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.
- 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,
- Fruit considered tonic and stomachic.
Leaves, roots and fruits.
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
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.
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).
• Analgesic / Cholinomimetic: A methanol
leaf extract study of Mormodica charantia in rodents suggested cholinomimetic
and analgesic activities. (1)
• 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. (2)
• 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. (3)
• 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. (4)
• 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
• Antidiabetic / Estrous Cyclicity Effect: Study results suggest the antidiabetic potential of MC and AP
could restore the impaired estrous cycle in alloxan-induced diabetic
• Antidiabetic / Saponins: Study
showed the saponin constituents extracted from MC induced significant
hypoglycemic activity in hyperglycemic and normal mice. (8)
• Anxiolytic / Antidepressant / Antiinflammatory: Study of methanol extract of dried leaves of MC showed significant
anxiolytic activity and antidepressant and antiinflammatory activities. (9)
• 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. (12)
• 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. (15)
• 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.(19)
• 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. (18)
• 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. (22)
• 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. (23)
• 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. (24)
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. (25)
• 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. (26)
• 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. (27)
• 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. (28)
Study showed antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus niger, and Candida albicans. Phytochemicals identified included steroids, tannins, alkaloids, anthraquinones, flavonoids, and terpenoids. (29)
• 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. (30)
- Perennial vegetable market produce.
- Tablet and capsule formulations in the cybermarket.