Momordica charantia

Momordica charantia

Synonyms

No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Karela, karabella, pavakka, bitter melon, bitter gourd. [1]

Description

Momordica charantia is an annual climbing vine of the family Cucurbitaceae. Growing to a length of up to 5m, M. charantia is a slender vine, which produces numerous tendrils, which allow it to be a proficient climber. The leaves of M. charantia are simple, glabrous and palmate, separated into three to seven lobes. Each leaf is roughly 4cm to 12cm across. The flowers of M. charantia bloom in early summer, typically. Each flower is bright yellow in color and has five simple petals. Each petal is lightly pubescent and curls over itself at the tip. The fruit borne of M. charantia is long, drupe and fleshy, most often green or yellow, but occasionally orange or red. The skin of the fruit is most often much wrinkled, resembling a dehydrated cucumber. Each fruit is packed full of seeds which, when young appear white, but mature to a brilliant red.

Origin / Habitat

M. charantia, or Karela, is a widely cultivated herb native to Africa, Asia and Australia. [2]

Chemical Constituents

3-O-glucuronide, P-insulin, charantin, oleanolic acid, momordicin Ic, vicine, momordicines, momordicosides. [1][3]

Plant Part Used

Fruit, leaf, root. [2]

Traditional Use

M. charantia, known as Karela in Hindi, is traditionally used as a hypoglycemic in the treatment of diabetes. Most commonly, it is the fruit that is used in this way, but in Ayurvedic medicine, the leaves and the root have similar, however milder effects on blood sugar. [1] Additionally, in Ayurvedic medicine, Karela is used to stimulate digestion and increase appetite. Karela also has traditional indications as an anthlemintic, anti-asthmatic, and as an antipyretic, due to its cooling effect on the body. Its rasa (taste) is described as tikta (bitter). It is described as having an ushna virya, which indicates that it pacifies the kapha and vata doshas while aggravating the pitta dosha. [4]

Pharmacology

Pre-clinical

M. charantia has been reported to significantly improve glucose tolerance in humans and laboratory animals. [5][6][7][8] The currently accepted hypotheses regarding hypoglycemic activity is claimed to be mediated through an insulin secretagogue effect or through an influence on enzymes involved in glucose metabolism. [9] Research indicates that molecules with insulin-like bioactivity may be present in M. charantia seeds. [10] A few studies suggest that the hypoglycemic mechanism of action of M. charantia could be partly attributed to increased glucose utilization in the liver rather than an insulin secretion effect. [11] A recent laboratory study reported a significant reduction of fasting blood glucose levels observed in diabetic rats, but no hypoglycemic activity in the treated normal rats. [12] M. charantia also showed considerable lowering of serum cholesterol and triglycerides in the treated diabetic group. There was a significant improvement in hepatic glycogen level in treated diabetic rats, with a return of close to normal levels after the treatment with M. charantia. There have been negative reports as to the ability of M. charantia extracts to lower blood sugar levels in laboratory animals. [13][14]  It is recommended that a standardized extract of M. charantia always be used. 

The effect of M. charantia on fasting and post prandial serum glucose levels were studied in 100 cases of moderate non-insulin dependent diabetic subjects. [15] Drinking of an aqueous homogenized suspension of the vegetable pulp led to a significant reduction of both fasting and post-prandial serum glucose levels. This hypoglycaemic action was observed in 86 (86%) cases. Five cases (5%) showed lowering of fasting serum glucose only. Another interesting study reported on the effects of freeze-dried M. charantia powder on serum glucose level and lipid parameters of the serum and liver were studied in laboratory rats. [16] The M. charantia administration resulted in a consistent decrease in serum glucose levels in rats fed cholesterol-free diets, but not in those fed cholesterol-enriched diets, with no dose-response noted. The authors report that the M. charantia product had little effect on serum lipid parameters, except for high density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol; however, HDL-cholesterol levels tended to decrease by dietary cholesterol, while they were consistently elevated by dietary M. charantia both in the presence and absence of dietary cholesterol, indicating an antiatherogenic activity of M. charantia. In addition, M. charantia exhibited a marked reduction in the hepatic total cholesterol and triglyceride levels both in the presence and absence of dietary cholesterol, with the reduction of triglyceride levels in the absence of dietary cholesterol being in a dose-dependent manner. 

The mature fruits of M. charantia have been used externally for the rapid healing of wounds and internally for the treatment of peptic ulcers in Turkish folk medicine. A recent laboratory animal study reported that a potent and dose-dependent inhibitory activity was observed by the administration of ethanol extract of the fruits in peptic ulcer induced by HCL-EtOH and indomethacin in rats. [17] 

An anti-HIV plant protein has been identified and purified from M. charantia that is capable of acting against multiple stages of the viral life cycle, on acute infection as well as replication in chronically infected cells. In addition to anti-viral action, the protein, termed MAP30, also possesses anti-tumor activity, topological inactivation of viral DNA, inhibition of viral integrase and cell-free ribosome-inactivation activities. [18] The anti-viral agent from M. charantia is capable of inhibiting infection of HIV type 1 (HIV-1) in T lymphocytes and monocytes as well as replication of the virus in already-infected cells. MAP30 seems to be non-toxic to normal uninfected cells because it is unable to enter healthy cells. [19] A recent laboratory study reported that alpha-momorcharin (alpha-MMC) isolated from M. charantia fruit was found to inhibit HIV-1 III B-inducing syncytia formation and markedly reduced both expression of p24 core antigen and the numbers of HIV antigen positive cells in acutely but not chronically HIV-1-infected culture. [20] The MAP30 protein has also been reported to be effective against estrogen-dependent human breast cancer MDA-MB-231 in vitro and in vivo, and also a novel antigenic agent against neurofibrillary tangles associated with Alzheimer's disease. [21][22] 

Topical application of an extract of M. charantia fruit has been reported to be inhibitory on mouse skin papillomagensis with the modulatory influence of biotransformation system enzymes. [23]

Clinical

No documentation.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals on insulin or hypoglycemic medications. [12]

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy

Based on animal data, do not use in pregnancy due to abortifacient activity. If nursing, consult a physician before use. [25]

Age limitation

Do not use in children under 2 years of age unless recommended by a physician.  

Adverse reaction

No toxicity is reported in recommended dosages. Do not use in individuals with existing liver disease including alcoholic cirrhosis. [24]

Read More

  1) Medicinal Herbs

  2) Malaysian Herbal Plants

  3) South Central America Herbs

  4) South Africa Herbs

References

  1. Premila, M.S. Ayurvedic Herbs: A Clinical Guide to the Healing Plants of Traditional Indian Medicine. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press; 2006.
  2. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Momordica charantia information from NPGS/GRIN. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) Available from: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?24520. [Accessed on 19 February 2009].
  3. Duke, James A. Momordica charantia. Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Available from: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/duke/farmacy2.pl. [Accessed on 19 February 2009].
  4. Available from: www.ayurvedunstutyte.com/horizon%20book%209-12.pdf. [Accessed on 19 February 2009].
  5. Sitasawad SL, Shewade Y, Bhonde R. Role of Bittergourd Fruit Juice in Stz-induced Diabetic State In Vivo and In Vitro. J Ethnopharmacol. Nov2000;73(1-2): 71-79.
  6. B. A. Leatherdale, et al. Improvement in Glucose Tolerance Due to Momordica Charantia (Karela).Br Med J (Clin Res Ed).Jun1981;282(6279):1823-1824.
  7. J. Welihinda, et al. Effect of Momordica Charantia on the Glucose Tolerance in Maturity Onset Diabetes. J Ethnopharmacol.Sept1986;17(3):277-282.
  8. Yin J, Zhang H, Ye J.Traditional Chinese medicine in treatment of metabolic syndrome. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. Jun2008;8(2):99-111.
  9. K. Platel, et al. Plant Foods in the Management of Diabetes Mellitus: Vegetables as Potential Hypoglycaemic Agents. Nahrung.Apr1997;41(2):68-74.
  10. T. B. Ng, et al. Insulin-Like Molecules in Momordica Charantia Seeds. J Ethnopharmacol.Jan1986;15(1):107-117.
  11. S. Sarkar, et al. Demonstration of the Hypoglycemic Action of Momordica Charantia in a Validated Animal Model of Diabetes. Pharmacol Res. Jan19963;3(1):1-4.
  12. B. K. Rao, et al. Antidiabetic and Hypolipidemic Effects of Momordica cymbalaria Hook. Fruit Powder in Alloxan-diabetic Rats.J Ethnopharmacol.Oct1999;67(1);103-109.
  13. K. Patel, et al. Effect of Dietary Intake of Freeze Dried Bitter Gourd (Momordica charantia) in Streptozotocin Induced Diabetic Rats.Nahrung.1995;39(4):262-268.
  14. L. Ali, et al. Studies on Hypoglycemic Effects of Fruit Pulp, Seed, and Whole Plant of Momordica charantia on Normal and Diabetic Model Rats. Planta Med;Oct1993 59(5): 408-412.
  15. Ahmad N, Hassan MR, Halder H, et al. Effect of Momordica charantia (Karolla) Extracts on Fasting and Postprandial Serum Glucose Levels in NIDDM Patients. Bangladesh Med Res Counc Bull. Apr1999;25(1): 11-13.
  16. Javasooriva AP, Sakono M, Yukizaki C, et al. Effects of Momordica charantia Powder on Serum Glucose Levels and Various Lipid Parameters in Rats Fed With Cholesterol-free and Cholesterol-enriched diets. J Ethnopharmacol. Sep2000;72(1-2): 331-336.
  17. Gurbuz I, Akyuz C, Yesilada E, et al. Anti-ulcerogenic Effect of Momordica charantia L. Fruits on Various Ulcer Models in Rats. J Ethnopharmacol. Jul2000;71(1-2): 77-82.
  18. Bourinbaiar AS, Lee-Huang S. Potentiation of Anti-HIV Activity of Anti-inflammatory Drugs, Dexamethasone and Indomethacin, by MAP30, the Antiviral Agent from Bitter Melon. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 17Mar1995;208(2): 779-785.
  19. S. Lee-Huang, et al. Inhibition of the Integrase of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Type 1 by Anti-HIV Plant Proteins MAP30 and GAP31. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Sept1995; 92(19): 8818-8822.
  20. Zheng YT, Ben KL, Jin SW. Alpha-momorcharin Inhibits HIV-1 Replication in Acutely But Not Chronically Infected T-lymphocytes. Chung Kuo Yao Li Hsueh Pao. Mar1999;20(3): 239-243.
  21. Liu Z. [Microtubule-associated Protein30 (MAP30) and Ubiquitin Detected in Neurofibrillary Tangles of Alzheimer's Disease Brains]. Hunan I Ko Ta Hsueh Hsueh Pao. 1998;23(1): 11-13.
  22. Lee-Huang S, Huang PL, Sun Y, et al. Inhibition of MDA-MB-231 Human Breast Tumor Xenografts and HER2 Expression by Anti-tumor Agents GAP31 and MAP30. Anticancer Res. Mar-Apr2000;20(2A): 653-659.
  23. A. Singh, et al. Momordica charantia (Bitter Gourd) Peel, Pulp, Seed and Whole Fruit Extract Inhibits Mouse Skin Papillomagenesis. Toxicol Lett. Jan1998;94(1):37-46.
  24. K. H. Tennekoon, et al. Effect of Momordica Charantia on Key Hepatic Enzymes. J Ethnopharmacol. Oct1994;44(2):93-97.
  25. S. O. Leung, et al. The Immunosuppressive Activities of Two Abortifacient Proteins Isolated From the Seeds of Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia).Immunopharmacology.Jun 1987;13(3): 159-171.