Eat More Karela? You’ll Want to! – with Dr Teitelbaum; Plus: Karela Tapenade Recipe – your SV Ayurveda Newsletter May 18, 2023 – #19, Vol 12

Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  Youtube  




~ Dr Marianne Teitelbaum

Most people’s instinct upon first tasting it is to immediately spit it out due to its extreme bitter taste! But if you can slowly develop a taste for it you will reap numerous health benefits from eating karela – you will be amazed to find out how many!

When Vaidya Mishra – my Ayurvedic teacher and mentor of over 20 years -began training me, we would spend the entire day seeing patients with a few food breaks and a long lunch break in between. He was always concerned with nourishing himself with the most nutritious food possible, so we would always make a variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and dairy products, such as paneer, yogurt and cultured ghee. 

On the days we were eating karela he would always turn to me and say, “My liver is going to be so happy!” The truth is, he, (or I for that matter) didn’t totally love the taste of karela, but we ate it because of its amazing health benefits.

Its bitter taste turns off so many people, but keep in mind that foods that have a bitter taste are very good for the liver. They not only cool it down (along with the lungs, spleen and heart) but there are compounds in it that will help the liver in all its functions.

For example, bitter melon aids the liver in lowering LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides. 

And many cultures around the world incorporate bitter melon in their diets because they are aware of its other amazing capability of lowering the blood sugar. Bitter melon helps your cells use glucose and move it out of the blood and into your liver, muscles and fat. Many patients report to me that they have reversed their pre-diabetic tendency and in many cases even full-blown diabetes by eating bitter melon several times a week. Bitter melon contains a compound similar to insulin and is effective in treating both Type I and Type II diabetes.

Many people use it for weight loss. In fact it’s been shown to stop the formation and growth of fat cells and it prevents the fat cells from storing fat. It also increases metabolism. But keep in mind that you have to monitor how you feel when you eat it. Because of its strong capability of lowering the blood sugar if you eat it every day you might start to experience symptoms of low blood sugar, such as lightheadedness, faintness or nausea. So while it might be fine for someone with pre-diabetes or diabetes to eat it every day, if you don’t have a blood sugar problem then you might want to eat it only 2-3 times a week.


The literature also states that eating bitter gourd can give you healthy glowing skin. This is because the skin reflects the health of the blood and the liver. The liver filters the blood so if the liver is functioning at its optimum level your blood will be very clean, which will be reflected in clear radiant skin. This is why it is also used for various skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. Always remember that problems with the skin are really problems with a toxic liver which contributes to toxic blood. Besides cleaning the blood karela can penetrate deep into other tissues to clean them out as well, such as the fat and the nerve tissues, both of which are host to the modern environmental toxins which tend to be absorbed into our fat cells.

Vaidya Mishra was always warning people to avoid the current fad of drinking bitter gourd juice which is popular both in the Western world as well as in India. He said that anything that is detoxifying for the liver should be cooked in a fat — ghee is the best and olive oil is the second best fat to use.The fat delivers it into our cells. 

And in general cooking the food guarantees more absorption from the nutrients in the food you’re eating. Always remember that every cell in our body has a cell wall surrounding it which is made of cholesterol and it has the intelligence to take in nutrients while leaving out toxic compounds which might harm the cell. So by cooking the karela (or any food for that matter) with a fat, the fat will slide in much more easily into the cell for best absorption. That is why many of the Ayurvedic formulas are cooked into ghee and taken as a paste. The ghee carries the nutrients into the cell. This is also why it is good for us to cook with ghee and olive oil in our diet to aid in better absorption of nutrients.

Bitter melon is also good for the eyes. Ayurveda recognizes the relationship that the liver and the eyes share — both are considered pitta organs, sensitive to heat, and whatever you might do in life for the liver — eating good foods like karela, taking certain herbs and doing your semi-annual detox in the spring and fall — will help the eyes at the same time. 

So it is no surprise that karela is good for the eyes as well. The heat from the liver rises into the eyes and can damage the retina and other structures, so whatever you can do to cool the heat in the liver will help the eyes. A bitter taste is very pitta-pacifying, which means it is cooling. And now we know bitter melon has both Vitamin A and beta carotene, both of which are good for the eyes. And it even helps to improve vision and prevent cataracts.

Bitter melon is even good for cancer in that it both fights it and prevents cancer cells from multiplying. It has been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer. We now know that sugar feeds cancer and makes it grow, which is why bitter melon with its dramatic tendency to clear the blood of sugar, should be prescribed to all cancer patients to eat at least 2-3 times a week to prevent the growth of their cancer by starving it to death.

It contains twice the amount of calcium than spinach and broccoli and twice the amount of potassium than a banana, which is good to know because bananas are not recommended in Ayurveda due to their tendency to create congestion and clog the body’s physical channels. Usually when I tell a patient to avoid bananas they immediately ask me what to eat to replace the potassium that the bananas give, so bitter melon would definitely be one way to do it.

And the truth is, anything that benefits the liver so much will end up benefiting just about every part of the physiology since the liver has over 500 functions and affects so many important processes in the body. Which is also why faulty liver function is at the root of just about any illness or health problem you can think of. 

So providing your liver with one of the best foods known to mankind will go a long way to prevent most diseases. This is why karela should be part of your diet on a regular basis. If you don’t have access to the fresh vegetable, Vaidya Mishra made Karela Soup Mix where he dehydrated the karela and added beneficial spices and all you have to do is add hot water, olive oil, soma salt (white Himalayan salt) and cilantro to make a side dish of karela soup at lunch or dinner.

I hope this information is of great benefit to you as you strive to improve your health.

Thank you,

Dr. Marianne Teitelbaum

Cinnaminson, New Jersey




  1. Immediate effect of bitter gourd and ash gourd on blood sugar levels of patients with Type II diabetes mellitus: A pilot study. G. Selvakumar et al. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 7 Issue 4, October 2017, Pages 526-531.
  2. Evaluation of the efficacy of bitter gourd as an oral hypoglycemia agent — a randomized controlled clinical trial. John A.J. et al. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2003.
  3. Anti-diabetic and hypoglycemic effects of bitter melon: a mini review Leung L. et al Br J Nutr. 2009, PMID 19825210 Review.
  4. Bitter Melon: A panacea for inflammation and cancer. Dandawate Pr, et al. Chin J Nat Med. 2016. PMID: 26968675 Review.
  5. Hypoglycemic efficacy and safety of bitter melon in patients with Type II Diabetes mellitus. Kim, SK et al. Complement There Med 2020 PMID: 32951763 Clinical Trial.
  6. Diverse roles of bitter melon in prevention of oral cancer. Our S., et al. J Cancer Metastasis Treat. 2021, PMID 34765739.
  7. Bitter Melon: a nutraceutical approach for cancer prevention and therapy. Our S. et al Cancers (Basel). 2020. PMID 32726914. Review.
  8. Bitter melon: antagonist to cancer. Nerurkar P. et al. Pharm Res. 2010. PMID 20198408 Review.
  9. Promise of bitter melon bioactive in cancer prevention and therapy. Raina K et al., Semin Cancer Biol. 2016. PMID 27452666. Review.
  10. Emerging Anti-tumor Activities of Bitter Melon: Fang EF, et al. Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2019; PMID 29932035. Review.
  11. Bitter melon extract yields multiple effects on intestinal epithelial cells and likely contributes to anti-diabetic functions. Chang CI, et al. Int J Med Sci. 2021. PMID: 33746602.
  12. Bitter melon: fruit bioactive charantin and vicuna potential for diabetes prophylaxis and treatment. Mahwish, et al. Plants (Basel). 2021, PMID: 33918062.
  13. Bitter melon extract ameliorates palmitate-induced apoptosis via inhibition of endoplasmic reticulum stress in HepG2 cells and high-fat/high-fructose-diet-induced fatty liver. Lee HJ, et al. Food Nutr Res. 2018, PMID: 30026676.
  14. The effects of bitter melon on serum and liver triglyceride levels in rats. Senanayake GV, et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004. PMID 15120448
  15. Mechanisms underlying decreased hepatic tricyglycerol and cholesterol by dietary bitter melon extract in the rat. Senayake GV. et al. Lipids. 2012. PMID: 22457205.
  16. Wild bitter gourd protects against alcoholic fatty liver in mice by attenuating oxidative stress and inflammatory responses. Lu KH, et al. Food Funct. 2014. PMID: 24664243. 
  17. The effects of bitter melon extracts on serum and liver lipid parameters in hamsters fed cholesterol-free and cholesterol-enriched diets. Senanayake GV et al. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo) 2004. PMID 155270066.
  18. A triterpenoid-enriched extract of bitter melon leaves alleviates hepatic fibrosis by inhibiting inflammatory responses in carbon tetrachloride-treated mice. Chang ML, et al. Food Funct. 2021. PMID 34231603. 
  19. Reduced adiposity in bitter melon fed rats is associated with lower tissue triglyceride and higher plasma cateecholamines. Chen Q et al. Br J Nutr. 2005, PMID 15975176.
  20. Momordica charmanta (bitter melon) reverses Type II diabetes in rat. Malekshahi H, et al. J Food Biochem. 2019. PMID: 31441956.
  21. Reduced adiposity in bitter melon-fed rats is associated with increased lipid oxidative enzyme activities and uncoupling protein expression. Chan LL, et al. J Nutr. 2005, PMID 16251604.
  22. Dietary effects of bitter gourd oil on blood and liver lipids of rats. Noguchi R, et al. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2001, PMID: 11747298.
  23. The MAP30 protein fro bitter gourd seeds promotes apoptosis in liver cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Fang EF,, et al. Cancer Lett. 2012. PMID: 22579806.
  24. Comparative Analysis of metabolite Profiling of Momordica charantia (bitter gourd) leaf and the anti-obesity effect through regulating lipid metabolism. Fan M, et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021. PMID: 34073706.
  25. In vitro and in vivo anticarcinogenic effects of RNase MC2, a ribonuclease isolated fro dietary bitter gourd toward human liver cancer cells. Fang EF, et al. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2012. PMID: 22554586.
  26. Bitter gourd inhibits the development of obesity-associated fatty liver in C57BL/6 made fed a high-fat diet. Xu J, et al. J Nutr. 2014. PMID: 24523491.

community news


Spring Detox 2023

Yet another delightful session conducted by our SVA Educator Jackie Relkoff, with a beautiful discussion on the 3rd and 4th type of toxins and how we can address them.We also delved into the salient points that characterize SV Ayurveda vs “mainstream” Ayurveda, when and when not to do abhyanga, shared a recipe, and so much more. Next week will be our last session, but we promised to meet again, in Autumn, for another detox course.

for more information:

Explore our full line of SVA formulations. Visit
a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips – thousands of articles and questions answered by Vaidya Mishra and his team of experts; and so much more…
home to Vaidya Mishra’s unique pranic exquisite formulations – with weekly specials and give-aways. Learn Ayurveda as you shop!