What is it?
People use bitter melon for diabetes, obesity, stomach and intestinal problems, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for BITTER MELON are as follows:
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Athletic performance. Early research shows that taking bitter melon extract might reduce fatigue in people taking part in intense physical training at high temperatures.
- Diabetes. Research is conflicting and inconclusive. Some research shows that taking bitter melon can reduce blood sugar levels and lower HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar control over time) in people with type 2 diabetes. But these studies have some flaws. And not all research agrees. Higher quality studies are needed.
- Prediabetes. Early research shows that bitter melon does not reduce blood sugar in people with prediabetes.
- Osteoarthritis. Early research shows that bitter melon decreases the amount of pain medicine needed by people with osteoarthritis. But it doesn't seem to improve symptoms.
- A grouping of symptoms that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke (metabolic syndrome).
- A type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis).
- Indigestion (dyspepsia).
- Infection of the intestines by parasites.
- Kidney stones.
- Liver disease.
- Scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis).
- Stomach ulcers.
- Wound healing.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if bitter melon is safe when applied to the skin. It might cause a rash.
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Bitter melon is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy. Certain chemicals in bitter melon might start menstrual bleeding and have caused abortion in animals. Not enough is known about the safety of using bitter melon during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Diabetes: Bitter melon can lower blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes and take medications to lower your blood sugar, adding bitter melon might make your blood sugar drop too low. Monitor your blood sugar carefully.
Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency: People with G6PD deficiency might develop "favism" after eating bitter melon seeds. Favism is a condition named after the fava bean, which is thought to cause "tired blood" (anemia), headache, fever, stomach pain, and coma in certain people. A chemical found in bitter melon seeds is related to chemicals in fava beans. If you have G6PD deficiency, avoid bitter melon.
Surgery: There is a concern that bitter melon might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using bitter melon at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
- Bitter melon can decrease blood sugar levels. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking bitter melon along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to be too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), repaglinide (Prandin), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), and others.
- Medications moved by pumps in cells (P-Glycoprotein Substrates)
- Some medications are moved by pumps in cells. An ingredient in bitter melon might make these pumps less active and increase how long some medications stay in the body. This might increase the effectiveness or side effects of some medications.
Some medications that are moved by pumps in cells include rivaroxaban (Xarelto), apixaban (Eliquis), linagliptin (Tradjenta), etoposide (Toposar), paclitaxel (Taxol), vinblastine (Velban), vincristine (Vincasar), itraconazole (Sporanox), amprenavir (Agenerase), indinavir (Crixivan), nelfinavir (Viracept), saquinavir (Invirase), cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac), diltiazem (Cardizem), verapamil (Calan), corticosteroids, erythromycin (E-Mycin), fexofenadine (Allegra), cyclosporine (Sandimmune), loperamide (Imodium), quinidine (Quinidex), and others.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
- Bitter melon can lower blood glucose levels. Using it with other herbs or supplements that have the same effect might cause blood sugar levels to drop too low. Some herbs and supplements that can lower blood sugar include alpha-lipoic acid, chromium, devil's claw, fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng, psyllium, Siberian ginseng, and others.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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