Bitter Melon: Health Benefits, Recipes & Side Effects

Bitter melon is a medicinal plant with a healing and antimicrobial effect. It is often used to treat skin conditions, like insect bites, wounds, eczema or allergic reactions from medications, plants or cleaning products. 

This medicinal plant is scientifically referred to as Momordica charantia and also has a hypoglycemic effect. It can be taken in tea form to complement the treatment of diabetes. 

Bitter melon is generally found at local markets or natural health stores. It has a bitter taste and can be added to juices, meals or salads. The leaves of this plant can be used to prepare teas or wound dressings. It is also available in capsule form.

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Health benefits 

Bitter melon contains healing, anti-rheumatic, hypoglycemic, antibiotic, antiviral, antidiabetic and astringent properties. Therefore, it can be used for: 

  • Regulating blood sugar levels to manage diabetes
  • Helping to treat skin conditions, like wounds and eczema
  • Relieving insect bites 
  • Helping to treat constipation 

Bitter melon is also beneficial for detoxifying. It can help to eliminate toxins in the body through the urine, feces or sweat that come from prolonged medication use or overeating. 

How to take

Bitter melon can be consumed and added to recipes for juices, salads, stir-fried or pickled plants. The leaves can be used to prepare tea or wound dressings that are applied directly to the skin.

1. Bitter melon tea

Bitter melon tea can be used to complement the treatment of diabetes as well as combat a parasitic gut infection.


  • 1 tablespoon of bitter melon leaves 
  • 1 cup of boiling water 

How to prepare

Soak the bitter melon leaves in the cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Then strain and drink 2 to 3 cups per day for a maximum of 8 weeks, as directed by your doctor or a medicinal plant specialist. 

Bitter melon tea can also be used on dressings to be applied on wounds, hives or eczema. 

2. Bitter melon capsules 

Bitter melon can also be purchased in capsule form at pharmacies. They are prepared with dried bitter melon extract. 

Dosing varies depending on the amount of bitter melon in the capsule formulation and is individualized to each person. Therefore, you should only take bitter melon capsules as directed by a doctor or medicinal plant specialist.  

Possible side effects

Bitter melon can cause side effects like abdominal pain, stomach discomfort, gastric ulcers, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, palpitations, nephritis or vaginal bleeding. 

When consumed as tea or capsules, bitter melon can greatly reduce blood sugar levels and cause hypoglycemia. This will usually spark symptoms like tremors, weakness, cold sweats, blurry vision, palpitations, chest pain, anxiety, mental confusion, difficulty speaking and drowsiness. 

Hypoglycemia can almost always be reversed by immediately consuming sugar or glucose. Severe hypoglycemia can lead to symptoms like seizures, fainting or even a coma, and should therefore be assessed immediately in a hospital setting. 


Bitter melon should not be used by pregnant women, as it can cause uterine contractions and miscarriage. This medicinal plant should not be taken by children, breastfeeding women, or people with a history chronic diarrhea, liver problems or a glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase enzyme deficiency.  

Patients who take insulin or diabetes medication should consult their doctor before taking bitter melon, as this plant can interfere with medication action and cause hypoglycemia. 

You should only consume bitter melon as directed by your doctor or a medicinal plant specialist.