Ampalaya is the indigenous name of Bitter Melon or Momordica charantia Linn., a vegetable native to the Philippines and Southeast Asia, known for its bitter taste.
A popular vegetable often grown by many households around the world, the Ampalaya vine can grow up to 5 meters and its leaves can reach to about 4 to 10 cm. Its yellow flowers are both “male” and “female” and are responsible for what makes the Ampalaya vine famous – the melons.
The Ampalaya fruit is usually eaten while still green, because as the fruit ripens its taste grows more bitter and much less tasty. During preparation, the seeds, which turn from white to red over time, are removed. Removing the seeds helps to lessen the bitterness. The skin is retained and proves to be soft and tender once cooked.
Used as a regular vegetable ingredient for many Asian dishes, the Ampalaya is also significant for its well-documented blood sugar-lowering effect. Aside from being rich in fiber and nutrients such as iron and potassium, several key compounds have been identified in the fruit, notably charantin, vicine and polypeptide-p, a known plant insulin that numerous pre-clinical studies and limited clinical trials have attributed to the plant’s beneficial effects to blood sugar. Several supplements for diabetics have been developed using the Ampalaya, most notably an Ampalaya tea and capsules using the dried Ampalaya fruit.
As diabetes continues to rapidly spread across countries and social strata, the Ampalaya is expected to provide diabetics with a safe and natural alternative to help control their elevated sugar levels. While the herb is still rare in countries where it is not indigenous, expect the Ampalaya and Ampalaya-based products to start gracing local grocery shelves as more and more people realize its potential anti-diabetes use.
Bitter melon has many documented health benefits – get some today and try it for yourself!