I found bitter gourd tea (also called bitter melon tea) in the Chinese supermarket, and I’d never heard of it before. I’m a big fan of Chinese teas and drink green or jasmine daily, both for the taste and the health benefits. The fact that this one claims to lower your blood sugar got me curious, so I had to try it. At £1.39 for the box it was a low-cost risk!
There’s an endless range of shady ‘health’ teas out there, with false claims about weight loss and detoxing. It’s about wading through the marketing claims to get to the facts. Whatever tea you choose, there isn’t a single tea bag in existence that is going to magically transform you into a svelte, fighting-fit specimen.
The right teas can however add numerous benefits to your health over a long-term period. For example, green tea, along with containing the highest concentration of polyphenols (antioxidants) of all the teas, contains thermogenic properties. Thermogenesis is the process of heat production, which in turn boosts your metabolism. Consuming green tea in large quantities can therefore contribute towards a more active metabolism, aiding weight loss & preventing weight gain.
Bitter Gourd Tea Health Benefits
So first of all, what exactly is a bitter gourd? Technically a fruit, but it looks like a cucumber’s ugly brother. It’s found in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean where it also goes by the name of bitter melon. It’s never become popular in the West, but in its native countries bitter gourd is eaten like any other vegetable. It’s a shame we don’t consume more of it, as bitter gourds are packed with interesting stuff. Along with all the vitamins and nutrients you’d expect to find in a fruit or vegetable, there are the chemicals which attribute themselves to lowering blood sugar. For the chemistry geeks, these go by the names of momordin and charantin. I won’t pretend to be an expert in how they do it, but these chemicals have a hypoglycaemic effect on your body (a decrease in blood sugar).
Lower Blood Sugar
Some readers may be thinking, “okay, bitter gourd lowers your blood sugar, so what?”. Well here comes the sciencey bit that I do know about! Sugar (glucose) is a key energy source for your body. Insulin regulates the levels of sugar in your blood by preventing the metabolism of fat (more energy) when blood sugar becomes too high. That’s right, when your blood sugar spikes your body stops burning fat! Lots of sugar tells your body that there is an excess of energy available and that no more is needed, so the insulin (also known as the fat-storing hormone) causes you to store fat, rather than burn it up. Helloooo weight gain!
This is precisely why sugary foods are far more harmful for weight loss than fatty foods. More successful weight loss comes from avoiding these spikes and where bitter gourd tea comes into play with its blood sugar lowering properties. It seems from research that a number of diabetes organisations and sufferers endorse bitter gourd tea as an aid to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
Here’s a quote from Diabetes.co.uk:
“In January 2011, the results of a four-week clinical trial were published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, which showed that a 2,000 mg daily dose of bitter melon significantly reduced blood glucose levels among patients with type 2 diabetes, although the hypoglycemic effect was less than a 1,000 mg/day dose of metformin.”
I’m going to be honest; it tastes weird. Not necessarily bad, it’s not repulsive, but at the same time it’s not in the slightest bit delicious. Imagine a kind of fousty roast dinner; that’s what bitter gourd tastes like. It is literally like drinking watered down stale gravy. Usually tea is something you associate with being sweet but this is very savoury. Remember, do not put sugar in this; it will completely cancel out the entire point of your drinking it!
Everything comes with a precaution nowadays. Whilst no one is expecting you to consult a doctor before making yourself a cuppa, bitter gourd tea does come with a few warnings. I suppose this is something reassuring as it’s further testimony to the effectiveness. I’ve read a number of warnings that you mustn’t guzzle loads of this tea as it runs the risk of lowering your blood sugar too much. Super low blood sugar is no one’s idea of a good time; a self-induced hangover without the fun part? No thank you! Stick to 1 or 2 cups per day.
I’ll give bitter gourd tea a fair trial and come back to you in the future on my final verdict! If you fancy buying some for yourself, you’ll locate it in most asian supermarkets, or your favourite online retailer.
- Antidiabetic effects of Momordica charantia (bitter melon) and its medicinal potency
- The MAP30 protein from bitter gourd (Momordica charantia) seeds promotes apoptosis in liver cancer cells in vitro and in vivo
- Anti-diabetic and hypoglycaemic effects of Momordica charantia (bitter melon): A mini review