), insulin, and others) (4)


  • Before taking Bitter Melon, tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Monitor blood sugar closely if you are diabetic or any diabetic medications are taken at the same time as Bitter Melon
  • Do not take Bitter Melon if you have liver disease (9)

Side Effects:

Stop taking your medicine right away and talk to your doctor if you have any of the following side effects. Your medicine may be causing these symptoms which may mean you are allergic to it.

  • Breathing problems or tightness in your throat or chest
  • Chest pain
  • Skin hives, rash, or itchy or swollen skin

Other Side Effects:

You may have the following side effects, but this medicine may also cause other side effects. Tell your doctor if you have side effects that you think are caused by this medicine.

  • Low blood sugar, stomach pain, convulsions (uncontrollable shaking), and diarrhea have been reported when juice or dried juice powder were used (7)
  • Increased hunger and headache have been reported when seeds were used (8)


1. Leatherdale BA, Panesar RK, Singh G et al: Improvement in glucose tolerance due to Momordica charantia (karela). Br Med J 1981; 282:1823-1824.

2. Welihinda J, Karunanayake EH, Sheriff MHR et al: Effect of Momordica charactia on the glucose tolerance in maturity onset diabetes. J Ethnopharmacol 1986; 17:277-282.

3. Srivastava Y, Venkatakrishna-Bhatt H, Verma Y et al: Antidiabetic and adaptogenic properties of Momordica-charantia extract: an experimental and clinical evaluation. Phytother Res 1993; 7:285-289.

4. Aslam M & Stockley IH: Interaction between curry ingredient (karela) and drug (chlorpropamide) (letter). Lancet 1979; 1:607.

5. Ng TB, Chan WY & Yeung HW: Proteins with abortifacient, ribosome inactivating, immunomodulatory, antitumor and anti-AIDS activities from cucurbitaceae plants. Gen Pharmacol 1992; 23(4):575-590.

6. Cunnick J & Takemoto D: Bitter melon (Momordica charantia). J Naturopath Med 1993; 4(1):16-21.

7. Raman A & Lau C: Anti-diabetic properties and phytochemistry of Momordica charantia L. (Cucurbitaceae). Phytomedicine 1996; 2(4):349-362.

8. Grover JK & Gupta SR: Hypoglycemic activity of seeds of momordica charantia (abstract). Eur J Pharmacol 1990; 183:1026-1027.

9. Tennekoon KH, Jeerathayaparan S, Angunauoala P et al: Effect of Momordica charantia on key hepatic enzymes. J Ehtnopharmacol 1994; 44 (2): 167-171.

Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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