Herbal Ergogenics: Bitter Melon

strong guy curlingBitter Melon (Momordica charantia) is a fruiting vine growing in tropical climates. The fruit of the Bitter Melon plant has been used for many years in traditional medicine for a wide variety of purposes. The main uses of bitter melon in traditional medicine are to treat diabetes, to stimulate digestion and treat gastrointestinal problems, and to treat various skin problems.

Current research supports the use of Bitter Melon for diabetes. Bitter Melon has been shown to have effects mimicking those of insulin, and also to increase insulin sensitivity. These effects of Bitter Melon make it of benefit not only to diabetics and those with high blood glucose levels, but also to anyone that is looking to improve body composition or improve athletic performance. Using Bitter Melon before a carbohydrate containing meal should decrease the storage of carbohydrates as fat and increase the storage of carbohydrates as glycogen in the liver and skeletal muscle. This should lead to fuller muscles and improved performance along with less body fat accumulated when carbohydrate intake is high. Not only can Bitter Melon aid in the partitioning of carbohydrates, but it has actually been shown to stimulate lipolysis (fat breakdown) and inhibit lipogenesis (fat deposition) in humans, possibly by the regulation of certain genes associated with body fat storage as seen in rats. In addition to its effects on carbohydrate metabolism and body composition, Bitter Melon has also been shown to lower liver triglycerides.

Bitter Melon is generally safe and side effect free. However, taking too large of a dose or using Bitter Melon on a low carbohydrate diet could lead to hypoglycemia. Some users also report gastrointestinal discomfort with the use of Bitter Melon. Bitter Melon is included in many nutrient partitioning and blood glucose control supplements, and it may also be purchased on its own in capsules or as a powder.


1. Fuangchan A, Sonthisombat P, Seubnukarn T, Chanouan R, Chotchaisuwat P, Sirigulsatien V, Ingkaninan K, Plianbangchang P, & Haines ST. (2011). Hypoglycemic effect of bitter melon compared with metformin in newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 134(2), 422-8.

2. Nerurkar PV, Lee YK, & Nerurkar VR. (2010). Momordica charantia (bitter melon) inhibits primary human adipocyte differentiation by modulating adipogenic genes. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 10, 34.

3. Shih CC, Lin CH, Lin WL, & Wu JB. (2009). Momordica charantia extract on insulin resistance and the skeletal muscle GLUT4 protein in fructose-fed rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 123(1), 82-90.

4. Tan MJ, Ye JM, Turner N, Hohnen-Behrens C, Ke CQ, Tang CP, Chen T, Weiss HC, Gesing ER, Rowland A, James DE, & Ye Y. (2008). Antidiabetic activities of triterpenoids isolated from bitter melon associated with activation of the AMPK pathway. Chemistry & Biology. 15(3), 263-73.

5. Huang HL, Hong YW, Wong YH, Chen YN, Chyuan JH, Huang CJ, & Chao PM. (2008). Bitter melon (Momordica charantia L.) inhibits adipocyte hypertrophy and down regulates lipogenic gene expression in adipose tissue of diet-induced obese rats. The British Journal of Nutrition. 99(2), 230-9.

6. Senanayake GV, Maruyama M, Shibuya K, Sakono M, Fukuda N, Morishita T, Yukizaki C, Kawano M, & Ohta H. (2004). The effects of bitter melon (Momordica charantia) on serum and liver triglyceride levels in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 91(2-3), 257-62.

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