Updated: Mar 28, 2021
Momordica charantia, or as many Jamaicans know it, Cerasee has been used traditionally as a strong medicinal tea for diabetes, dysentery, gastrointestinal problems, and even skin conditions. Cerasee has not only been used by those who live in the West Indies but it has also been a part of the folk medicine traditions in China, India, and Africa since ancient times. Even today it is used as a common food item in many Asian/Southeast Asian cuisines and is used to treat a broad spectrum of medical conditions throughout the world.
Growing up in a Jamaican family, I am no stranger to the benefits that cerasee can provide. Once a year, before springtime, my parents would create a strong “medicinal” decoction of the dried leaves with the purpose of purifying the blood and the cleansing bowels.
Cerasee should only be used for no longer than four weeks at a time and then rested due to the strain it can potentially place on the liver. The bush-doctors of the Jamaican countryside administer this powerful herb by “pulse dosing” to achieve a specific therapeutic value and then allowing the body a sufficient opportunity to heal itself.
At present research on Momordica charantia has identified an active chemical compound (plant-insulin) capable of enhancing human cells ability to uptake glucose, promote insulin release, and act synergistically with insulin (increasing its effectivity). This synergistic activity doesn't just stop at insulin; an additional 15 active constituents were found to be able to effectively decrease blood sugar levels while only taking half doses of metformin. This plant-drug combination achieved greater hypoglycemia than full doses of the drug alone.
Bitter melon has recently gained some attention amongst researchers as being a potential chemotherapeutic agent because of its no-to-low side effects in both animal and human studies. Several studies have already reported that treatment of bitter-melon-related products in a number of cancer cell lines, stops cellular division and induces cell death in cancer cells without affecting normal cell growth.
Bitter melon has demonstrated antiviral activity against many viruses in vitro, including Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), Coxsackie B3, Polio, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). An active principle in the plant has exhibited a dose-dependent ability to inhibit HIV-1 viral integrase and cause irreversible relaxation of supercoiled viral nucleic acids. These changes block the virus from being able to integrate into the host cell genome. This active agent showed a non-toxic effect on normal (non-infected cells) because it cannot penetrate them.
In an in vivo study, leaf extracts of Bitter melon had an immunostimulant effect as well as increased resistance to viral infections in both animal and human models. Various white blood cells are increased in response to leaf extracts of Momordica.
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