Widely sold in Asian groceries as food, bitter melon is also a folk remedy for diabetes, cancer, and various infections.

Bitter melon continues to be advertised as an effective treatment for diabetes, especially of the type 2 (“adult-onset”) variety. However, evidence used to support this claim is limited to animal studies, uncontrolled human trials and other unreliable forms of evidence.1-6Only double-blind, placebo-controlled studies can prove a treatment effective, and the single such study of bitter melon failed to find benefit.12 (For information on why double-blind studies are essential, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies?)

In test tube studies, a protein in bitter melon called MAP-30 kills viruses and slows the growth of some cancer cells. However, it is a long way from the test tube to real people, and there have not as yet been any human trials of bitter melon or its constituents for the treatment of cancer or viral diseases.