bitter melon

Type 2 diabetes is usually treated with medications, but the risk/benefit ratio of the newer ones may be dubious (as we wrote here and here). That’s especially the case when the expense is factored in.

This form of diabetes also responds favorably to dietary changes (less starch and sugar), exercise and supplements. In addition to these healthful lifestyle changes, certain dietary supplements may help. Here is one reader’s report on a supplement you may not be familiar with, bitter melon.

Could Bitter Melon Lower Blood Sugar?

Q. A family friend told us that bitter melon could help reduce blood sugar.

We went to our local health food store and bought a bottle containing 30 capsules for $17.99. It’s pricey, but it seems to work!

My husband takes metformin and glyburide for diabetes. After adding this supplement his blood sugar level was down considerably.

A. While the idea is appealing combining herbs with diabetes drugs can be risky. Blood sugar levels could drop too low, causing hypoglycemia.

Your husband will need to monitor his blood glucose very carefully and stay in close touch with his physician.

What Is Bitter Melon?

Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is a tropical relative of the cucumber. Several short-term studies suggest that it may indeed help reduce blood sugar. A review points out that it has been studied extensively in animals and tissue culture (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Feb. 21, 2014). Probable explanations for its effects have also been explored (Journal of Lipids, online Jan. 10, 2015).

Long-term safety has not been established. Children or pregnant women should not use it.

On the other hand, some research suggests that bitter melon might be able to reduce the risk of cancer as well as diabetes (Raina et al, Seminars in Cancer Biology, Oct. 2016). Rat research indicates that it may help protect the heart in diabetics (Czompa et al, Molecules, March 20, 2017).

Other Supplements for Blood Sugar

You can learn more about foods and supplements that may be helpful in controlling high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes such as cinnamon, coffee, fenugreek and nopal cactus in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

Revised 4/3/2017

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  1. Tim F.

    Bitter melon works. I took metformin for 3 weeks. I have had my blood sugar into the low 80s and 90S with bitter melon and no side effects. I quit the bitter melon, eat right, and most days my blood sugar is 103 -108 when I wake up.


    If you eat sugar which is an abundance of (wheat, corn, barley, oats, rice, rye, millet, spelt, couscous, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat which turn into sugar and body fat (stored sugar) your blood sugar will always be too high!

  3. PP

    The Filipinos are very fond of Bitter Melon and commented that it was well known there for being good for diabetes. It is awfully bitter though–glad to hear it can be taken as a supplement. It might be nice to have as a tea, where you can add another flavoring, like vanilla or almond.

  4. Bette
    Los Angeles, CA

    Thanks for the wonderful tip about bittermelon for pre-diabetes (or diabetes). Do the folks from People’s Pharmacy know if taking actual bitter melon as opposed to the pill form would be beneficial for pre-diabetes? I understand bittermelon is used in some Asian dishes.

  5. Vincent

    I am very interested in bitter melon for lowering blood sugar. I have had good luck with cinamin. I have been an educator on diabetes and have facilitated several low vision support groups on coping with vision loss and diabetes. this would be a good addition to our discussion on supplements for lowering blood sugars. Any additional information on the benefits on the use of bitter melon would be greatly appreciated. I am always interested in making things available that will be convenient to a person dealing with several disabilities as that is what usually comprises my groups.

    Vince in Minnesota

    • Manoj
      Dallas Texas

      I have eaten bitter melon for many years and find them very helpful! People in India have used bitter melon as food for thousands of years and there have never been any reports of problems​ with this food!

  6. Frank Lucas
    greenville, sc

    How much bitter melon was in each of the author’s capsules?

  7. Cara

    My friend from India told me years ago that diabetes is treated there with turmeric and bitter melon.

  8. cpmt

    AH!! I PUT 2 BITTER MELON fruits with the recipe above, I always get the small ones.

  9. cpmt

    I get bitter melon when I find it. it’s very bitter so what I do is make a juice or smoothy with: normal cucumber celery, small piece fresh ginger, 1/2 green apple (optional +1 leave of kale, only the soft part) & 1 garlic clove, add mineral water and blend. That way it will not be so bitter. You can also add other things. I didn’t know they sell capsules, I will get them since I have problems finding the fresh fruit -bitter melon- sometimes. Thank you.

  10. Elisabeth

    Bitter melon is available in dried form and can be used to make tea. Use 10 grams in a litre of boiling water and drink two or three cups per day. It is also available as teabags. Quite cheap in Asian stores. It also helps for high blood pressure.

    • Dr b k Mittal
      new delhi

      For centuries, in India, it it is a common knowledge, to use bitter melon (In India called Karela) for diabetes mellitus II. It is commonly used in daily vegetable cooked form. The cooked vegetable with spices are very tasty. Every Indian living abroad knows about it. The juice, tablets can also be procured cheaply from India. The plants, in the form of shrubs can be grown in Texas type of climate.

      The other fruit in India called Jamaun also has same property. Ask any Indian in your country.
      Dr b k mittal

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