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As a widely eaten food in Asia, bitter melon is often regarded as safe. However, it does appear to present some health risks. The most significant of these comes from the fact that it may work! Combining bitter melon with standard drugs may reduce blood sugar too well, possibly leading to dangerously low blood sugar levels. 1 In fact, there are case reports of two children with diabetes who went into hypoglycemic coma after taking bitter melon. 2 For this reason, if you already take drugs for diabetes, you should add bitter melon to your diet only with a physician's supervision. (And definitely don't stop your medication and substitute bitter melon instead. It is not as powerful as insulin or other conventional treatments.)
Other possible risks include impaired fertility, liver inflammation, and spontaneous abortion. 3 Safety in young children, nursing women, or those with severe kidney disease has not been established.
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are taking:
- Medications to reduce blood sugar : Bitter melon might amplify the effect, and you may need to reduce your dose of medication.
- Leatherdale BA, Panesar RK, Singh G, et al. Improvement in glucose tolerance due to Momordica charantia (karela). Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1981;282:1823-1824.
- Hulin A, Wavelet M, Desbordes JM. Intoxication with Mormordica charantia (sorossi). A report of two cases. Sem Hop. 1988;64:2847-2848.
- Basch E, Gabardi S, Ulbricht C. Bitter melon ( Momordica charantia ): a review of efficacy and safety. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2003;60:356-359.