If you’re looking for the best bitter melon supplements to buy this year, then you’ve come to the right place.
You can also get more info by jumping to our Bitter Melon Supplements Guide.
Top 10 Bitter Melon Supplements
|#1||Bulksupplements Pure Bitter Melon Extract||More Info|
|#2||Jarrow Formulas Wild Bitter Melon Extract||More Info|
|#3||Himalaya Herbal Healthcare Organic Bitter Melon||More Info|
|#4||Nutricost Bitter Melon||More Info|
|#5||Swanson Premium Full-Spectrum Bitter Melon||More Info|
|#6||Best Naturals Bitter Melon||More Info|
|#7||Real Herbs Bitter Melon Extract||More Info|
|#8||Puritan’s Pride Bitter Melon||More Info|
|#9||Source Naturals Bitter Melon||More Info|
|#10||Planetary Herbals Bitter Melon||More Info|
Bitter melon is a plant used as a food source in India and some other parts of Asia. It also grows in the tropical regions of Africa, the Caribbean, and South America. The scientific name of the plant is Momordica charantia.
The plant grows a fruit that resembles a dimpled cucumber ranging in color from white to pale green to yellow-orange when ripe and has a very sour/bitter taste that has been described as “chalky.” In addition to a food source, bitter melon has also been used as a traditional folk medicine, particularly for the treatment of high blood sugar.
The common names of the bitter melon plant include:
- African cucumber
- Balsam apple
- Balsam pear
- Bitter apple
- Bitter cucumber
- Bitter gourd
- Bitter squash
- Carilla gourd
- Vegetable insulin
- Wild cucumber
Even though it is called by many other botanical names, the bitter melon is actually a member of the squash family.
What is a Bitter Melon Supplement?
In folk medicine, bitter melon supplements have been used as a treatment for conditions that have included the following:
- Gastric ulcers
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Intestinal worms
- Kidney stones
- Liver disease
Bitter melon supplements have also been used to induce menstruation. Topical uses of extracts from the bitter melon plant have been used for healing wounds, deep skin infections, and abscesses. Many of these uses are not supported by any scientific evidence.
Benefits of Bitter Melon
A chemical in bitter melon supplements acts in a similar way to insulin in the body, helping reduce blood sugar. The enzyme, called AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase), transports glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the cells. Some studies have shown that taking bitter melon supplements can gradually reduce blood sugar over time, although other studies contradict this finding. Users of bitter melon supplements may have to wait for up to two weeks before they begin to notice a reduction in their blood sugar levels.
Bitter melon supplements may help some individuals reduce their blood triglyceride levels. This theory is based on anecdotal evidence plus the effect of AMPK on blood sugar; further testing in this area is needed.
In test tube conditions, bitter melon supplements have been shown to kill some cancer cells (including breast cancer cells) and slow the growth of some viruses, including HIV. However, much more research is needed, and it is still unknown whether the results seen in test tubes are able to transfer to results inside the human body. Animal and human studies have not been done yet. Still, some researchers hope to investigate whether bitter melon supplements might some day be used for cancer prevention.
A general benefit of supplements containing bitter melon extracts is that the plants contain antioxidants. These chemicals benefit the body by reducing cellular damage caused by environmental toxins. Antioxidants are thought to play a role in cancer prevention and the prevention of heart and other cardiovascular disease.
Are There any Side Effects?
Taking bitter melon supplements for a duration of three months or less is generally considered to be safe for most people. Possible side effects include cramping, diarrhea, headaches, stomach ulcers, and upset stomach. More serious, though rare, side effects of consuming bitter melon include irregular heartbeat, decreased fertility, drooling, and muscle weakness.
Many medications for diabetes control are known to have interactions with bitter melon supplements. Other medications that may have interactions with bitter melon supplements include corticosteroids and medications for fertility.
Individuals who have diabetes and who are susceptible to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) may not want to try bitter melon supplements, since the supplements could cause one’s blood sugar to drop to a dangerously low level. Those experiencing the symptoms of hypoglycemia should consult a health care provider right away. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Blurred vision
- Constant hunger
Diabetic people who take bitter melon supplements to help control their blood sugar for an extended period of time may be at increased risk for liver damage. These individuals should consult with a health care provider before starting a bitter melon supplement regimen. Long-term use of bitter melon supplements has been correlated with elevated liver enzymes, which in turn can lead to atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”). Those who have a history of liver disease, including cirrhosis, hepatitis, or HIV/AIDS, should not use bitter melon supplements.
Bitter melon supplements should not be used within two weeks of any scheduled surgery, since the supplements are thought to have the potential to interfere with blood sugar control. Those who take bitter melon supplements should discontinue taking the supplements two weeks prior to surgery.
Individuals who have glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase [G6PD, an enzyme responsible for helping red blood cells maintain their shape] deficiency should not take bitter melon supplements. Bitter melon supplements can trigger favism in people with G6PD deficiency, causing symptoms that include anemia, back pain, convulsions, dark urine, fever, headache, stomach pain, yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice), and sometimes coma.
“Favism” is named after fava beans, which can trigger the same reaction and contain a chemical that is also found in the bitter melon plant. This condition is more common in males than in females and most often seen in men of African, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian descent.
People who are pregnant should not take bitter melon supplements or any product that contains bitter melon plant. The plant has been known to induce miscarriage in pregnant animals. It has been known to cause uterine contractions and uterine bleeding in human beings.
Not enough studies have been done to show that bitter melon supplements are safe for people who are breast feeding or for infants who may consume the supplement through the caregiver’s milk. Children should not take bitter melon supplements, which could potentially be toxic to them.
How to Take Bitter Melon Supplements
Users can take bitter melon supplements in several ways, including eating the fruit or drinking a juice made from the fruit. The juice is associated with stomach upset and diarrhea in some drinkers. Fruits from the bitter melon plant may be cooked before being eaten; in Chinese cooking, it is often added as an ingredient to soups.
Extracts from the plant can be made into capsules, tablets, tinctures, and powders. Researchers have also investigated an injectable bitter melon extract, although this method should only be used by qualified health care providers and should not be attempted by untrained individuals at home or serious injury could result.
The plant can also be made into a tea, which consumers may be able to find at Asian food grocery stores. Unlike the fresh fruit, the tea is said to have a pleasant taste. Some consumers prefer the tea to the capsules because of cost. The usual dosage from bitter melon tea is one cup of tea with breakfast and one cup with dinner, but these recommendations may vary by manufacturer. People with diabetes who wish to try bitter melon tea for controlling their blood sugar levels should consult with their health care providers before trying the tea; dosages may vary by individual.
What to Look for in a Good Bitter Melon Supplement
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not established a safe amount of bitter melon supplement to take per day, since the agency does not test dietary supplements. Bitter melon supplements may vary greatly in concentration of active ingredients from manufacturer to manufacturer.
One way for consumer to help ensure that they are purchasing safe, consistent supplements from a reliable manufacturer is to look for a seal of approval from a respected third party agency. ConsumerLabs.com, NSF International, and U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) are three organizations whose seal of approval help assure consumers they are buying a quality product.