Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is a fruit that grows in tropical regions of Asia, Africa and some parts of the Caribbean. Popular as an edible food, bitter melon extract has shown some surprising benefits in treating cancer, in mice models.
A professor from the Saint Louis University, Ranta Ray and her colleagues have recently completed their research worked on the bitter melon extract and found intriguing results. In these experiments on mice, bitter melon extract proved to be effective for preventing tumors from further spreading and growing.
The findings of this latest research are published in the journal Cell Communication and Signaling.
Bitter melon or bitter gourd has been used as a traditional remedy for over centuries. Currently, supplements of the bitter melon extract are gaining popularity as an alternative treatment for diabetes.
Bitter melon which is also known as the bitter gourd is a relative of zucchini and cucumber. It originated in the South Indian state of Kerala. Later it became more outspread when China first import the bitter melon in the 14th century. It is further spread to the areas of the Caribbean and Africa.
This fruit is a staple of some Asian cuisines adding a unique flavor to the local dishes through specific bitterness.
The professor said that natural products play an important role in the development and discovery of numerous drugs for the treatment of different deadly diseases which includes cancer. That’s why the use of such natural products as a preventive measure is becoming more important.
Bitter melon is an ancient Indian remedy and Prof. Ray also grew up in India so she was aware of the culinary qualities and medicinal properties of bitter melon. Its medicinal properties made her curious to know whether bitter melon also has anticancer properties which would prove it an effective cancer treatment. She decided to test bitter melon in a preliminary study by using them for different types of cancer including prostate, breast and head and neck cancer cells.
The reports of Laboratory tests have shown that bitter melon extract stopped the replication of those cancerous cells which suggested that bitter melon might be effective for the prevention of cancer spread.
In other experiments including mouse models, the scientists found that plant extracts were able to reduce the occurrence of tongue cancer.
The researchers conducted experiments using a mouse model to know the mechanism by which melon extract interacts with the cancerous tumors of tongue and mouth.
They find that the bitter melon extract interacted with those molecules that allow fast and simple sugars like glucose to travel throughout the body and also in some cases feeding cancerous cells and allowing them to survive. Bitter melon interfered with the pathways and stopped the growth of cancer tumors and even causes the death of some cancerous cells.
Ray shared that experiments in animal cells also gave the exact results and showed almost 50% reductions in cancerous cells. The researchers are now aimed to know the effects of bitter melon in humans also.
Ray also said that they are focused to conduct a pilot study and it is their next step to see the clinical benefits of bitter melons in humans. The professor said that instead of an apple, people should take a bitter melon daily.