Family • Cucurbitaceae - Momordica charantia Linn. - BITTER GOURD / BITTER MELON - Liang gua

Scientific names

Cucumis argyl H. Lev.
Mormodica balsamina Blanco
Mormodica chinensis Spreng
Mormodica cylindrica Blanco
Momordica charantia Linn.
Mormodica muricata Willd.
Ku gua (Chin.)

Common names

Amargoso (Span.)
Ampalaya (Tag.)
Ampalia (Tag.)
Apalaya (Tag.)
Apalia (Pamp.)
Apape (Ibn.)
Apapet (Itn.)
Margoso (Tag.)
Palia (Bis., Bon., If.)
Pariu (Bik., Ilk., Sul.)
Pulia (Sub.)
Saligun (Sul.,)
African cucumber (Engl.)
Balsam apple (Engl.)
Balsam pear (Engl.)
Bitter cucumber (Engl.)
Bitter gourd (Engl.)
Tuberculated momordica (Engl.)
Liang gua (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

BURMESE: Kyethinkhathee.
CHINESE: Lai pu tao, Jin li zhi, Ku gua ye
DANISH: Balsamagurk, Balsamaeble.
DUTCH: Balsempeer.
FINNISH: Karvaskurkku.
FRENCH: Margose, Margose amère, Momordique amère, Concombre amer, Concombre africain.
GERMAN: Balsambirne, Bittergurke, Balsamgurke.
HINDI: Karela, Kerela, Tita kerala.
ITALIAN: Pomo meraviglia, Momordica amara.
JAPANESE: Niga uri, Nigai uri, Tsuru reishi
KHMER: Mreah.
LAOTIAN: Bai maha, Haix, S’aix.
NEPALESE: Karelaa, Tito karelaa.
SINHALESE: Karavila, Karawila, Pakal, Pavakai.
SPANISH: Bálsamo, Calabaza africana, Cundeamor, Momordica amarga, Pepino amargo.
SWEDISH: Bittergurka.
TAMIL: Pava aki.
THAI: Maha, Mara, Phakha.
VIETNAMESE: La khoqua (leaves).


Ampalaya is a climbing vine, nearly or quite smooth, annual vine. Tendrils are simple, up to 20 centimeters long. Leaves are 2.5 to 10 centimeters in diameter, cut nearly to the base into 5 to 7 lobes, oblong-ovate, variously toothed, and heart-shaped at the base. Male flower is about 12 millimeters long, and is peduncled, with a rounded, green, and about 1 centimeter long bract approximately at the middle. Female flower is yellow flower, about 15 millimeters long, long-stalked with pair of small leaflike bracts at middle or toward base of stalk. Fruit, in cultivated form, is green, fleshy, oblong, cylindric, 15 to 25 centimeters long, pointed at both ends, ribbed and wrinkled, bursting when mature to release seeds; in wild forms, ovoid, about 2 to 4 centimeters long. Seeds are oblong, compressed 10 to 13 millimeters long, and corrugated on the margins.

– Year-round vegetable, extensively cultivated in the Philippines for its bitter edible fruit.
– Wild forms found in open fields, thickets, and waste places at low and medium altitudes. (See:Ampalayang ligaw)
– Probably of Asiatic origin.
– Pantropic.

– Phytochemical study yielded alkaloids, glycosides, aglycone, tannin, sterol, phenol and protein.
– 1898 study reported a bitter alkaloid and a glucoside.
– Leaves and fruit yielded a bitter principle, momordicin.
– A petroleum ether extractive yielded a highly aromatic ethereal oil, a fixed oil, traces of free fatty acids and carotene.
– Ethyl ether fraction yielded chlorophyll, a glucoside-like substance and resin.
– Water soluble extractive yielded a saponin-like substance and mucilaginous bodies.

– Considered astringent, antidiabetic, abortifacient, antirheumatic, contraceptive, galactagogue, parasiticide, anthelmintic, purgative, emetic, antipyretic, febrifuge, emmenagogue, cooling , tonic, vulnerary.
– Fruit considered tonic and stomachic.

Parts utilized
Leaves, roots and fruits.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Antidiabetic and adaptogenic properties of Momordica charantia extract: an experimental and clinical evaluation / SRIVASTAVA Y. (1) ; VENKATAKRISHNA-BHATT H. ; VERMA Y. ; VENKAIAH K. ; RAVAL B. H.

(2) Evaluation of anti-inflammatory and membrane stabilizing property of aqueous leaf extract of Momordica charantia in rats / Umukoro S1 and AshorobiRB2 / African Journal of Biomedical Research

(3) Pharmacological actions and potential uses of Momordica charantia: a review /

(4) Hypoglycaemic activity of saponin fraction extracted from Momordica charantia in PEG/salt aqueous two-phase systems / DOI: 10.1080/14786410802079675 / Natural Product Research, Volume 22, Issue 13 September 2008 , pages 1112 – 1119

(5) Anxiolytic, Antidepressant and Anti-Inflammatory Activities of Methanol Extract of Momordica Charantia Leaves / 1735-2657/08/71-43-47
IRANIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACOLOGY & THERAPEUTICS / Copyright © 2006 by Razi Institute for Drug Research (RIDR) / IJPT 7:43-47, 2008

(6) Improvement in glucose tolerance due to Momordica charantia (karela) / B A Leatherdale et al / Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981;282:1823-1824 (6 June) / doi:10.1136/bmj.282.6279.1823

(7) Study on chemical components of Momordica charantia / Xie, H et al / Zhong-Yao-Cai. 1998 Sep; 21(9): 458-459

(8) Antioxidant Potential of Momordica charantia in Ammonium Chloride-induced Hyperammonemic Rats / A Justin Thenmozhi and P Subramanian / Oxford Journals Medicine Evidence-based Compl. and Alt. Medicine • eCAM Advance Access• DOI:10.1093/ecam/nep227


(10) Review: Cucurbitane-type triterpenoids in Momordica charantia Linn. / Sook Young Lee, Seok Hyun Eom et al / Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 3(13), pp. 1264-1269, December, 2009

(11) Antioxidant and chemoprotective properties of Momordica charantia L. (bitter melon) fruit extract / Asli Semiz and Alaattin Sen / African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 6 (3), pp. 273-277, 5 Febraury, 2007

(12) Sorting Momordica names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher, / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE

(13) Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) extract inhibits breast cancer cell proliferation by modulating cell cycle regulatory genes and promotes apoptosis / Ray RB, Raychoudhuri A, Steele R, Nerurkar P. / Cancer Res. 2010 Mar 1;70(5):1925-31. Epub 2010 Feb 23.

(14) Momordica charantia (bitter melon) inhibits primary human adipocyte differentiation by modulating adipogenic genes / Pratibha V Nerurkar, Yun-Kung Lee and Vivek R Nerurkar / BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:34 doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-34

(15) Antileukemic Potential of Momordica charantia Seed Extracts on Human Myeloid Leukemic HL60 Cells / Ramani Soundararajan, Punit Prabha, Umesh Rai, and Aparna Dixit / Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 732404, 10 pages / doi:10.1155/2012/732404

(16) Screening

Edibility / Nutritional
– Both wild and cultivated forms are edible.
– Fruit of wild form usually roasted over fire and eaten with salt or “heko.”
– The leaves and fruit – used as vegetables – are excellent sources of Vit B, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. It has twice the amount of beta carotene in broccoli and twice the calcium content of spinach. Characteristically bitter-tasting, slight soaking in salty water before cooking removes some of the bitter taste of the fruit.
– In India, fruit eaten in curries.

– In the Philippines, juice expressed from the green fruit is given for chronic colitis: also used for bacillary dysentery.
– Astringent powdered leaves or root decoction can be applied to hemorrhoids.
– Leaf juice for cough and as a purgative and anthelminthic to expel intestinal parasites, and for healing wounds.
– Seeds also used to expel worms.
– The vine or the juice of leaves used as mild purgative for children.
– In large doses, the fresh juice is a drastic purgative.
– Decoction of roots and seeds used for urethral discharges.
– Juice of leaves used for chronic coughs.
– Leaves and shoots used as vulnerary.
– Sap of leaves used as parasiticide.
– Fruit macerated in oil used as vulnerary.
– Fruit considered tonic and stomachic; used in rheumatism, gout, and diseases of the spleen and liver.
– Pounded leaves used for scalds.
– Infusion of leaves or leaf juice used for fevers.
– Used for chronic stomach ulcers.
– Root sometimes used as ingredient in aphrodisiac preparations.
– Decoction of root used as abortifacient.
– Fruit in large doses considered a drastic purgative and abortifacient.
– In India, root used as astringent; applied externally to hemorrhoids.
– In Lagos, decoction of leaves used as stomachic.
– Leaves used as anthelmintic and antipyretic, and applied externally to leprosy.
– In India and Malaya, pounded leaves are applied to skin diseases, burns and scalds.
– Poultice of leaves used for headaches.
– Infusion of flowers used for asthma.
– Olive or almond oil infusion of the fruit, without the seeds, used for chapped hands, hemorrhoids, and burns.
– Root, along with fruits and seeds, used as abortifacient, as well as remedy for urethral discharges.
– In Batavia, vine used as anthelmintic, purgative, and emetic.
– In Jamaica, leaf decoction or infusion is taken for colds, as laxative and blood cleanser. Warm tea infusions also used for toothaches and mouth infections. Also used as a bath/wash for skin eruptions and acne.
Used for eczema, malarial, gout, jaundice, abdominal pain, kidney (stone), leprosy, leucorrhea, piles, pneumonia, psoriasis, , rheumatism, fever and scabies. Also, boiled leaves and decoction of plant used to promote lochia.
– In Antilles, sweetened decoction of leaves used as emmenagogue and vermifuge.
– In Cuba, used for diabetes mellitus; used for wounds refractive to other treatments, for skin disease, and for sterility in women.
– In Puerto Rico, used for diabetes.
– In Indo-China, fruit macerated in salted water used for fluxes, catarrh, and children’s coughs. Seeds employed in the treatment of dysentery.
– In Brazil, seeds used as anthelmintic.
In China, used as hypoglycemic and antidiabetic.
In Turkey, used for healing of cutaneous lesions and peptic ulcers.
– Seeds with oil, employed as cosmetic.
– Leaves used to clean metals.

Philippine News: Diabetes Mellitus
A Philippine herb that has recently gained international recognition for its possible benefits in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Despite its bitter taste, it has also become a popular nutritional drink for a boost of vim and vigor. In fact, the more bitter, the better, as it is believed that the bitterness is proportionate to its potency.
Studies have suggested that ampalaya contains a hypoglycemic polypeptide, a plant insulin responsible for its blood sugar lowering effect. Other benefits suggested were body detoxification (including removal of nicotine), strengthening of the immune system and fertility regulation.
It is increasingly recommended as an adjunct or supplement to traditional therapeutic regimens for diabetes mellitus.

Other (Kitchen) Preparations
Steam ampalaya tops (upper four leaves) and eat half a cup twice daily. As a decoction, boil six tablespoons of finely chopped leaves in two glasses of water over low fire (for 15 minutes). Drink 1/3 cup, three times a day, 30 minutes before meals. Don’t use aluminum pots (clay or enamel only).

Study Findings
• Analgesic / Cholinomimetic: A methanol leaf extract study of Mormodica charantia in rodents suggested cholinomimetic and analgesic activities.
• Antidiabetic and adaptogenic properties:Adaptogenic properties are indicated by the delay in the appearance of cataracts, the secondary complications of diabetes and relief in neurological and other common symptoms even before the hypoglycemia occurred.
• Anti-inflammatory / Membrane Stabilizing Property: The study reports the anti-inflammatory and membrane stabilizing property of an aqueous extract of Mormodica charantia leaves in rats. The results suggest the anti-inflammatory activity may not be related to membrane-stabilization.
• Antimicrobial: Study on various extracts of Cassia tora, Calendula officinalis and Mormodica charantia showed activity against all tested bacteria, Staph aureus being more susceptible to the aqueous extracts.
• Larvicidal: Study showed M. charantia to have good larvicidal activity against three container breeding mosquitoes: An. stephensi, Cx quinquefasciatus and Ae. aegypti suggesting a potential for the fruit extracts use in potable waters against mosquito larvae.
• Antidiabetic / Estrous Cyclicity Effect: Study results suggest the antidiabetic potential of MC and AP could restore the impaired estrous cycle in alloxan-induced diabetic rats.
• Antidiabetic / Saponins: Study showed the saponin constituents extracted from MC induced significant hypoglycemic activity in hyperglycemic and normal mice.
• Anxiolytic / Antidepressant / Antiinflammatory: Study of methanol extract of dried leaves of MC showed significant anxiolytic activity and antidepressant and antiinflammatory activities.
• Antidiabetic / Glucose Lowering: A water soluble extract of the fruit significantly reduced blood glucose concentrations in diabetic and after force-feeding in rats. Fried karela fruits consumed as daily dietary supplement produced a small but significant improvement in glucose tolerance.
• Antidiabetic: An aqueous powder extract of the fresh unripe whole fruit reduced fasting glucose by 48% comparable to glibenclamide, a known synthetic drug. Testing showed no nephrotoxicity and hepatotoxicity. As an edible vegetable, it presents a safe alternative to reducing blood glucose.
• Antidiabetic: Study targeted a 1% decline in A1c with an estimated power of 88%. With the observed decline of 0.24%, the achieved power was only 11%. Study failed to make a definite conclusion on M. charantia’s effectiveness.
• Anti-Ulcerogenic / Gastroprotective: An olive oil extract of M charantia showed ulcer inhibition a gastroprotective effect against indomethacin.
• Phytochemicals: Study of chemical constituents of unmatured fruits yielded vincine, mycose, momordicoside A and momordicoside B.
• Phytochemicals / Extract-Metformin Synergism: Study yielded alkaloids, glycosides, aglycone, tannin, sterol, phenol and protein. Use of the extract for pharmacologic interactions with half doses of metformin or glibenclamide or both in combination caused a decrease in blood sugar greater than that caused by full doses in a 7-day treatment study. Results suggest a synergism activity.
• Antioxidant: Study of Momordica charantia fruit extract exerts a protection to AC-induced hyperammonemic rats against oxidative stress possibly through prevention or inhibition of the lipid peroxidative system by its antioxidant, hepatoprotective effect and maintenance of cellular integrity.
• Antioxidant / Chemoprotective: Study demonstrated the antioxidant and chemoprotective activities of M. charantia fruit extract in experimental rat models. Results strongly suggest chemoprotective action against CCl4-induced toxicity. Indirect inhibition of CYP1A dependent activities suggest a promising cancer chemopreventive action by lowering metabolic activation of various carcinogens and/or procarcinogens.
• Review / Cucurbitane-type Triterpenoids / Charantin: Cucurbitane-type triterpenoids are the main active constituents of M. charantia. Some have potential biological and pharmaceutical activities including anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, anticancer, anti-HIV, antifeedant and antioviposition activities.Charantin, an anti-diabetic compound, is a typical cucurbitane-type triterpenoid, with a potential for the the treatment of diabetes.
• Antioxidant / Chemoprotective: Study of bitter melon extract modulates signal transduction pathways for inhibition of breast cancer cell growth and can be used as a dietary supplement for breast cancer prevention.
• Obesity / Adipogenesis Reduction: Study of bitter melon juice showed potent inhibition of lipogenesis and stimulator of lipolysis activity in human adipocytes. BMJ can be an effective alternative therapy to reduce adipogenesis in humans.
• Antileukemic Potential / Seeds: Study of fractionated seed extracts in human myeloid HL60 cells showed differentiation inducing activity with potential for use in differentiation therapy for leukemia in combination with other inducers of differentiation.
• Anti-Dengue: Study of evaluated the antiviral effects of six plants on dengue virus serotype 1 (DENV-1). Results showed the methanol extracts of A. paniculata and M. charantia possess the ability of inhibiting the activity of DENV-1 in in vitro studies.
• Anti-Diabetes / Review: Bitter gourd increases insulin secretion of the pancreas, decreases intestinal glucose uptake, and increases uptake and utilization of glucose in peripheral tissues. Although human studies are weak in design and results, some studies do indicate safety and anti-diabetic effects.
• Hepatoprotective / Acetaminophen Intoxication: Study evaluated the hepatocurative effects of Mormodica fruit extracts in rabbits intoxicated with acetaminophen. Results showed animals treated with the fruit extract had less liver damage due to acetaminophen intoxication, indicating hepatoprotective properties.
• Inhibition of Human Adipocyte Differentiation: Study showed bitter melon is a potent inhibitor of lipogenesis and stimulator of lipolysis activity in human adipocytes. Results suggest bitter melon juice may prove to be an effective complementary or alternative therapy to reduce adipogenesis in humans.
• Antifungal: Study showed antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus niger, and Candida albicans. Phytochemicals identified included steroids, tannins, alkaloids, anthraquinones, flavonoids, and terpenoids.
• Hypoglycemic and Antiglycation Activities: Two-arm, parallel, randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial evaluated the fruit pulp effect of bitter melon on long-term glycemic control and glycation status in T2 diabetic patients. Results showed reduction of A1C from baseline greater than the placebo group, with a significant decline of total advanced glycation endproducts. Study concludes bitter melon is beneficial not only for glycemic control, but also on potential systemic complications of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

None known.

– Wild-crafted.
– Perennial vegetable market produce.
– Tablet and capsule formulations in the cybermarket.