What is Karela? Karela’s common name in most countries is bitter gourd. The name Karela was used by Indians, as they also call it bitter melon, which is its English name.
Karela’s scientific name is Momordica Charantia. It actually originated in India and eventually carried to China during the 14th century. Indian’s Karela is edgier, rougher and smaller than those bitter melons that grow in China which is longer and its warts are smoother and shinier. Karela received different names such as bitter melon and bitter gourd for its English name; Goya for its Japanese name; and ampalaya for its Filipino name.
Most people think that Karela belongs to vegetables family, but in reality, it belongs to fruits family. You can see this fruit flourishing in tropic countries of Asia, Africa, and Caribbean.
The name bitter gourd or bitter melon was derived from its bitter taste trademark. Even though it has a bitter taste, people still admire this fruit and they even came up with different recipes that will stop you from thinking that this fruit has a bitter taste. Some recipes shift its bitter taste to sweet taste, making it more appealing to kids and even to adults that dislike its bitter taste.
Karela primarily grows in vines. It bears its fruits during the month of September and November. It has an oblong shape body with warty surface and better be eaten when the color is green. It starts to become soggy when it’s already turning yellow green and yellow. The fruit itself has watery properties, yet the taste is still bitter but of course bearable by anyone’s tastes buds.
Health Benefits of Bitter Melon (Karela)
Karela is not only used as an ingredient for cooking delicious delicacies, but it is also used for medical purposes. Most Asian countries and in African territory, Karela is used to treat some simple stomachache. They eat its fruit in raw and keeps on soaking it in either honey or olive oil.
Health Benefits of Bitter Melon (Karela) on Digestive System
Karela has antihelminthic or anthelmintic compounds. This property is used for the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases and can kill parasitic worms inside our body. In Togo, they used this fruit to naturally eliminate the worms inside their body. It can cure gastrointestinal diseases because it has compounds that can kill toxic substances that keep on killing the good bacteria inside of us.
Health Benefits of Bitter Melon (Karela) in Infections
Karela leaves are also used to cure some ailments. It can prevent malaria bacteria from growing. Well, as we all know, prevention is always better than cure. When you start to see the symptoms of malaria or if your doctor says that you have malaria, boil some Karela leaves and drink it like a tea. You can add garlic, salt, or small amount of sugar to even out the bitter taste of its leaves.
Karela tea is not only expert in killing malaria bacteria, but it can also weaken some viruses such as chickenpox, measles, herpes, and even HIV. It slows down the bacterial growth, and kills it after some time. Well, this might not be a friendly medicine for children because it doesn’t have a nice taste. What you need to do, deceive your child with sweet candies so that they’ll forget its taste.
It also has inflammatory characteristic. You can find this characteristic on its seed. Karela seeds are responsible in protecting your heart from any irregularities. It burns the unnecessary fats that keep on clogging in arteries and other veins. Seeds are better than the fruit and leaves, because it doesn’t have bitter taste.
Health Benefits of Bitter Melon (Karela) in Diabetes
Bitter melon is also one of the best remedies for diabetes. It has the ability to increase the insulin sensitivity in our body. The charantin compound of this fruit keeps the amount of glucose low, that’s why if you think that you are already experiencing hypoglycaemic, do not eat this fruit or its leaves. But if you are a certified diabetic, a regular intake of Karela will give you a better result. If you can’t stand its taste, you can find tablets of bitter melon in some drugstores that were labeled as food supplement and as treatment for diabetes.
Other Major Health Benefits of Bitter Melon (Karela)
Karela also has anti-cancer property. There are two compounds found on this plant, which are the a-eleostearic acid, that you can find in Karela seed, and the 15,16-dihydroxy-a-eleostearic acid, that you will find on its fruits. These compounds are good remedy for leukemia problem and some blood irregularities such as anemia. It helps in producing healthy red blood cells and balances the amount of white blood cells in our body. It also normalizes blood pressure.
Karela also has folates. Study actually shows that it has high amount of folates that helps in treating defective neural tubes which usually occurs during early pregnancy. So if you are a pregnant woman, do not forget to eat bitter melon once in a while.
It might be unbelievable but bitter melon also contains Vitamin-C. Vitamin C is good in eliminating free radicals. Free radicals are source of malignant cells, so help yourself in eating Vitamin-C rich food to avoid the production of free radicals in your body.
Bitter Melon (Karela) side effects
Even though Karela has a good reputation in treating some diseases, it also has side effects that you would never want to experience.
It can cause hypoglycaemia due to charantin present on it. If you’ll drink excessive Karela tea or eat too much bitter melon fruit you’ll experience this hypoglycaemia. Try to balance your diet and watch your bitter melon intake especially if you are not a hyperglycaemia patient.
If you do not have expertise on using bitter melon’s seed, do not try to eat it or do something about it. This is highly toxic, and might lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and can even cause coma to children. So, don’t let your kids eat its seed because it poisonous.
This is a real precaution to pregnant women: try to stay away from bitter melon or try to minimize your bitter melon intake; a small amount will not harm you anyway. Why? This is because bitter melon has a property that can cause abortion. It has monorcharins substance that might have side effect on the gravid uterus.