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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.




BALSAM PEAR
CUCURBITACEAE
aka Bitter cucumber, Bitter gourd, Bitter melon, Bitter squash, La gua, Leprosy gourd, Momordica
(Momordica charantia)
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DRUG INTERACTIONS: Can increase effects of insulin and chlorpropamide. Under professional monitoring only.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: NOT when pregnant.

All members of this cucurbit family contain bitter substances called cucurbitacins. In the edible species, they have pretty much been bred out or must be removed by careful soaking before use. Balsam Pear is a fast-growing annual vine which is used as a food plant in some parts of the tropics as well as being a medicinal plant.
The Latin 'momordica' means 'to bite' in reference to the seeds which appear as if bitten. The fruit looks like a golden-orange tapered spindle with a warty appearance. The plant has a curious means of seed dispersal. The mature 6-inch fruits begin to split from the blossom end, turning backwards to display the brilliant scarlet seed coverings.

PROPAGATION: By seed in spring. Flowers appear in 30 to 35 days and the fruits 15 to 20 days later.
NEEDS: Well-drained, rich soil in sun. Pinch the shoots after fruits have set. Will attract white fly, spider mites and aphids.
HARVEST: Leaves are collected during the growing season and used fresh or dried for infusions. The fruits are picked when young and used fresh as pulp or juice.
PART USED: Leaves, fruits.

USES

MEDICINAL:
Cooling, tonic, laxative, diuretic, soothing to irritated tissues, febrifuge, kills parasites and cleanses toxins from system.
Possible uterine stimulant.
Has been used internally for colitis, dystentary, worms, fevers (leaves), jaundice, and externally for hemorrhoids, chapped skin and burns (fruit).
The salve has also been used for itch of poison ivy and sunburn.
Aqueous extract show lipolytic and anticholesterol properties.
The seed has been used for bad breath and as a male aphrodisiac.
The dried fruit has been powdered and made into pills (18 grams taken daily) for diabetes mellitus and shows some ability to reduce blood glucose and urine glucose and frequency of urination by increasing utilization of carbohydrates. Clinical trials were conducted with the fresh fruit juice and did manage to control, but not heal, diabetes.
One constituent seems antiviral in cases of vesicular stomatitis virus.

CULINARY:
Young fruits eaten as a vegetable in India and the Far East. They are added to curries or eaten raw, boiled or fried after soaking in salt water to remove bitterness.

OTHER:
A salve made from the fruit was popular with quilters for healing sore and pricked fingertips.

QUILTER'S SALVE
(for pierced fingertips)
1/2 C. mutton tallow
1/2 C. Lard
1/2 C. white vaseline
2 Tbsp beeswax
3 large balsams
oil of wintergreen

Remove seeds and cut into small pieces and fry in lard till crisp. Strain. Add other ingredients and mix well. Add a few drops oil of wintergreen. Pour into jars and let cool.





©2000 & 2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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