Momordica charantia (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

1, leafy shoot; 2, male flower in longitudinal section; 3, female flower in longitudinal section; 4, male flower in cross section with petals removed; 5, fruit (P. Verheij-Hayes)

Momordica charantia L.

Protologue: Sp. pl. 2: 1009 (1753).


  • Momordica indica L. (1754),
  • Momordica elegans Salisb. (1796),
  • Momordica chinensis Spreng. (1891).

Vernacular names

  • Bitter gourd, bitter cucumber, balsam pear (En).
  • Bitter melon (Am).
  • Margose, paroka (Fr)
  • Indonesia: paria (general), pare (Javanese), papari (Moluccas)
  • Malaysia: peria, peria laut, periok
  • Philippines: ampalaya (Tagalog), paria (Ilocano), palia (Bisaya)
  • Cambodia: mreah
  • Laos: 'hai1, 'phak 'ha, sai1
  • Thailand: mara (general), maha (northern), phakha (north-eastern)
  • Vietnam: mư ớp dắng, mư ớp mủ (northern), khổ qua (south).


M. charantia was possibly first domesticated in eastern India and southern China. It now has a pantropical distribution, with wild and cultivated populations.


See under genus treatment for the numerous medicinal uses. The immature fruits are a well-known vegetable. The pulpy arils can be eaten as a sweet. The seed mass of the ripe fruit can be used as a condiment. M. charantia is occasionally planted as an ornamental.


  • A monoecious, annual vine up to 5 m long, stem 5-ridged, tendrils simple.
  • Leaf blade broadly ovate to suborbicular or ovate-reniform in outline, 2.5-10 cm × 3-12.5 cm, deeply palmately (3-)5(-9)-lobed, deeply cordate at base, lobes obovate and sinuate-lobulate or sinuate-toothed, glabrous or sparsely pubescent.
  • Flowers solitary, 2-3.5 cm in diameter, yellow; male flowers on a 0.5-3 cm long peduncle bearing an apical bract of up to 2.2 cm long, pedicel 2-5.5 cm long; female flowers on a 0.2-5 cm long peduncle bearing an apical bract of up to 1.2 cm long, pedicel 1-10 cm long.
  • Fruit 3-11(-45) cm × 2-4(-8) cm, irregularly warty, orange, dehiscing.
  • Seeds 8-16 mm × 4-10 mm × 2.5-3.5 mm, brown, testa ornamented.

M. charantia is found in lowland rain forest, riverine forest, thickets, hedges, waste places and roadsides and may be locally abundant.

Selected sources

  • [48] Ali, L., Kahna, A.K., Mamun, M.I., Mosihuaman, M., Nahar, N., Nur-e-Alam, M. & Rokeya, B., 1993. Studies on hypoglycemic effects of fruit pulp, seed, and whole plant of Momordica charantia on normal and diabetic model rats. Planta Medica 59(5): 408-412.
  • [97] Backer, C.A. & Bakhuizen van den Brink Jr, R.C., 1963-1968. Flora of Java. 3 volumes. Noordhoff, Groningen, the Netherlands. Vol. 1 (1963) 647 pp., Vol. 2 (1965) 641 pp., Vol. 3 (1968) 761 pp.
  • [103] Bailey, C.J., Day, C., Turner, S.L. & Leatherdale, B.A., 1985. Cerasee, a traditional treatment for diabetes. Studies in normal and streptozotocin diabetic mice. Diabetes Research 2(2): 81-84.
  • [109] Balboa, J.G. & Lim-Sylianco, C.Y., 1992. Antigenotoxic effects of drug preparation of akapulko and ampalaya. Philippine Journal of Science 121(4): 399-411.
  • [110] Balboa, J.G. & Lim-Sylianco, C.Y., 1995. Effect of some medicinal plants on skin tumor promotion. Philippine Journal of Science 124(2): 203-207.
  • [136] Battelli, M.G., Polito, L., Bolognesi, A., Lafleur, L., Fradet, Y. & Stirpe, F., 1996. Toxicity of ribosome-inactivating proteins-containing immunotoxins to a human bladder carcinoma cell line. International Journal of Cancer 65(4): 485-490
  • [170] Bolognesi, A., Tazzari, P.L., Olivieri, F., Polito, L., Lemoli, R., Terenzi, A., Pasqualucci, L., Falini, B. & Stirpe, F., 1998. Evaluation of immunotoxins containing single-chain ribosome-inactivating proteins and an anti-CD22 monoclonal antibody (OM124): in vitro and in vivo studies. British Journal of Haematology 101(1): 179-188.
  • [176] Bourinbaiar, A.S. & Lee-Huang, S., 1995. The activity of plant-derived antiretroviral proteins MAP30 and GAP31 against Herpes simplex virus infection in vitro. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 219(3): 923-929.
  • [177] Bourinbaiar, A.S. & Lee-Huang, S., 1995. Potentiation of anti-HIV activity of anti-inflammatory drugs, dexamethasone and indomethacin, by MAP30, the antiviral agent from bitter melon. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications (March 17)
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  • [287] Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1948-1976. The wealth of India: a dictionary of Indian raw materials & industrial products. 11 volumes. Publications and Information Directorate, New Delhi, India.
  • [324] Day, C., Cartwright, T., Provost, J. & Bailey, C.J., 1990. Hypoglycaemic effect of Momordica charantia extracts. Planta Medica 56(5): 426-429.
  • [340] del Rosario, C.E.S. & Molato, A.P., 1994. Evaluation of plant extracts as fungicidal material against major fungal diseases of root crop. Integrated pest management: learning from experience. Pest Management Council of the Philippines (PMCP), College, Laguna, the Philippines.
  • [470] Garcia Jr., J.R., 1990. Bioassay of five botanical materials against the bean weevil, Callosobruchus chinensis (L.), on mungbean (Vigna radiata (L.) Wilczek). University of the Philippines at Los Baños, College, Laguna, the Philippines. 67 pp.
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  • [563] Hayashi, K., Takehisa, T., Hamato, N., Takano, R., Hara, S., Miyata, T. & Kato, H., 1994. Inhibition of serine proteases of the blood coagulation system by squash family protease inhibitors. Journal of Biochemistry 116(5): 1013-1018.
  • [680] Jilka, C., Strifler, B., Fortner, G.W., Hays, E.F. & Takemoto, D.J., 1983. In vivo antitumor activity of the bitter melon (Momordica charantia). Cancer Research 43(11): 5151-5155.
  • [707] Karunanayake, E.H., Welihinda, J., Sirimanne, S.R. & Sinnadorai, G., 1984. Oral hypoglycaemic activity of some medicinal plants of Sri Lanka. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 11(2): 223-231.
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  • [946] Micu Jr., E.D., 1985. The potential use of ampalaya (Momordica charantia Linn.), malunggay (Moringa oleifera Lam.), and kolasiman (Portulaca oleracea Linn.) extracts in the prevention of piglet anemia. Thesis, University of the Philippines, Los Baños, College, Laguna, the Philippines. 56 pp.
  • [1024] Ng, T.B., Chan, W.Y. & Yeung, H.W., 1992. Proteins with abortifacient ribosome inactivating immunomodulatory antitumor and anti-AIDS activities from Cucurbitaceae plants. General Pharmacology 23(4): 575-590.
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  • [1121] Pei, Y., Zhang, Z.S., Xia, Y.X. & Song, S.Q., 1993. Purification of chitinase from Momordica charantia L. and its properties. Acta Botanica Sinica 35(6): 486-489.
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  • [1143] Platel, K. & Srinivasan, K., 1995. Effect of dietary intake of freeze dried bitter gourd (Momordica charantia) in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. Nahrung 39(4): 262-268.
  • [1144] Platel, K. & Srinivasan, K., 1997. Plant foods in the management of Diabetes mellitus: vegetables as potential hypoglycaemic agents. Nahrung 41(2): 68-74.
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  • [1164] Pu, Z., Lu, B.Y., Liu, W.Y. & Jin, S.W., 1996. Characterization of the enzymatic mechanism of gamma-momorcharin, a novel ribosome-inactivating protein with lower molecular weight of 11 500 purified from the seeds of bitter gourd (Momordica charantia). Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 229(1): 287-294.
  • [1178] Quisumbing, E., 1978. Medicinal plants of the Philippines. Katha Publishing Co., Quezon City, the Philippines. 1262 pp.
  • [1196] Ramos Ruiz, A.R., De la Torre, R.A., Alonso, N., Villaescusa, A., Betancourt, J. & Vizoso, A., 1996. Screening of medicinal plants for induction of somatic segregation activity in Aspergillus nidulans. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 52(3): 123-127.
  • [1216] Reyes, M.E.C., Gildemacher, B.H. & Jansen, G.J., 1993. Momordica L. In: Siemonsma, J.S. & Kasem Piluek (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 8. Vegetables. Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands. pp. 206-210.
  • [1341] Shubhashish Sarkar, Maddali Pranava & Marita, A.R., 1996. Demonstration of the hypoglycemic action of Momordica charantia in a validated animal model of diabetes. Pharmacological Research 33(1): 1-4.
  • [1362] Singh, A., Singh, S.P. & Bamezai, R., 1998. Momordica charantia (bitter gourd) peel, pulp, seed and whole fruit extract inhibits mouse skin papillomagenesis. Toxicology Letters 94(1): 37-46.
  • [1443] Telford, I.R., 1982. Cucurbitaceae. In: George, A.S. (Editor): Flora of Australia. Vol. 8. Lecythidales to Batales. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, Australia. pp. 158-198.
  • [1485] Ueno, H.M., Doyama, J.T., Padovani, C.R. & Salata, E., 1996. Efeito de Momordica charantia L. em camundongos infectados por Plasmodium berghei *[Effect of Momordica charantia L. in mice infected with Plasmodium berghei]. Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Medicina Tropical 29(5): 455-460.
  • [1540] Walters, T.W. & Decker-Walters, D.S., 1988. Notes on Economic plants. Balsampear (Momordica charantia, Cucurbitaceae). Economic Botany 42: 286-287.
  • [1589] Wong, C.M., Ng, T.B. & Yeung, H.W.. 1985. Screening of Trichosanthes kirilowii, Momordica charantia and Cucurbita maxima (Family Cucurbitaceae) for compounds with antilipolytic activity. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 13(3): 313-321.

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