So many diabetics are hopeful that ampalaya can cure diabetes but to put the record straight, ampalaya cannot cure diabetes, it can only control the disease.
The scientific name of ampalaya is Momordica charantia. It is known as bitter gourd or bitter melon but in the Philippines, it is called ampalaya.
Ampalaya is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family where the squashes, gourds, and melons also belong. That is why it is called bitter melon or bitter gourd. It is considered one of the most bitter fruits which also have culinary benefits.
Ampalaya has that bitter taste due to the presence of momordicin, a substance that is sometimes referred to as plant insulin which gives ampalaya its blood-sugar-lowering properties.
A number of scientific studies on the effect of ampalaya on blood sugar levels have been done.
One of these studies is a 10-year trial undertaken by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD). The study compared ampalaya leaves with the anti-diabetes drug glibenclamide.
The study results showed that 100 milligrams per kilo dose per day of ampalaya could be equal to 2.8 milligrams of the anti-diabetes drug glibenclamide.
This means that the action of ampalaya on blood sugar could be the same to the action of gibenclamide.
Because of this study, the Philippine Department of Health (DoH) has raised the status of ampalaya from a nutritional supplement to a real medicine.
The clinical studies on the sugar lowering effect of ampalaya so far have been limited to its leaves which is either included in dishes or consumed in the form of teas, capsules, or tablets.
There are no conclusive studies on the effect of the ampalaya fruits and roots on blood sugar levels yet.
Home-made Recipe for Ampalaya Leaves Tea
Diabetics who wish to try ampalaya do not need to buy it in tablet, capsule or tea form. They can grow the plant or buy from the local markets to make their own ampalaya extract.
The Department of Health (DoH) suggests the following steps to prepare ampalaya extract:
- Wash and finely chop ampalaya leaves.
- Add six tablespoons of chopped leaves in two glasses of water.
- Boil the mixture for 15 minutes in uncovered pot.
- Cool down and strain.
- Drink 1/3 cup of the solution 3 times a day.
Ampalaya Fruit Nutritional Benefits
Though it is mostly used as a vegetable, ampalaya is not a vegetable but a fruit.
Ampalaya or bitter melons are low in calories but packed with nutrients. They are great sources of Vitamins B1, B2, B3, and C. They contain magnesium, manganese, zinc, folate, phosphorus, and they have high dietary fiber.
Ampalaya or bitter gourds are rich in iron and contain two times the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the potassium in bananas, and twice the calcium in spinach.
Bitter gourds contain charantin, a phyto-constituent which is confirmed to have a hypoglycemic effect. Also present in ampalaya is an insulin-like compound called polypeptide P.
Health Benefits of Ampalaya
Aside from being able to help control and manage diabetes, there are other health benefits of ampalaya that non-diabetics can take advantage of.
Below are some of the many health benefits of ampalaya:
It Can Boost Immunity
Ampalaya is an excellent source of antioxidants that can provide the body with a good defense mechanism against illness.
It Can Provide Relief from Hemorrhoids
There are studies showing that the anti-inflammatory properties of ampalaya help relieve the discomfort of hemorrhoids. A paste made from ampalaya root can be topically applied to reduce the inflammation and relieve the pain and bleeding.
Drinking ampalaya juice can reap the same benefits if you can take the bitter taste.
It Can Relieve Respiratory Conditions
A number of studies have found that ampalaya can provide relief from respiratory conditions like bronchitis, asthma, hay fever (rhinitis). Ampalaya has anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine, expectorant, suppressant, and antiviral properties which make it great help for respiratory health.
It is advised to consume ampalaya before bed to benefit from its soothing effects while you’re sleeping!
It Helps Treat Fungal Infections
Ampalaya has antifungal and antibacterial properties which make it ideal for treating fungal infections. It can also help purify the bloodstream of toxins which makes for a good skin health.
Ampalaya has been found useful in treating psoriasis and ringworm. Also, due to its anti-inflammatory qualities, it can help reduce itching associated with skin conditions and infections.
The juice extracted from ampalaya leaves can be used as salve or cure for these conditions by applying to the affected areas.
It Helps Prevent Cancer
There have been studies on bitter melon or ampalaya as anti-tumor and anti-carcinogenic agent.
Studies have shown positive correlations between eating bitter melon and the prevention or reduction in the growth of tumor for prostate, cervical, and breast cancer patients.
It seems that bitter melon has the ability to induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancerous cells.
However, more studies are being done to find out more about the potent anti-cancer properties that bitter melon or ampalaya seems to possess.