Every so often we get this herb that grows like weed in our garden. Usually when the season's up for one of the fruits or greens that we're growing, it then grows in its place. Most people kill it with weed killer or pull it from the roots. However, we like to take the opportunity to make use of what mother nature has put in place for us; to use this magical herb while it's there.
Momordica Charantia also known as Cerasee, really doesn't get enough respect. Known for its extreme bitterness it is very popular in Jamaica and the West Indies. It is native to Africa and the Middle East, but can now be found growing abundantly wild all over the world. Although very bitter, this herb was mostly used by the elders in soups and stews which made it much easier to consume than in tea form for those who can't quite tolerate it's taste.
Cerasee is used to cleanse the body and blood, but also known to remedy stomachaches, digestive problems, inflammation, colitis, colds, flu, cancer, liver problems and a host of other ailments. It relieves menstrual cramps and constipation, treats fevers, urinary tract infections, malaria and hypertension. It is recommended for almost everything! A recent study found that the compound extract, kuguaglycoside C, found in the leaves of cerasee killed cancer cells of the nerve tissue (neuroblastoma) in only 48 hours! Another compound called DMC kills breast cancer tumor cells and other extracts were found to help kill liver cancer cells and fight hepatitis B.
Young children growing up are often given this anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic herb in tea form with a little honey to detoxify, de-worm and purge (wash out) the body before the new school year. It can also be used topically by just squeezing and rubbing the leaves and vines together to extract the liquid. Mashed and used as a poultice it is applied to the skin to alleviate, reduce and even reverse skin problems such as eczema, rashes, psoriasis and sores. Elders often crushed the vines and leaves and add it to what they call bush baths to help beautify the skin and aid in ridding of any skin problems.
University of the West Indies' Dr. Sylvia Mitchel stated that the bitter melon "is a powerful weapon against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as it contains a series of proteins, dubbed the momorcharins, which have anti-HIV activity. Research has shown that momorcharin can block both the infection of cells by HIV and inhibit HIV replication. A juice extract of cerasee, taken over time is being tested as part of the integrative treatment.”
People have been using cerasee for ages in treating diabetes but people have warned not to consume for more than nine days. There have been experts who have proclaimed cerasee should not be taken due to their claim that it masks the true sugar content in the blood, thus giving false readings of lower blood sugar levels. However, studies have shown regular use of the bitter melon juice clinically demonstrated blood lowering and normalizing properties. It is said that the active ingredient charantin is more powerful than the drug tolbutamide which is sometimes used in lowering blood sugar levels in patients diagnosed with diabetes.
This climbing herb wraps its vines around anything in close contact and produces beautiful small yellow flowers. These flowers will than produce a fruit known as bitter melon. The fruit starts out green in color and ripens to a vibrant yellow. Left long enough, the pod will ripen to an orange color and eventually open on it's own exposing its bright red seeds.
Like the leaves and vines the fruit contains much of the same healing properties. Bitter melon stimulates digestion, aids in reversing diabetes and contains valuable enzymes and minerals such as vitamins A and C, phosphorous and iron.
This healing herb doesn't get much credit but contributes quite greatly to improving and maintaining ones health. As we continue to detach from the land we will continue to see a rise in sickness and disease. Cerasee has been using for centuries. Ancestors past this traditional use of the herb down to our elders and they to us. As mentioned earlier, our elders would incorporate it in stews and soups which isn't practiced much in recent times. It can be found in many West Indian and Caribbean supermarkets in tea bags or you can snip off more than a handful of fresh vine and leaves per cup of distilled water. Be sure to make this tea apart of your lifestyle.
Phytomedical Research in Jamaica, A Caribbean SIDS:
From Ethnomedicine to Botanical Products
By Dr. Sylvia MitchellMedicinal
Plant Research Group
The Biotechnology CentreUniversity of the West Indies