IP International Journal of Comprehensive and Advanced Pharmacology 2023;8(2):73–79
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A comprehensive review on phytochemistry, nutritional and pharmacological
properties of Momordica charantia
1,*, Pragati Pandey1, Pradeep Kumar Singh
2, Manikant Tripathi
Rajat Pratap Singh
3, Shikha Shukla4, Neelam Pathak
2, Ram Lakhan Singh
1Dept. of Biotechnology, Dr. Rammanohar Lohia Avadh University, Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India
2Dept. of Biochemistry, Dr. Rammanohar Lohia Avadh University, Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India
3Dept. of Biotechnology, Guru Ghasidas Vishwavidyalaya, Koni, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, India
4Dept. of Zoology, RRPG College, Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, India
5Vice-Chancellor, Nilamber-Pitamber University, Medininagar, Palamu, Jharkhand, India
Available online 23-05-2023
Momordica charantia is known as the bitter gourd or bitter melon and is a member of the family
Cucurbitaceae. It is a medicinal plant and its fruit is consumed as a food also. This plant is grown in
tropical as well as subtropical areas around the world, mainly in Asia, India, China, South America and
Brazil. Due to the presence of bioactive compounds like charantin, α-momorcharin and cucurbitacins,
some of which possess potent biological actions, this plant is used in folk medicine all over the world and
has many pharmacological activities, like antidiabetic, anticancerous, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiviral,
antimalarial, antihelmintic etc. This plant has been used as traditional medicine in various diseases
treatments like syphilis, rheumatism, gout, and illness of the liver and spleen. But mainly M. charantia
is famous for its effectiveness in the treatment of diabetes due to the presence of polypeptide-p and is also
known as p-insulin due to very similarity in function against diabetes.
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In the ﬁeld of medicine, herbal medicines are becoming
more popular day by day in recent years, because
they are naturally present in the environment and have
fewer side effects on human health.1,2 Synthetic drugs
available markets are associated with toxic effects and
cause cellular injury to the organ due to formations of
free radicals.3,4Momordica charantia (MC) is additionally
referred to as bitter melon, bitter gourd, gourd vine,
karela, pare and is a ﬂourishing plant placed under
the family Cucurbitaceae (Figure 1). It is widely
distributed in tropical areas of the Amazon, East
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address:email@example.com (P. Singh).
Africa, Asia, India, South America, and Caribbean
(tropical and sub tropical area).5,6 This plant contains
an elongated fruit which has a bitter taste and its
bitterness increases after ripening and used as vegetable.
Vegetables are rich source of important nutrients such
as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.7–9M. charantia
contains chemicals which are biologically active including,
triterpens, proteins, steroids, alkaloids, saponins, ﬂavonoids,
acids and due to which, plant possesses antidiabetic,
antifungal, antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral, antifertility,
antitumorous and anti-carcinogenic properties.10 It is also
used as a standard medicine in various diseases like
Rheumatism, Gout, Colic, illness of liver and spleen.
According to Bortolotti et al.11 M. charantia has been
used in a wide range of medical applications, which
2581-5555/© 2023 Innovative Publication, All rights reserved. 73
74 Singh et al. / IP International Journal of Comprehensive and Advanced Pharmacology 2023;8(2):73–79
include the treatment of T2DM (Type 2 diabetes mellitus),
hypertension, obesity, cancer, bacterial and viral infections,
and even AIDS (Acquired Immuno-Deﬁciency Syndrome).
M. charantia has been used as ayurvedic medicine since
ancient times. Each part of this plant, i.e., seeds, roots,
leaves, as well as its fruits have important pharmacological
properties and have diuretic, laxative and antipyretic
activities. Its fruit has a bitter taste which is used in cooking
and also used as traditional medicine in the treatment of
various diseases. It is a climbing perennial that usually
grows up to 16 ft. The fruit has an elongated shape with
an uneven surface. It is a useful medicinal and vegetable
plant for human health and one of the most promising
plants for diabetes treatment.12 The juice of M. charantia’s
fruit is useful in the treatment of many illnesses, like
joint pain relief, against chronic fever, helpful in the
treatment of jaundice, hepatic illness, digestive disorders.
It is also helpful in the treatment of burn, rashes and
chronic skin diseases. The use of the entire plant as food
is suggested for the treatment of T2DM. The leaf decoction
is additionally used for the treatment of high vital sign (body
temperature, blood pressure, respiration rate, pulse rate),
womb infections, malaria, dysentery, and worm infection.
Fig. 1: M. charantia A. Plant B. Leaf and Flower C. Fruit D. Seed
1.1. Plant’s taxonomy
Classiﬁcation of M. charantia:
Kingdom - Plantae
Division - Magnoliophyta
Family - Cucurbetaceae
Genus - Momordica
Species - Charantia
Duration - Annual
Scientiﬁc name - Momordica charantia
2. Nutritional Value of M.charantia
The nutritional value of M. charantia plant in among all the
cucurbits, it contain the highest nutritional value and have
good amount of carbohydrate, proteins, ﬁbers, vitamins
and minerals. The fruit contains 93.2% of water while
protein and lipids covered 18.02% of its dried weight.
The green part of fruit possesses high amounts of vitamin
C, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B1, B2, B3 as well
as vitamin B9 (folate). It is also enriched with minerals
like potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and
iron. It contains high antioxidant properties because of the
presence of phenolics, ﬂavonoids, isoﬂovonoids, terpenes,
anthroquinones and glucosinolates.6
3. Phytochemistry of plant M.charantia
M. charantia contains proteins, fatty acids, sterols, volatile
constituents, and glycosides.13 The plant contains the
alkaloids momordicin, which are present in the fruit and
leaves. The plant carries a saponin-like material, glycosides,
aromatic volatile oil, mucilage, and glue-like material
which are very distasteful. The seed holds urease and
alkaloids and the fruit carries ascorbigen, a bound form
of ascorbic acid.14 The fruit also carries free amino
acids, which are glutamic acid, serine, aspartic acid,
alanine, threonine, pipecolic acid. The green part of the
fruit holds luteolin, which is a type of ﬂavonoid. The
fruit pulp contains galactouronic acid and soluble pectin.
The fruit of M. charantia also carries reducing sugar
alkaloids, saponins, resins and phenolics constituents. In
this plant, the presence of non-identiﬁed alkaloids and 5-
hydroxytryptamine is also reported. M. charantia primarily
carries charantin, cucurbitacins, sterols, triterpenoids and
vicine. Charantin is responsible for the hypoglycaemic
effect in the M. charantia. In charantin, steroidal saponins,
and β- sitosteryl glucoside is present in 1:1 ratio. They are
highly polar and moderately water soluble. Seeds of M.
charantia contain a glycol alkaloid, vicine. It is a pyrimidine
nucleoside. The presence of vicine in bitter melons leaves,
seeds and fruits was determined by HPLC for the ﬁrst time.
M. charantia also contains polypeptide-p, which is
used to control diabetes naturally. Polypeptide–p is a
hypoglycaemic protein which is similar to insulin and
known as p-insulin. After injecting it into humans and
langurs, it showed that it helps in lowering the blood glucose
level. Polypeptide–p can be used as plant based insulin in
type-1 diabetes patients because it works similarly to human
insulin.6Terpenoids are a naturally occurring wide group
of chemicals, which are acquired from ﬁve carbon isoprene
units. Cucurbitane are triterpenoids which are present in
the Cucurbitaceae family and they are responsible for the
bitter taste. Momorcidine I is a bioactive triterpenoid which
is extracted from bitter melon.15 Momordicine II is also
isolated from the leaves of M. cahrantia.
4. Pharmacological Activities of M.charantia
Bitter melon is a valuable vegetable. Epidemiological
literature has shown that there is a direct correlation
between a high dietary intake of fruits and vegetables with
reduced risk of developing acute and chronic diseases, such
as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, hepatotoxicity
Singh et al. / IP International Journal of Comprehensive and Advanced Pharmacology 2023;8(2):73–79 75
etc.16–18 It is useful in most metabolic and physiological
processes of the human body. M. charantia has a number
of pharmacological activities as represented in Figure 2.
Fig. 2: Bio-pharmacological activity present in plant M.charantia
4.1. Antioxidant activity
M. charantia can act as a natural source of antioxidants due
to the presence of phenolics and polyphenolics compounds
in the fruits and seeds of the plant. It can act as a substitute to
synthetic antioxidants for alleviating oxidative deterioration
in the human body. According to the different stages of
maturity, bitter gourd contains fourteen different types of
carotenoids, cryptoxanthin in unripe fruit chloroplast and
chromoplast in ripe fruit.19 Phenolic compounds are a
very good source of natural antioxidant which help in
the reduction of cholesterol, blood pressure and helpful in
prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease. One of
the most efﬁcacious free radical scavenger and antioxidant
from bitter gourd are Flavonoids.20 It was reported that
there is a direct correlation between the antioxidant activity
and ﬂavonoids content as it’s antioxidant capacity increases
gradually with the increase of ﬂavonoids concentration.
Gourd vine pulp and its extracts, followed by seed powder
and its ethanol/water extracts exhibited stronger anti-
oxygenic activity than different solvent extracts, which were
determined by many in vitro models.21
4.2. Antidiabetic activity
Diabetes mellitus, one of the fastest growing disease
thoughout the world, could be a cluster of metabolic
disorders, characterized by symptoms ensuing from defects
in insulin hormone secretion and hormone action.22 Many
studies revealed that M. charantia extract is used as a
remedy for the treatment of diabetes. It has been used as
an antidiabetic drug in numerous countries form thousands
of years.23 According to Mishra et al.24 liquid extract
of bitter gourd fruits might considerably lowered glucose
level in streptozotocin (STZ) induced diabetic rats through
oral passage. Liquid extract of bitter gourd fruit has
capacity to stimulate production of insulin hormone by
β-cells in the pancreas which is isolated from obese-
hyperglycemic mice.25 Liquid extract of bitter gourd has the
capacity to decrease glucose concentrations independently
and decreases intestinal glucose absorption.26
M. charantia holds chemicals like charantin, vicine,
arabinosides and glycosides along with polypeptide-p
plant insulin. These phytochemicals improve blood sugar
levels by reducing intestinal glucose absorption, increasing
glucose uptake from blood and induces glycogen synthesis
in the liver, muscles and fat cells and causing hypoglycemic
effect. According to the reports, it is believed that they can
improve the release of insulin from the beta-cells of the
pancreas, and also promote growth of insulin secreting beta-
cells. M. charantia also contains the bioactive compound
lectin which has insulin-like activity. Lectin has insulin
like bioactivity because of its linking together two insulin
receptors and showed hypoglycemic effects after eating M.
charantia. Lectin acts on peripheral tissues and due to this
action, blood glucose concentration decreases. Charantin is
present in M. charantia, which is extracted by alcohol is
a potent hypoglycemic agent composed of mixed steroids
which are sometimes used in the treatment of diabetes to
lower the blood sugar levels.15
4.3. Anticancer activity
Grover et al.27 reported that extracts and monomer
components of M. charantia have strong anticancerous
effect on several tumors for instance, lymphoma, leukemia,
choriocarcinoma, carcinoma, melanoma, and prostatic
adenocarcinoma (Figure 3). It has been reported that
momordin, a protein ﬁltered from bitter gourd, may have
ribosome deactivating capacity; linked with Anti-CD5
monoclonal antibodies better acts than other anti-CD5-
based immune conjugates containing ricin-A sequence on
human T-lymphocyte leukemia jurkat.28 Seeds of bitter
gourd also showed strong inhibitory effect against tumor
cell in vivo. Eleostearic acid is a crucial constituent in bitter
gourd’s seeds and its dihydroxy derivative with ethanol
extract has been proved to be the foremost efﬁcacious
antitumor agent.29 It can suppress growth of some cancer
and ﬁbroblast lines, counting those of HL60 leukemia and
HT29 colon carcinoma. According to research reported by
Grossmann et al.30 showed that eleostearic acid repressed
the multiplication of both breast cancer cell line of estrogen
receptor (ER) α- negative and ER α- positive, and can
block G2-M within the cell cycle and apoptosis. The extract
of M. charantia modulates signal transduction pathways
for the inhibition of carcinoma cell growth and might be
used as a dietary supplement for prevention of carcinoma.31
Asiamah et al., reviewed the chemo-preventive properties of
M. charantia on azoxymethane induced cancer in male rats
and determined its effect on selective hepatic detoxiﬁcation
and antioxidant enzyme.32 The green leaves, fruits, seeds
76 Singh et al. / IP International Journal of Comprehensive and Advanced Pharmacology 2023;8(2):73–79
and stems of plant contains a lot different proteins and
steroids which are chemically active. These proteins are
alpha and beta momorcharins, which have anticancer and
anti HIV properties.33
Fig. 3: Types of cancers prevented by M. charantia
4.4. Antimicrobial activity
Antimicrobial activity is a process in which inhibition
of disease-causing microbes occurs.34 Bacterial resistance
can be a major problem throughout the world and it
is a belief that by 2050 it could be a major cause of
demise in the world.35 The search for new entities with
antibacterial capacity is important due to the bacteria’s
resistant behaviour towards existing antibiotics.36 There
are several studies proving that different parts of M.
charantia contain antimicrobial activity (Table 1).34,37
According to Wang et al.38 the antimicrobial activity of M.
charantia is assigned to its content of seed oil, tannins,
triterpenoids, alkaloids, antimicrobial protein, steroids, and
Antimicrobial activity towards Heliobacter pylori,
Sindbis, Herpes simplex virus type 1, and antihelmintic
activity against Caenorhabditis elegans showed by the
bioactive component present in M. charantia plant.34 The
methanolic extract of leaf and stem of bitter gourd showed
exceptional activity against E. coli and Staphylococcus
aureus,Pseudomonasaeruginosa, Bacillus subtilis, and
Klebsiella pneumonia whereas ethanolic extract of leaf
showed antimicrobial activity against Trypanosoma cruzi,
Salmonella parathyphi, Shigella dysentery and E. coli.39–41
Leaf extract of bitter gourd also showed antimicrobial action
against S. typhi for hepatic- inﬂammatory movement by
decreasing the concentration of total and direct bilirubin,
alkaline phosphate, and gamma-glutamyl transferase.
Saengsai et al.42 extracted plumericin, an iridoid lactone
from the stem of M. charantia which contains antibacterial
effects towards Enterococcus faecalis and Bacillus subtilis
and its antimicrobial activity was better than cloxacillin,
which is widely used in the treatment of bacterial infections.
Patel et al.43 found that the extract of fresh fruits showed
similar antibacterial activity towards the strain of Bacillus
subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Saccharomyces
cerevisiae. It has been reported that hydrophilic leaf
extract of M. charantia exhibit antibacterial effects
against Staphylococcus, E. coli, Salmonella Streptobacillus
and Pseudomonas.44 Prasad et al.45 in their experiment on
rats showed that administration of fruit powder of bitter
gourd at the damaged area is efﬁcacious in the stimulation of
prosenchyma regeneration and injury healing. According to
Makhija et al.46 the extract of the fruit is more efﬁcacious
than leaf and seed extracts. It has also been reported that
methanolic extract exhibits antimicrobial activity and may
be a good source of antibacterial agent.47
Table 1: Antimicrobial activity of extracts or fractions of M.
Extract Antimicrobial activity against
Methanolic E. coli,
Ethanolic Staphylococcus aureus
Acetone Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Methanolic Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Ethanolic Aspergillus niger Salmonella
Choloroform E.coli Bacillus subtilis
Seed Ethanolic Proteus mirabilis E.coli Candida
(Torre et al., 2020)34
4.5. Antiviral activity
In bitter melon, there are several chemical components
which consist of medicinal attributes and inhibit the
function of ribosomes. It can stimulate production of
MAP30 (Momordica anti-HIV protein) which can suppress
the activity of HIV. Momordicoside A and B are present
in M. charantia, which act as inhibitors in the growth of
tumors. There are a number of phytochemicals in bitter
gourd which have in vitro antiviral activity against viruses,
including herpes and HIV viruses.
According to Beloin et al.,48 it was reported that
ethanolic extracts of M. charantia leaf and stem inhibit the
growth of HSV-1 and SINV viruses. It has been reported
that compounds separated from bitter gourd has antiviral
effects in which most of them are proteins and steroids
in nature.15 Experimental results from one study explored
that MAP30 acts as an important constituent for antiviral
activity because it cautiously kills those lymphocytes and
macrophage which are infected by HIV. 49 It also inhibits
DNA replication of HIV -1 virus in monocytes. Similarly,
it was also found that MAP30 of bitter gourd proteins can
Singh et al. / IP International Journal of Comprehensive and Advanced Pharmacology 2023;8(2):73–79 77
inhibit HIV activity,depress the expression of the virus core
protein p24 and viral associated reverse transcriptase (HIV-
RT) enzyme, while having less effect on cellular DNA
or protein synthesis in H9 cells.49 Tian et al.50 reported
that momordicin had direct protective effect on coxsackie
virus (CVB3) infected myocardicocyte and depressed RNA
transcription and translation of CVB3 in myocardial cells.
4.6. Antimalarial activity
M. charantia has some antimalarial activities. The extract
of bitter melon has modest in vivo activity against rodent
malaria, Plasmodium vinckei petteri, and a very good
antimalarial activity in vitro on P. falciparum.51
5. Toxicological Impact of M. Charantia
Though bitter gourd is mainly non-toxic to the human body
in normal conditions, but in adverse conditions, it may
be harmful due to high uptakes and without processing
methods/ prescribed concentration. It may induce mainly
acute, chronic and reproductive toxicity. In the report of
Saksena showed that periodic intake of bitter gourd leaves
was used to intercept childbirth in India.52 According to Tam
et al.,53 α- MMC has the capacity to suppress the maturing
of morulae, which induces termination of early pregnancy
and cause abortion. β– MMC can also affect the embryo
adhesion and implantation, and has ability to suppress the
development of embryo.54 Literature showed that the strong
dose of bitter gourd’s fruit can cause stomach ache and
diarrhoea in diabetic conditions. Temitope et al.55 reported
that the aqueous extract caused a remarkably decrease in
the concentration of haemoglobin in albino rats. The lectin
of M. charantin had a cytotoxic effect, which can inhibit
DNA and protein synthesis in human peripheral blood
lymphocytes of normal or leukaemic cells.56
Till now, research on the bioactivities of bitter gourd
has evolved quickly. The isolated bioactive component
of the plant has allured more awareness. Karela is a
nutritive food with a distinctive bitter taste and also
used in traditional medicine. During the last few years,
so many studies have been carried out on bitter gourd
to explore its pharmacological activities. M. charantia
plays an important role in the cure of diabetes. It
exhibited favourable outcomes in managing secondary
complications of diabetes too. In many other countries,
M. charantia is used as a traditional medicine because it
has antidiabetic, anticancerous, anthelmintic, antimicrobial,
antiulcer, antioxidant, and many other activities. It also has
abortifacient and antifertility properties which need to be
cared, mainly in expecting women.
7. Conﬂicts of Interests
The authors have no ﬁnancial interests or conﬂicts of
8. Source of Funding
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Singh et al. / IP International Journal of Comprehensive and Advanced Pharmacology 2023;8(2):73–79 79
Pankaj Singh, Assistant Professor
Pragati Pandey, Research Scholar
Pradeep Kumar Singh, Assistant Professor
Manikant Tripathi, Assistant Professor
Rajat Pratap Singh, Assistant Professor
Shikha Shukla, Assistant Professor
Neelam Pathak, Professor
Ram Lakhan Singh, Vice-Chancellor
Cite this article: Singh P, Pandey P, Singh PK, Tripathi M, Singh RP,
Shukla S, Pathak N, Singh RL. A comprehensive review on
phytochemistry, nutritional and pharmacological properties of
Momordica charantia.IP Int J Comprehensive Adv Pharmacol