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Phytomedicine. 1996 Mar;2(4):349-62. doi: 10.1016/S0944-7113(96)80080-8.

Anti-diabetic properties and phytochemistry of Momordica charantia L. (Cucurbitaceae).

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Pharmacognosy Research Laboratories, Department of Pharmacy, King's College London, Manresa Road, London SW 3 6 LX, United Kingdom.


Unripe fruit, seeds and aerial parts of Momordica charantia Linn. (Cucurbitaceae) have been used in various parts of the world to treat diabetes. Oral administration of the fruit juice or seed powder causes a reduction in fasting blood glucose and improves glucose tolerance in normal and diabetic animals and in humans. Animal and in vitro data support both insulin secretagogue and insulinomimetic activity of the fruit. However, enhanced insulin levels in vivo in response to its administration have not been observed. Although a wide range of compounds have been isolated from Momordica charantia, notably steroidal compounds and proteins, the orally active antidiabetic principle has not been adequately identified. A polypeptide, p-insulin, produces hypoglycaemic effects in humans and animals on subcutaneous injection, but oral activity is questionable. Other reported hypoglycaemic principles from Momordica charantia include the sterol glucoside mixture charantin (fruit) and the pyrimidine nucleoside vicine (seeds). However these are only effective at doses too high to account for all the activity of the plant extract. Principal toxicity of Momordica charantia in animals is to the liver and reproductive system. These effects have not been reported in humans despite widespread use of the fruit medicinally and as a vegetable.

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