Momordica charantia

scientific name: 
Momordica charantia L.
Botanical family: 

Botanical description

Climbing dioecious herb 6 m or more, usually densely branchedwith tendrils.  Leaves alternate, simple 4-12 cm long, deeply5-7 lobed,sinuate with mucronate tips; inflorescence a raceme; female and male flowers yellow, peduncle shorter on female flower, bracts on male peduncle reniform to rounded-cordate; fruit cylindrical, narrowed at both ends, 8-15 cm long, prominent tubercles on the ribs, orange when ripe containing pendulous seeds covered in a red pulp; seed oblong 12-16 mm x 5-9 mm and 3-4 mm thick.











skin rash:

  leaf and stem, bath and cataplasm7,13


  aerial parts, decoction, orally10-12

lice (pediculosis):

aerial parts, crushed and/ or in aqueous maceration, bath, friction, and local application1-9, 51

pruritus (itch):

aerial parts, crushed and/ or in aqueous maceration, bath, friction, and local application1-9, 51


  aerial parts, crushed, bath5

dry skin conditions:

aerial parts, crushed and/ or in aqueous maceration, bath, friction, and local application1-9, 51

For skin conditions:

Wash the aerial parts of the plant thoroughly and crush them.  Apply 30 grams (a handful) of vegetal material on the affected area of skin 3 times a day.

For common cold:

There is no available information establishing a means of preparation and dosage other than that referred to by traditional use.

According to published and other information:

Use for furuncles and common cold is classified as REC, based on the significant traditional use documented in the TRAMIL surveys, toxicity studies and available published scientific information.

Use for dry skin conditions, itching, lice (pediculosis) and burns is classified as REC, based on the significant traditional use (OMS/WHO)4 documented in the TRAMIL surveys.

For topical application, strict hygienic measures should be observed in order to avoid contamination or additional infection.

Should there be a notable worsening of the patient’s condition, or should furuncles last more than 5 days, seek medical attention.

Do not take orally during pregnancy due to risk of abortion.

Not for use during lactation or by children under 3 years old.

TRAMIL Research40-41

The lyophilized extract obtained from 500 g of leaf, applied with sterile gauze patches on the shaved skin of 14 New Zealand albino rabbits (2-3 kg) and 16 white Hantley guinea pigs (both male and female), observed 24 and 72 hours after administration and followed by histopathological analysis based on biopsy, produced a primary irritation ratio below 5 (not irritant or allergenic).

TRAMIL Research16

The decoction of the entire plant with green fruit and without root, administered orally and intraperitoneally (25 g/kg) to mouse did not cause any mortality. oral administration of the ripe fruit to mouse caused no mortality.

The aqueous alcoholic extract (1:1) from the entire plant, by subcutaneous and oral administration to mice (10 g/kg), did not exhibit any signs of general toxicity39.

The fruit extract, extracted with acetone and purified in order to concentrate the hypoglycemic active principle, on intraperitoneal administration to mice, revealed signs of kidney toxicity due to the increase of urinary nitrogen levels, without noxious effects on liver, heart or blood42.

Subcutaneous administration of the leaf extract to female rat (20 mg/animal), did not produce estrogenic effects43.

The leaf decoction, administered orally to female rat (500 mg/kg), did not show any anti-implantation effects.  At a dosage of 200 mg/kg, it did not cause abortion or embryotoxicity44.

The fruit juice, administered orally to female rabbit (6 mL/kg/day), was followed by mortality in 23 days.  Among pregnant rabbits, it caused 10 deaths and 2 uterus hemorrhages45.

Intraperitoneal administration of 15 mL/k, caused death of all the rats under study, within 18 hours after administration45.

The alcoholic extract (95%) of the fruit, administered orally to male dog (1.75 g/animal/day), provoked cessation of sperm production after 20 days, and the progressive and total destruction of seminiferous tubules.  It also caused the destruction of a large number of different types of cells, except for Sertoli cells and basal spermatogonia cells, and result in a decrease in the epididymides lumen and deferent vessels was observed 60 days after administration46.

The alcoholic extract (95%) from the fruit, administered orally to male gerbils (200 mg/kg/day) for 14 days, induced a significant reduction of testicle weight, and interruption of spermatogenesis, without affecting seminiferous tubules or prostate47.

The alcoholic extract (95%) from the fruit, administered orally to male gerbils (110 mg/kg/day) during 30 days, did not cause general toxicity effects.  At 150 mg/kg/day, it caused death to 20-30% of the animals by day 3046.

The fruit decoction administered orally at a dosage of 500 mg/person was not toxic48.

The aqueous extract from the entire plant, administered orally to pregnant women (15 mL/person/day), inhibited fetus development49.

Seed constituents (a-trichosanthin, aand b-momorcharin) are claimed to have an abortifacient effect27-28,50.

There is no available information documenting the safety of medicinal use for children or for women during breast feeding.

TRAMIL Research15

Preliminary phytochemical screening (aerial parts):








phenolic compounds:








steroids, terpenoids:





There is a broad variation in the chemical composition depending on location6.

Proximate analysis of 100 g of leaf17: calories: 44; water: 84.6%; proteins: 5.6%; fat: 0.6%; carbohydrates: 7%; fiber: 1.6%; ash: 2.2%; calcium: 288 mg; phosphorus: 54 mg; iron: 5 mg; sodium: 19 mg; potassium: 510 mg; carotene: 5085 µg; thiamine: 0.13 mg; riboflavin: 0.45 mg; niacin: 1.50 mg; ascorbic acid: 170 mg.

Chemical constituents of Momordica charantia :

Plant part

Constituent type

Constituent name



aerial parts


momordicines I, II & III




amino acids

alanine, b-alanine, phenyl-alanine, g-amino-butyric acid, glutamic acid, proline, triptamine polypeptide p

Dhalla19 " " Kanna20



steroids glucide

charantine a-spinasterol, b-sitosterol, stigmasterol and derivatives  D-galaturonic acid

Ng & Yeung21 " " "


green fruit



Khanna & Mohan22




momordicosides E, E-1, EX, F, F',F-1, F-2, G, H, I, J, K, & L



pericarp fruit


a, band g carotenes and derivatives, lutein, lycopene, rubixanthine, zeaxanthine, zeinoxanthine




amino acids

alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, leucine, iso-leucine, lysine, ornithine, serine, tyrosine and vicine aand bmomorcharines momordine zeatine and zeatine riboside

Ng & Yeung21 Lin25 Iyer26





Wong & Yeung27-28



momordicosides A,B,C,D & E



TRAMIL Research30

The ethanolic extract of the leaf gathered in French Guyana did not show significant activity against Plasmodium falciparum (100 µg/mL) in vitro.

The aqueous extract of the leaf, in vitro, did not cause any activity against Plasmodium falciparum31.

The decoction of the leaf did not exhibit any antifungal activity against Epidermophyton floccosum, Microsporum canis, Trichophyton mentagrophytes var.algodonosa orvar.granulare32.

The aqueous extract from the dried leaf at various concentrations showed insecticidal activity against Blatella germanica but not againstOncopeltus fasciatus at variable concentrations33.

The aqueous methanolic extract of the leaf was inactive against Bacillus subtilis, while the petroleum ether extract was inactive against Candida albicans34.

The methanolic extract of the dried leaf (2 mg/mL) was active in vitro against Corynebacterium diphteriae, Neisseria spp., Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella spp., Streptobacillus spp., Streptococcus spp. and Staphylococcus aureus35.

The aqueous extract of the fruit caused marked activity against Bacillus subtilis (LC = 50 mg/disk) and Candida albicans (LC = 25 mg/disk).  The chloroform, ether and methanol extracts were also active, though with a comparatively lower intensity36.

Chloroform, ether, water and methanol extracts of the fruit in were active against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhi and Shigella dysenteriae, while the petroleum ether extract was inactive36.

The fruit juice dissolved in ethanol (100 mg/mL) was active in vitro as an anthelmintic against Ascardia galli37.

The methanolic extract of the dried seed, administered subcutaneously to mouse, caused analgesic activity, with a mean effective dosage of ED50 = 5 mg/kg38.

The aqueous alcoholic extract (1:1) of the dried whole plant was weakly antihistaminic on isolated guinea pig ileum (0.01 g/mL)39.




1 CHARLES C, 1988 TRAMIL survey. Movement for Cultural Awareness MCA, Roseau, Dominica.

2 WENIGER B, ROUZIER M, 1986 Enquête TRAMIL. Service Oecuménique d'Entraide SOE, Port au Prince, Haïti.

3 LAGOS-WITTE S, 1988-1995 Encuestas TRAMIL. Laboratorio de Histología Vegetal y Etnobotánica, Departamento de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras UNAH, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

4 GERMOSEN-ROBINEAU L, GERONIMO M, AMPARO C, 1984 Encuesta TRAMIL. enda-caribe, Santo Domingo, Rep. Dominicana.

5 WENIGER B, 1987-88 Encuesta TRAMIL. enda-caribe, Santo Domingo, Rep. Dominicana.

6 Castillo D, Rodriguez S, de los Santos C, Belen A, 2003 Encuesta TRAMIL (Zambrana, Cotuí). Dep. de Botánica, Jardín BotánicoNacional, Santo Domingo, República Dominicana.

7 Castillo D, Rodriguez S, de los Santos C, Belen A, 2003 Encuesta TRAMIL (region Este). Dep. de Botánica, Jardín BotánicoNacional, Santo Domingo, República Dominicana.

8 DELENS M, 1990 Encuesta TRAMIL en Barlovento, Edo. Miranda de Venezuela. Centro al Servicio de la Acción Popular CESAP, Caracas, Venezuela.

9 GIRON L, 1988 Encuesta TRAMIL (Costa atlántica). Centro Mesoamericano de Tecnología CEMAT, Guatemala.

10 O'REILLY A, 1992 TRAMIL survey. Chemistry & Food Technology Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Dunbars, Antigua & Barbuda.

11 OCAMPO R, 1988 Encuesta TRAMIL (Costa atlántica), Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario, Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica.


13 BENEDETTI MD, 1994 Encuesta TRAMIL. Universidad de Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.

14 WHO, 1991 Pautas para la evaluación de medicamentos herbarios WHO/TRM/91.4 (original inglés). Programa de Medicina Tradicional, OMS, Ginebra, Suiza.

15 WENIGER B, SAVARY H, DAGUIHL R, 1984 Tri phytochimique de plantes de la liste TRAMIL. Laboratoire de chimie des substances naturelles, Faculté de médecine et de pharmacie, Université d'Etat d'Haïti, Port au Prince, Haïti.

16 HERRERA J, 1990 Determinación de actividades biológicas de vegetales utilizados en medicina tradicional. Informe TRAMIL. Dep. de Farmacología, Facultad de Salud, Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia.

17 DUKE JA, ATCHLEY AA, 1986 Handbook of proximate analysis tables of higher plants. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press. p110.

18 YASUDA M, IWAMOTO M, OKABE H, YAMAUCHI T, 1984 Structures of momordicines I, II and III, the bitter principles in the leaves and vines of Momordica charantia. Chem Pharm Bull 32(5):2044-2047.

19 DHALLA NS, GUPTA KC, SASTRY MS, MALHOTRA CL, 1961 Chemical composition of the fruit of Momordica charantia. Indian J Pharmacy 23:128-130.

20 KANNA B, 1976 Insulin from Momordica charantia. Patent-Japan Kokai.

21 NG TB, YEUNG HW, 1984 Bioactive constituents of Cucurbitaceae plants with special emphasis on Momordica charantia and Trichosanthes kirilowii. Seoul, Korea: Proc. 5th. Symposium Medicinal Plants and Spices.

22 KHANNA P, MOHAN S, 1973 Isolation and identification of diosgenin and sterols from fruits and in vitro cultures ofMomordica charantia. Indian J Exp Biol11:58-60.

23 OKABE H, MIYAHARA K, YAMAGUCHI T, MIYAHARA K, KAWASAKI T, 1980 Studies on the constituents ofMomordica charantia L. I: Isolation and characterization of momordicosides A and B, glycosides of a pentahydroxy-cucurbitane triterpene. Chem Pharm Bull28(9):2753-2762.

24 RODRIGUEZ DB, RAYMUNDO LC, TUNG-CHING LEE, SIMPSON KL, CHICHESTER CO, 1976 Carotenoid pigment changes in ripening Momordica charantia fruits. Ann Bot (London)40:615-624.

25 LIN JY, HOU MJ, CHEN YC, 1978 Isolation of toxic and non-toxic lectins from the bitter pear melon (Momordica charantia). Toxicon16:653.

26 IYER RI, NAGAR PK, SIRCAR PK, 1981 Endogenous cytokinins in seeds of bittergourd Momordica charantia. Indian J Exp Biol19:766-767.

27 WONG CM, YEUNG HW, NG TB, 1985 Screening of Trichosanthes kirilowii,Momordica charantia andCucurbita maxima (family Cucurbitaceae) for compounds with antilipolytic activity. J Ethnopharmacol 13(3):313-321.

28 YEUNG HW, LI WW, FENG Z, BARBIERI L, STIRPE F, 1988 Trichosanthin, alpha-momorcharin and beta-momorcharin: Identity of abortifacient and ribosome-inactivating protein. Int J Peptide Protein Res 31(3):265-268.

29 MIYAHARA Y, OKABE H, YAMAUCHI T, 1981 Studies on the constituents ofMomordica charantia L. II: Isolation and characterization of minor seed glycosides, momordicosides C, D and E. Chem Pharm Bull29(6):1561-1566.

30 SAUVAIN M, KODJOED JF, BERGRAVE SJ, BONNEVIE O, DEDET JP, 1986 Plantes fébrifuges en médecine traditionnelle en Haïti et en République Dominicaine et thérapie du paludisme. Rapport TRAMIL: ORSTOM, Cayenne, Guyane Française.

31 MORETTI C, 1989 Determinación de la actividad antimalárica de plantas utilizadas por la medicina tradicional (Momordica charantia). TRAMIL IV, Tela, Honduras, UNAH/enda-caribe.

32 CACERES A, JAUREGUI E, HERRERA D, LOGEMANN H, 1991 Plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of dermatomucosal infections. 1: Screening of 38 plant extracts for anticandidal activity. J Ethnopharmacol 33(3):277-283.

33 HEAL R, ROGERS E, WALLACE RT, STARNES O, 1950 A survey of plants for insecticidal activity. Lloydia13(2):89-162.

34 OGUNLANA EO, RAMSTAD E, 1975 Investigation into the antibacterial activities of local plants. Planta Med27(4):354-360.

35 HUSSAIN HSN, DEENI YY, 1991 Plants in Kano ethnomedicine; screening for antimicrobial activity and alkaloids. Int J Pharmacol29(1):51-56.

36 MANEELRT S, SATTHAMPONGSA A, 1978 Antimicrobial activity ofMomordica charantia. Undergraduate special project report. Bangkok, Thailand: Mahidol University. Faculty of Pharmacy.

37 LAL J, CHANDRA S, RAVIPRAKASH V, SABIR M, 1976 In vitro anthelmintic action of some indigenous medicinal plants on Ascardia galli worms. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol20(2):64-68.

38 BISWAS AR, RAMASWAMY S, BAPNA JS, 1991 Analgesic effect ofMomordica charantia seed extract in mice and rats. J Ethnopharmacol31(1):115-118.

39 MOKKHASMIT M, SAWASDIMONGKOL K, SATRAWAHA P, 1971 Study on toxicity of Thai medicinal plants. Bull Dept Med Sci 12(1/2):36-65.

40 GONZALEZ A, ALFONSO H, 1990 Evaluación de la toxicidad dérmica deMomordica charantia L.,Foeniculum vulgare Mill yCassia occidentalis L. en cobayos. Informe TRAMIL. Centro Nacional de Salud Animal, La Habana, Cuba.

41 GONZALEZ A, ALFONSO H, 1990 Evaluación de la toxicidad dérmica deMomordica charantia L. yCassia occidentalis L. en conejos. Informe TRAMIL. Centro Nacional de Salud Animal, La Habana, Cuba.

42 TABORA O, 1986 Estudio de toxicidad aguda en ratones de la fracción hipoglucemiante deMomordica charantia (Cucurbitaceae). Tegucigalpa, Honduras: IV Semana Científica Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras UNAH.

43 SAKSENA SK, 1971 Study of antifertility activity of the leaves ofMomordica (karela). Indian J Physiol Pharmacol15(2):79-80.

44 PRAKASH AO, MATHUR R, 1976 Screening of Indian plants for antifertility activity. Indian J Exp Biol14(5):623-626. 

45 SHARMA VN, SOGANI RK, ARORA RB, 1960 Some observations on hypoglycemic activity of Momordica charantia. Indian J Med Res48(4):471-477.

46 DIXIT VP, KHANNA P, BHARGAVA SK, 1978 Effects ofMomordica charantia fruit extract on the testicular function of dog. Planta Med34(3):280-286.

47 KOENTJORO-SOEHADI T, SANTA I, 1982 Perspectives of male contraception with regards to Indonesian traditional drugs. Bali, Indonesia: 2nd National Congress of Indonesian Society of Andrology.

48 KHAN AH, BURNEY A, 1962 A preliminary study of the hypoglycemic properties of indigenous plants. Pakistan J Med Res2:100-116.

49 WEST M, SIDRAK G, STREET S, 1971 The anti-growth properties of extracts from Momordica charantia. West Indian Med J20(1):25-34.

50 NG T, 1988 Effects of momorcharins on ovarian response to gonadotropin induced superovulation in mice. Int J Fertil33(2):123-128.

51 DELAIGUE J, 2005 TRAMIL survey. UAG & PRDI, Tobago House of Assembly, Scarborough, Tobago.


The information provided is for educational purposes only for the benefit of the general public and health professionals. It is not intended to take the place of either the written law or regulations. Since some parts of plants could be toxic, might induce side effects, or might have interactions with certain drugs, anyone intending to use them or their products must first consult with a physician or another qualified health care professional. TRAMIL has no responsibility whatsoever towards the user for any decision, action or omission made in relation to the information contained in this Pharmacopoeia.