Now comes the question from the well-read – what’ your proof that karela is good for us? Isn’t it just another belief, not quite scientific, that we have come to accept from our parents, their parents and on and on?
The question is a valid one. Even if there are scores of people who swear by its medicinal qualities and given personal testimonies, we still need to know more before we can accept the ‘truth’. Okay it has been tested through the centuries, but has it been tested under strict modern scientific protocol?
Well, there have been a few attempts, especially in India, that followed the modern scientific method to verify some of the claims on behalf of karela. And they are looking good. Of course, more studies need to be done, but the initial results are quite encouraging.
In this article, we will cite findings from one particular study conducted at the SRK Medical College of Naturopathy & Yogic sciences, Kulasekharam, Tamilnadu, India. The full research paper was published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine in October 2017. The paper is currently listed as a resource in the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) affiliated to US National Institute of Health.
Done under the strict protocol set by the College’s Research and Ethics Committee, besides karela, two other vegetables were included to test their efficacy in fighting diabetes. The full title of the paper is: “Immediate effect of bitter gourd, ash gourd, Knol-khol (kohlrabi or wild cabbage) juices on blood sugar levels of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A pilot study.” The lead researchers listed are G. Selvakumar, G. Shathirapathy, R. Jainraj and P. Yuvaraj Paul.
The Scourge of Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is an immense healthcare challenge facing the world. In India it has taken on epidemic proportions with over sixty-one million people diagnosed with the disease. Naturally, the country’s policy makers and researchers are compelled to look for solutions both through modern medications and also in its ancient medical knowledge.
The authors are not obstinate about their own chosen field or pet project if you want to call it that. They state clearly in the paper: “Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) may include physical activity, dietary recommendation and herbal plant extracts, which reduce the blood sugar level in type 2 diabetes mellitus and it is considered as first line clinical approach for type 2 diabetes mellitus.”
They added: “The lack of sufficient research on the effectiveness of bitter gourd, Knol-khol and ash gourd juices in type 2 diabetes patients, has hindered the implementation of juice therapy in clinical practice, there is need for more research in alternative management in type 2 diabetes. We aimed to study the immediate effect of bitter gourd, Knol-khol, and ash gourd juices on type 2 diabetes, as a practical strategy for controlling blood sugar without use of drugs.”
The study authors conclude: “Our study clearly exhibited the hypoglycemic effect of bitter gourd, Knol-khol, juices in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Hence the naturopathic diet management especially juices plays an important role in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Further studies are needed to determine the exact mechanism of action, bioactivity-guided fractionation, and enzymatic study of constituents of the plant extract with other pharmacological drugs for betterment of treating type 2 diabetes mellitus.”
If you are inclined to know more you can read the entire paper at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5634755/. Remember, this is a proper research paper, and does not lend itself to easy reading.