Momordica is a genus of about 45 species of annual or perennial climbing herbaceous or shrubby plants belonging to the family Cucurbitaceae, natives of tropical and subtropical Africa and Asia and Australia. Most species produce floral oils and are visited by specialist pollinators in the apid group Ctenoplectrini.
Momordica charantia [ku gua 苦瓜] is native to Africa but has been used in Chinese folk medicine for centuries as a 'bitter, cold' herb, and has recently been brought into mainstream Chinese medicine as well as natural medical traditions around the world. Recent research has shown that the immature fruit might have some antibiotic, anticancer, and antiviral properties, particularly well suited for use in treatment of malaria, HIV, and diabetic conditions (the use of Momordica fruit is contraindicated in a number of conditions, especially pregnancy - all Chinese medicinals should be used only under the supervision of a trained herbalist of Traditional Chinese Medicine).
The effect of Momordica charantia on glucose and insulin concentrations was studied in nine non-insulin-dependent diabetics and six non-diabetic rats. These results show that it might improve glucose tolerance in diabetes but much more research is needed. Doctors supervising Asian diabetics should be aware of the fruit's hypoglycemic properties.
The leaves and seeds have additional medical applications. Selected species