Bitter Melon or Ampalaya

Ampalaya is a vegetable grown throughout the Philippines. It is mostly cultivated, although wild forms can be found.. As the English name suggests (bitter melon), the melon has a bitter taste due to the presence of momordicin. There has been much research done on the effectiveness of using Momordica Charantia in the treatment of diabetes. It has been shown to increase production of beta cells by the pancreas, thereby improving the body’s ability to produce insulin. It has been recommended by the Department of Health of the Philippines, as one of the best herbal medicines for it's ability to help with liver problems, Diabetes and HIV. The truth is, it is considered medicinal by many native herbolarios. In folk medicine, the bitter this vegetable is, the more medicinal value it has. We were always reminded during elementary grades to eat our ampalaya because it is rich in iron. It probably is. It's really an ugly looking vegetable and considered an acquired taste because of its bitterness. The smaller (or more elongate) and greener variety is more bitter than the larger (or plumper) pale green ones that are usually found in Asian-American markets (see picture). It is a common herb used in Chinese herbology. In the Philippines, the leaves are often used for children's coughs. It is also used in the treatment of skin diseases, sterility in women, as a parasiticide, as an antipyretic, and as a purgative.