Bitter gourd, more commonly referred to as bitter melon, has a long history of use in Asia for a variety of conditions. One of the most common uses is to control blood sugar levels in diabetics. According to the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, evidence seems to indicate it can do just that, but more research is needed. You can take it in supplemental form or eat the actual fruit. Like pharmaceutical medications, natural substances contain components that can exert certain actions on the body and cause side effects. Anyone interested in taking natural supplements should consult with a knowledgeable health care provider.
Excessively Low Blood Sugar
Bitter melon has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics. Those who take medications to lower blood sugar and bitter melon at the same time might reduce blood sugar levels too much, according to WebMD. Like high blood sugar levels, excessively low levels can also cause complications.
People who have a deficiency of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) can develop a condition called favism if they consumer bitter melon seeds. This condition causes anemia, fever, headaches, stomach pain and coma in the most severe cases.
Toxicity in Children
Sloan-Kettering notes that the seed coverings of bitter melon, known as arils, can have toxic effects on children. It can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and even death.
Bitter melon consumption can increase the effects of insulin. Animal studies have indicated it can cause chemically-induced liver damage. Sloan-Kettering reports of a man suffering irregular heartbeats after ingesting two tablespoons of bitter melon juice several times a day. However the report does not indicate how long he was taking the supplement.
Warning for Pregnant Women
Pregnant women should not use bitter melon in any form. It can trigger contractions, and according to WebMD, animal studies indicate it can induce abortion. Breastfeeding women should also refrain from using bitter melon as it is not known whether it would have negative effects.