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What Are the Benefits of Ampalaya Tea?

By Janet Renee, MS, RD

Ampalaya, more commonly known as bitter melon, is the edible part of the Momordica charantia plant. This tropical vine grows in Asia and parts of the Caribbean and Africa, and tea made from the fruit and leaves has potential uses in herbal medicine. Check your local Asian markets for fresh and dried leaves or health food stores and online for commercial tea bags. If you plan to use ampalaya tea for therapeutic purposes, discuss it with your doctor first.

Glucose-Lowering Properties

Ampalaya tea contains an insulinlike peptide called charantin. Insulin is a peptide hormone that helps lower blood sugar by getting glucose into cells. Because of this property, researchers evaluated the potential of ampalaya to improve glucose control and published their findings in the February 2014 issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Among the data, they found that a tea made from ampalaya leaves significantly lowered HBA1c levels in patients with diabetes. HBA1c is a measurement of average glucose over a period of six to eight weeks.

Rich in Quercetin

Ampalaya tea is rich in quercetin, a flavonoid compound with antioxidant activity. Quercetin, like other antioxidants, scavenges damaging molecules called free radicals to help protect your cells. Free radical damage is linked to chronic diseases and the aging process. In addition, quercetin has anti-inflammatory properties and may protect against conditions like heart disease and cancer, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Quercetin has antihistamine properties as well. Histamine is a substance found in your body that plays a role in the immune response to allergens.

Lipid-Lowering Properties

The American Journal of Health System Pharmacy published a full review in February 2003 of the potential effectiveness of ampalaya in various forms, including tea. Among the potential benefits cited, ampalaya tea contains constituents with lipid-lowering activity. Animal and test tube data suggest ampalaya tea helps lower cholesterol and body weight. Scientists aren't yet sure of the exact mechanism responsible for this effect, and currently there are no available studies that have evaluated these effects on humans.

Side Effects

According to the American Journal of Health System Pharmacy review, some people drinking ampalaya tea or taking ampalaya extracts have reported hypoglycemia, which is when blood sugar drops below normal. Avoid drinking ampalaya tea if you have liver issues because case reports suggest it's unsafe if you have liver problems or take medication that affects your liver. Drinking ampalaya tea may cause mild, temporary gastrointestinal side effects such as abdominal discomfort, bloating and diarrhea.

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