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Nyanya lowers blood sugar, kills cancer cells in stomach

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By Prof Raphael Nyarkotey Obu

Momordica known as Nyanya in the Ghanaian parlance is known for its spiritual protection. It is a climbing or sprawling herb. It has different varieties.  For instance,

Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) has been traditionally used to treat diabetes. This is because it contains a chemical that acts like insulin to help reduce blood sugar levels, osteoarthritis, athletic performance, and many other conditions.

Bitter melon — also known as bitter gourd or Momordica charantia —also belongs to the gourd family and is closely related to zucchini, squash, pumpkin, and cucumber.

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It’s cultivated around the world for its edible fruit, which is considered a staple in many types of Asian cuisine.

The Chinese variety is typically long, pale green, and covered with wart-like bumps.

On the other hand, the Indian variety is more narrow and has pointed ends with rough, jagged spikes on the rind.

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In addition to its sharp flavor and distinct appearance, bitter melon has been associated with several impressive health benefits.

The Ghanaian variety is Momordica foetida.  The leaves have a bitter taste but are eaten in Gabon and Malawi. The fruit is edible and is consumed in various countries, including Ghana, Gabon, Sudan, and Tanganyika. The root is considered edible in Sudan.

One old study by Burkill, H. M. (1985) found that in Tanganika, young leaves are taken for stomachache and the root is considered a purgative. The Edo of Nigeria drinks leaf sap for intestinal disorders. The Igbo take it for iba ozi. In Gabon, the leaves are used as emetic and for enemas. The leaf is also used against roundworm

Also, the leaf sap is used to treat severe headaches and earache. In Malawi, headache is treated by binding the head with the plant stem.

In the Ivory Coast,  preparation of the leaves is used as an aphrodisiac and is taken by women as an emmenagogue and as childbirth helper. In Uganda, tea from leaves or roots is used as an abortifacient and an ecbolic.

In the Ivory Coast, a leaf decoction is used to treat smallpox. The root is used in Tanganyika to wash small children and mothers’ breasts. In South Africa, a root decoction with other plants is taken for boils.

The inflammation caused by the venom of the spitting cobra, (Naja nigrocollis) can be prevented by promptly rubbing the skin with crushed leaves and chewing them. The leaf sap is drunk to treat snakebite.

The leaf sap is used to stop nose bleeding. In Tanganyika, the young leaves are used to treat dropsy and malaria.

In Malawi, the fruit is used as bait to trap birds. In Gabon, leaves are soaked, dried in the sun, and used to stuff cushions. In Tanganyika, the fruit pulp is believed to be poisonous to weevils, moths, and ants and is used as an insect repellent. The plant’s presence is believed to be an indicator that the soil is appropriate for planting cocoa trees.


Like its relative M. charantia, the plant contains several bioactive compounds, including sitosteryl glucoside, 5,25-stigmastadien-3?-yl glucoside, and 1?-hydroxyfriedel-6-en-3-one, and several cucurbitane-type triterpenoid derivatives(Mulholland et al. 1997).

The US Department of Agriculture revealed that bitter melon for instance is a great source of several key nutrients. 100 grams of raw bitter melon provides:

·           Calories: 21

·           Carbs: 4 grams

·           Fiber: 2 grams

·           Vitamin C: 99% of the Daily Value (DV)

·           Vitamin A: 44% of the DV

·           Folate: 17% of the DV

·           Potassium: 8% of the DV

·           Zinc: 5% of the DV

·           Iron: 4% of the DV

One study by Abdullah et al.(2023) found that bitter melon is loaded with vitamin C.

Another study by Carazo et al.(2021) opined that it is also loaded with vitamins that promote good vision.

A more recent study by Merrell et al.(2023) also found that bitter melon has folate, an important ingredient for growth and development, and some traces of potassium, zinc, and iron.

A previous study by Alam et al.(2015) found that bitter melon has catechin, gallic acid, epicatechin, and chlorogenic acid,  — powerful antioxidant compounds that can help protect your cells against damage.  It is also high in fiber with low calories.

Blood sugar

Bitter Melon has long been used by indigenous people in the world to help treat diabetes. For instance, one study by Liu et al.(2021) confirmed the fruit’s role in blood sugar control management.

A previous 3-month human study by Cortez-Navarrete et al.(2018) in 24 adults with diabetes found that taking 2,000 mg of bitter melon daily reduced blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c, a test used to measure blood sugar control over three months.

A recent study by Gounden et al.(2023) in 40 people with diabetes found that taking 2,000 mg per day of bitter melon for 4 weeks had some decrease in blood sugar levels.

The ingredient drastically reduced levels of fructosamine, a short-term marker of long-term blood sugar control.

A previous study by Wilcox G. (2005) found that bitter melon improves how sugar deals with tissues and promotes the secretion of insulin, the hormone responsible for controlling blood sugar levels.

Cancer-fighting properties

one older test-tube study by Li et al.(2012) found that bitter melon extract kills cancer cells in the stomach, colon, lung, and nasopharynx — the area located behind the nose at the back of your throat.

 A more recent combined test-tube and animal study by Sur et al.(2020) also found that

bitter melon extract blocks the growth and spread of breast cancer cells and further promotes cancer cell death.

Decrease cholesterol levels

Kinoshita and Ogata(2018) study found that bitter melon could reduce cholesterol levels to improve general heart health. The same human study found that giving a water-soluble extract of bitter melon reduced the amount of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, compared to a placebo.

 Mohammadmoradi et al.(2020) study in mice found that bitter melon showed no effect in reducing cholesterol levels or the development of atherosclerosis.

High fiber

The US Department of Agriculture revealed that bitter melon is low in calories but high in fiber.

One study by Kwatra et al.(2016) showed that bitter melon further contains laxative abilities,  thus supporting digestion hence good for those battling constipation.


One study by Tsai et al.(2012) found that bitter melon in high quantity triggers diarrhea and abdominal pain.  Pregnant women are advised not to take bitter melon.

Because it lowers blood sugar, it should not be taken along with pharmaceutical drugs.

NB: Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups. My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.

The writer is a professor of naturopathic healthcare, a medical journalist, and a science writer. President, Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. E. mail: [email protected].  Visit-profnyarkotey.com for more.  

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