Family Cucurbitaceae

Habitat ► Cultivated all over India for its fruits.

Momordica charantia Linn.

English ► Bitter Gourd, Blsam Pear, Carilla.

Ayurvedic ► Kaaravellaka, Kaaravella, Kaathilla, Sushaavi.

Siddha/Tamil ► Paakal, Paharkai.

Action ► Seed/fruit—improves diabetic condition. Fruit—stomachic, laxative, antibilious, emetic, anthelmintic. Used in cough, respiratory diseases, intestinal worms, skin diseases, also for gout and rheumatism. Powdered fruit—applied to wounds and ulcers. Leaf— emetic, antibilious, purgative. Fruit, leaf and root—abortifacient. Leaf and seed—anthelmintic. Root— astringent; appled to haemorrhoids.

Immature fruits gave several nonbitter and bitter momordicosides. Fruits, seeds and tissue culture gave a polypeptide containing amino acids. Fruits also gave 5-hydroxytryptamine, charantin (a steroidal glucoside), dios-genin, cholesterol, lanosterol and beta-sitosterol. Bitter principles are cucur-bitacin glycosides.

Hypoglycaemic effects of the fruit have been demonstrated by blood tests in both humans and animal studies.

Researchers have warned that the fruit extract leads to a false negative test for sugar in the urine (due to its ability to maintain the indicator dye in the glucose oxidase strips and the alkaline copper salts in a reduced state).

Chronic administration of the fruit extract (1.75 g/day for 60 days) to dogs led to testicular lesions with mass atrophy of the spermatogenic elements. The extract reduced the testicular con tent of RNA, protein and sialic acid as also the acid-phosphatase activity. (Medicinal Plants of India, Vol. 2,1987, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi.)

The fruits and seeds yielded a poly-peptide, p-insulin, which was considered similar to bovine insulin. (Fitoter-apia, 60,1989; Chem Abstr 112,1990.)

The seed and fruit contain an inhibitor of HIV, MAP-30 (Momordi-ca anti-HIV-protein) which exhibited antiviral and antitumour activity in vitro. (Chem Abstr, 113, 1990; ibid, 117, 1992.) Another protein, MRK-29, found in the seed and fruit of a smaller var. of Bitter Gourd found in Thailand, was found to inhibit HIV reverse transcriptase and to increase tumour necrosis factor (TNF). (Planta Med, 67, 2001; Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 2007.)

The seeds yield alpha-and beta-momorcharins (glycoproteins). When these glycoproteins were co-cultured with isolated hepatocytes, morphological changes in hepatocytes were observed, indicating hepatotoxicity. Another principle with antilipolytic and lipogenic activities, found along with the alpha-and beta-momorcharin in the seed extract, did not show toxic effect.

Vicine is the hypoglycaemic constituent in the seed. Pure vicine has been found to possess 32.6% hypogly-caemic activity as against 22.2% shown by fresh juice, when tested on albino rats. The vicine is non-haemolytic.

Dosage ► Fresh fruit—10-15 ml juice (API, Vol. II); 10-20 ml juice

420 Momordica cochinchinensis Spreng.

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