A glass of karela or bitter gourd juice is what most people with diabetes start their mornings with as it helps to control blood glucose levels. The anti-diabetic properties of karela make it a popular health drink with those who are at risk of diabetes or are diabetic. However, what most of us are not aware of the fact that karela is loaded with nutrients which make it a healthy vegetable for the entire family. But given the bitter taste of the vegetable, it is not much liked by many.
Karela, also known as bitter gourd is a widely available vegetable in India. It comes in two variants: the large one being long, oblong and pale green and the other kind being small, oval and dark green. It is loaded with countless health benefits. It is rich in fibre and has zero cholesterol. The vitamins and minerals in this vegetable are much higher when compared to other green vegetables that are popularly available. Karela is packed with calcium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin C and small amounts of Vitamin B complex.
Health Benefits Of Karela or Bitter gourd
Karela has excellent medicinal virtues. Here are some amazing health benefits of Karela including the list of some common diseases for which karela has been proven beneficial.
1. Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Karela has been used in our country since ages to help in regulating blood sugar levels in diabetics. It contains compounds “charantin” and “vicine”, which have glucose lowering properties. It also contains polypeptide-p, which has insulin-like properties i.e. it increases glucose absorption by cells of the body and reduces blood glucose levels. These substances, either work individually or together and help reducing blood sugar levels. Karela also has lectin, which acts on cells and tissues of our body and increases their sugar intake and it also suppresses appetite by acting on the brain.
So, diabetic patients should include karela liberally in their diet. It will be even better to have it in the form of freshly squeezed juice. You can also add the seeds of karela to food in the powdered form.
2. Provides Relief From Piles
The juice of fresh leaves of karela is found to be beneficial for piles. Have 3 teaspoonfuls of the leaf juice mixed with a glass of chaach (buttermilk) every morning for about a month to relieve piles. Or else, you can apply a paste of the roots of karela plant over the piles for healing.
3. Improves Skin Conditions
Karela is highly beneficial in treating skin diseases like boils, scabies, itching, psoriasis, ringworm and other fungal diseases. Have a cupful of fresh karela juice with a teaspoonful of lime juice on an empty stomach for 4-6 months to relieve these chronic skin diseases.
4. Helps In Respiratory Problems
Roots of this plant have been used since ancient times for breathing disorders like asthma. Have a teaspoonful of the rot paste mixed with equal amount of honey or tulsi leaf juice at bedtime to relieve symptoms of asthma, bronchitis and cold.
5. Aids Weight Loss
Karela is excellent for weight loss. It helps in weight loss since it is loaded with fibre and has low carbohydrate and calorie count. It makes an ideal diet for those who are on a weight loss program.
6. Wards Off Constipation
Being a rich source of fibre, Karela helps to relieve constipation and promotes gut health. Regular consumption of Karela has been shown to provide relief from constipation.
7. Acts As An Antidote For Alcoholism
The juice from the karela leaf has been used for ages to cure patients with chronic alcoholism. It has also been used as an antidote for alcohol intoxication. It is also beneficial to heal liver damage caused due to chronic drinking.
8. Lowers Cholesterol
According to a study published in the Journal of BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it was confirmed that karela acts as a potential supplement in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia and its associated disorders.
High cholesterol levels are associated with type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and liver diseases. Karela contains compounds which not only act at the enzyme level but also help in eliminating excess cholesterol stored in the liver.
Benefits of Karela: How To Use It?
Karela has been widely used as a herbal medication which is not only safe but also used to avoid side effects of various medicines. You can eat karela as a vegetable. The bitterness of the vegetable is reduced by steeping the peeled chunks in salt water before cooking. You can also choose various forms of karela that are available in the market including juices, churna, capsules and tablets.
Here’s the correct way to use karela:
Karela Juice: Take 10-15 ml of karela juice and add the same amount of water. Mix and drink it on an empty stomach once a day to reap its benefits.
Karela Churna: Take 1-2 gms (which accounts to around a quarter to half a teaspoon) of karela churna add a teaspoon of honey (if you are not diabetic), make a thick paste and eat it. Do this twice a day preferably after meals.
If you are diabetic, you can even add the same amount of churna to a glass of water, mix and drink it after meals twice a day.
Karela Capsule: You can have 1-2 capsules twice a day, preferably after meals with water.
Karela Tablets: Take 1-2 karela tablets twice a day with water after meals.
However, it is wise to consult your doctor or an Ayurvedic expert before taking karela in these forms.
Bakhru H.L. Foods that heal: The natural way To good health. New Delhi: Orient Paperbacks; 2014.