Balsam pear

Chinese Name: Ku gua
Medical Name: Fructus Momordicae charantia
Latin Name: Momordica charantia
Property: Cold
Taste: Bitter

Quotes from Chinese historical sources

ZHEN NAN MANUAL OF HERBS, 1436 "Dispels summer heat, promotes feelings of ease and energy, quenches thirst."

Western Research

Cytokine. 2009 Feb 13
Induction of hepatocyte growth factor production in human dermal fibroblasts and their proliferation by the extract of bitter melon pulp
Ono T, Tsuji T, Sakai M, Yukizaki C, Ino H, Akagi I, Hiramatsu K, Matsumoto Y, Sugiura Y, Uto H, Tsubouchi H, Gohda E.
Department of Immunochemistry, Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tsushima-naka, Okayama 700-8530, Japan
Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) is useful as a potential therapeutic agent for hepatic and renal fibrosis and cardiovascular diseases through inducing proliferation of epithelial and endothelial cells. HGF inducers may also be useful as therapeutic agents for these diseases. However, there have been no reports on induction of HGF production by plant extracts or juices. An extract of bitter melon (Momordica charantia L.) pulp markedly induced HGF production. There was a time lag of 72h before induction of HGF production after the extract addition. Its stimulatory effect was accompanied by upregulation of HGF gene expression. Increases in mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) were observed from 72h after the extract addition. Inhibitors of MAPKs suppressed the extract-induced HGF production. The extract also stimulated cell proliferation. Both activities for induction of HGF production and cell proliferation were eluted together in a single peak with 14,000Da on gel filtration. The results indicate that bitter melon pulp extract induced HGF production and cell proliferation of human dermal fibroblasts and suggest that activation of MAPKs is involved in the HGF induction. Our findings suggest potential usefulness of the extract for tissue regeneration and provide an insight into the molecular mechanism underlying the wound-healing property of bitter melon.

Immunol Lett. 2008 Dec 22;121(2):148-56
Characterization of lectin isolated from Momordica charantia seed as a B cell activator
Huang L, Adachi T, Shimizu Y, Goto Y, Toyama J, Tanaka H, Akashi R, Sawaguchi A, Iwata H, Haga T.
Department of Veterinary Microbiology, University of Miyazaki, Miyazaki 889-2192, Japan.
Lectin isolated from the seeds of Momordica charantia (MCL) is a galactose-specific glycoprotein. To investigate the effects of MCL on cell activation, we analyzed the responses of BALB/c splenocytes, thymocytes, T cells and B cells on MCL stimulation. Proliferation assays showed that MCL selectively stimulates the B cell subset of splenocytes (p<0.05) in a dose and time dependent manner and that this activation proceeds without the involvement of T cells. Flow cytometric analysis revealed that the fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-labeled MCL binds to B cells, which was inhibited by specific sugars, including galactose. Mouse immunoglobulin (Ig) was able to inhibit MCL-induced proliferation of mouse B cells, suggesting MCL stimulates B cell activation via membrane Ig in the B cell surface. Moreover, after 96-h co-culture, MCL triggered splenocytes to produce a large amount of non-specific IgM in culture supernatants (p<0.01). Additionally, MCL was shown to up-regulate the cell activation marker CD86, in a B cell subpopulation distinct from that affected by LPS. These data suggest that MCL is a T cell-independent B cell activator and a polyclonal Ig inducer, and provide further information on the immunomodulatory effect of MCL.

Nat Prod Res. 2008;22(13):1112-9
Hypoglycaemic activity of saponin fraction extracted from Momordica charantia in PEG/salt aqueous two-phase systems.
Han C, Hui Q, Wang Y.
School of Pharmacy, Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Jinan, PR China. sdscipaper@126.com
Momordica charantia (family, Cucurbitaceae), commonly known as karela or bitter melon (Japanese name 'Tsurureishi'), is used as a folk medicine in China, the Indian subcontinent and South America. In Chinese traditional medicine, the plant is usually used as a hypoglycaemic and anti-diabetic agent. The hypoglycaemic activity of saponin fraction (SF) extracted from M. charantia in PEG/salt aqueous two-phase systems was studied in this article. Alloxan-induced hyperglycaemic mice were used in the study. The blood glucose, insulin secretion, glycogen synthesis and the body weight of the mice were analysed. At the same time, the sugar tolerance of the normal mice was also determined. After the mice were administered (i.g.) with SF (500 mg kg(-1)), the blood glucose of alloxan-induced hyperglycaemic mice decreased (p < 0.05), the level of insulin secretion and glycogen synthesis of alloxan-induced hyperglycaemic mice elevated (p < 0.05, p < 0.01) and the sugar tolerance of the normal mice was improved. Also, the body weight of the alloxan-induced hyperglycaemic mice was increased gradually. The saponin constituents extracted from M. charantia in an aqueous two-phase extraction system induced significant hypoglycaemic activity in hyperglycaemic and normal mice.

J Environ Biol. 2008 Jan;29(1):101-6
Effects of alcoholic extract of Momordica charantia (Linn.) whole fruit powder on the pancreatic islets of alloxan diabetic albino rats
Singh N, Gupta M, Sirohi P, Varsha
Environmental Endocrinology and Bio-medical Research Unit, Department of Zoology, Meerut College, Meerut 250 003, India. n27singh@yahoo.com
Alcoholic extract of whole fruit of Momordica charantia was prepared. Adult healthy albino rats were divided into four groups and received a dose of 6 mg/l00 gm. body weight of alloxan monohydrate. Animals of group I served as diabetic control group. The animals of II, III, and IV groups received 25 mg, 50 mg and 75 mg doses of the extract respectively for different durations. 75 mg dose showed increase in body weight. All doses of alcoholic extract of M. charantia were able to decrease the blood sugar level significantly. Extract feeding showed definite improvement in the islets of Langerhans. No toxic effect was observed in the liver The significant features of the study have been blood glucose once lowered by the treatment with M. charantia fruit extract remained static even after discontinuation of drug for 15 days. Blood sugar never fell below normal values even with a high dose, in pancreatic islets, beta cells showed definite improvement.

Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2008 Aug;81(2):134-43
Effects of Momordica charantia on insulin resistance and visceral obesity in mice on high-fat diet.
Shih CC, Lin CH, Lin WL.
Department of Nursing, College of Nursing, Central Taiwan University of Science and Technology, 11, Po-Tze Lane, Takun, Taichung, Taiwan, ROC. ccshih@ctust.edu.tw
We examined the preventive effect of Momordica charantia L. fruit (bitter melon) on hyperglycemia and insulin resistance in C57BL/6J mice fed with a high-fat (HF) diet. Firstly, mice were divided randomly into two groups: the control group was fed low-fat (LF) diet, whereas the experimental group was fed with a 45% HF diet last for 12 weeks. After 8 week of induction, the HF group was subdivided into six groups and was given orally with or without M. charantia or rosiglitazone 4 weeks afterward. We demonstrated that bitter melon was effective in ameliorating the HF diet-induced hyperglycemia, hyperleptinemia, and decreased the levels of blood glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and free fatty acid (FFA) (P<0.01, P<0.05, P<0.05, respectively), whereas increased the adipose PPARgamma and liver PPARalpha mRNA levels. Additionally, bitter melon significantly decreased the weights of epididymal white adipose tissue and visceral fat, and decreased the adipose leptin and resistin mRNA levels. It is tempting to speculate that at least a portion of bitter melon effects is due to be through PPARgamma-mediated pathways, resulting in lowering glucose levels and improving insulin resistance, and partly be through PPARalpha-mediated pathways to improve plasma lipid profiles. This is the first report demonstrating that bitter melon, is a food factor, but not a medicine, itself could influence dual PPARalpha/PPARgamma expression and the mediated gene expression, is effective in ameliorating insulin resistance and visceral obesity.

J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Jun 11;56(11):4004-11
Bitter gourd suppresses lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammatory responses.
Kobori M, Nakayama H, Fukushima K, Ohnishi-Kameyama M, Ono H, Fukushima T, Akimoto Y, Masumoto S, Yukizaki C, Hoshi Y, Deguchi T, Yoshida M.
National Food Research Institute, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8642, Japan. kobori@affrc.go.jp
Bitter gourd ( Momordica charantia L.) is a popular tropical vegetable in Asian countries. Previously it was shown that bitter gourd placenta extract suppressed lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced TNFalpha production in RAW 264.7 macrophage-like cells. Here it is shown that the butanol-soluble fraction of bitter gourd placenta extract strongly suppresses LPS-induced TNFalpha production in RAW 264.7 cells. Gene expression analysis using a fibrous DNA microarray showed that the bitter gourd butanol fraction suppressed expression of various LPS-induced inflammatory genes, such as those for TNF, IL1alpha, IL1beta, G1p2, and Ccl5. The butanol fraction significantly suppressed NFkappaB DNA binding activity and phosphorylation of p38, JNK, and ERK MAPKs. Components in the active fraction from bitter gourd were identified as 1-alpha-linolenoyl-lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC), 2-alpha-linolenoyl-LPC, 1-lynoleoyl-LPC, and 2-linoleoyl-LPC. Purified 1-alpha-linolenoyl-LPC and 1-linoleoyl-LPC suppressed the LPS-induced TNFalpha production of RAW 264.7 cells at a concentration of 10 microg/mL.

Br J Nutr. 2008 Oct;100(4):751-9.
Momordica charantia (bitter melon) reduces plasma apolipoprotein B-100 and increases hepatic insulin receptor substrate and phosphoinositide-3 kinase interactions.
Nerurkar PV, Lee YK, Motosue M, Adeli K, Nerurkar VR.
Laboratory of Metabolic Disorders and Alternative Medicine, Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96816, USA. pratibha@hawaii.edu
Aqueous extracts or juice from unripened fruit of Momordica charantia (bitter melon) has traditionally been used in the treatment of diabetes and its complications. Insulin resistance is characterized by significant down-regulation of hepatic insulin signalling as documented by attenuated phosphorylation of insulin receptor (IR), IR substrates 1 and 2, phosphoinositide-3 kinase, protein kinase B, and over-expression of phosphotyrosine phosphatase 1B. We recently demonstrated that bitter melon juice (BMJ) is a potent inhibitor of apoB secretion and TAG synthesis and secretion in human hepatoma cells, HepG2, that may be involved in plasma lipid- and VLDL-lowering effects observed in animal studies. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of BMJ on plasma apoB levels and hepatic insulin signalling cascade in mice fed high-fat diet (HFD). Female C57BL/6 mice (4-6 weeks old) were randomized into three groups receiving regular rodent chow, HFD and HFD+BMJ. The data indicate that BMJ not only improves glucose and insulin tolerance but also lowers plasma apoB-100 and apoB-48 in HFD-fed mice as well as modulates the phosphorylation status of IR and its downstream signalling molecules. Investigating the biochemical and molecular mechanisms involved in amelioration of diabetic dyslipidaemia by BMJ may lead to identification of new molecular targets for dietary/alternative therapies.

Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007 Mar;71(3):735-40
Inhibition of increases in blood glucose and serum neutral fat by Momordica charantia saponin fraction.
Oishi Y, Sakamoto T, Udagawa H, Taniguchi H, Kobayashi-Hattori K, Ozawa Y, Takita T.
Department of Nutritional Science, Faculty of Applied Bioscience, Tokyo University of Agriculture, Sakuragaoka, Tokyo, Japan.
Focusing on a functional component of Momordica charantia, saponin, we investigated its effects on serum glucose and neutral fat levels. Saponin was extracted as a butanol-soluble fraction (saponin fraction) from hot blast-dried Momordica charantia powder. The disaccharidase-inhibitory activity and the pancreatic lipase-inhibitory activity of the saponin fraction were measured, and in vivo sugar- and lipid-loading tests were performed. The saponin fraction inhibited disaccharidase activity and elevation of the blood glucose level after sucrose loading. The fraction also markedly inhibited pancreatic lipase activity and elevation of the serum neutral fat level after corn oil loading. Based on these findings, the main active component related to the anti-diabetic effect of Momordica charantia is present in the butanol fraction, and it may be saponin. The blood glucose and serum neutral fat-lowering effects of Momordica charantia were closely associated with its inhibitory activity against disaccharidase and pancreatic lipase.

J Herb Pharmacother. 2006;6(3-4):105-15
Wound-healing property of Momordica charantia L. fruit powder.
Prasad V, Jain V, Girish D, Dorle AK.
Department of Pharmaceutics, Central Drug Research Institute, Chattar Manzil Palace, Lucknow, India. vureprasad@yahoo.com
Momordica charantia Linn. fruit powder, in the form of an ointment (10% w/w dried powder in simple ointment base), was evaluated for wound-healing potential in an excision, incision and dead space wound model in rats. The rats were divided into three groups of control, treatment and reference in all three wound models, each group consisting of six rats. Wound-contraction ability in excision wound mode was measured at different time intervals on days 4, 8, 10, 12 and 14 , and the study was continued until the wound had completely healed. Tensile strength was measured in 10-day-old incision and granuloma wound. Histological studies were performed on 10-day-old sections of regenerated tissue. Powder ointment showed a statistically significant response (P < 0.01), in terms of wound-contracting ability, wound closure time, period of epithelization, tensile strength of the wound and regeneration of tissues at wound site when compared with the control group, and these results were comparable to those of a reference drug povidone iodine ointment.