Bitter guard is botanically known as Momordica charantia L. of the family Cucurbitaceae. Other Synonyms includes Momordica thollonii Cogn. Common names are Balsam pear, African cucumber, Cundeamor, Bitter apple, Bitter melon, Carilla plant, Wild cucumber, Bitter cucumber (English); Poire de balsame, Concombre Africain, Margose, liane merveilles (French).

Vernacular names

Bitter guard is known in almost every part of the world due to it ethnomedicinal uses and food.

Country Language/ Tribe Vernacular Name
Ghana Twi Nyanya,Nyannya, Nyina, Nyinya
Ewes Kakle
Ga Nyanyra
Adangme Nyanyla, Nyanyra
Hausa Daddagu
Nzema Nyanya
Benin Fon et Goun Nyèsinkèn
Yoroubas Edjini
Dendi Atakluma
Côte d’Ivoire Adioukrou Sing Biep
Guéré N’guéné Boué
Togo Ewe Agnagnran
Agnagnran Adja- Adounka
Mina Guêssikan


Other Local Common Names based on Country

  • Angola: mimbuzu
  • Bangladesh: korolla
  • Barbados: carilla; cerassea; cerassee; miraculous bush
  • Bolivia: balsamina
  • Brazil: erva de lavaderia; fruto de cobra; malao de Sao Ceatano; melao de Sao Tana; melao de Sao Vincent; melaozinho
  • Cambodia: moreas
  • Caribbean: squirting cucumber
  • China: ku gua
  • Colombia: archucha; balsamina
  • Ecuador: achochilla
  • El Salvador: balsamito; balsamo
  • Fiji: bitter gourd; kerla
  • Germany: Balsambirne; Bitter balsamkuerbis; Bittere springgurke; Rebensblattriger balsamapfel
  • Ghana: kakle; nya nya; nyinya
  • Guam: alamgosa; wild bitter melon
  • Guatemala: paroka
  • Guyana: coryla vine
  • Honduras: calaica
  • India: kakara; karakara-chettu; karela; kuraila; pagel; pava kai; sushavi
  • Indonesia: pare; paria; pepare; peria
  • Iraq: a’jayib al-maasi; gul khandan; kuraila
  • Italy: pomo balsamo
  • Jamaica: cerasea
  • Liberia: ga ge su lu
  • Madagascar: morogozy
  • Malaysia: kyet-hin-ga; peria laut
  • Mali: lumba-lumba; manamat
  • Mexico: cunde amor; cunde amor grande; pepino
  • Micronesia, Federated states of: selwahkatik suwed (Pohnpei)
  • Netherlands: springkomkommer; wijngaardbladlig springkruid
  • Nigeria: akban ndene; daddagu; ejirin; garafuni; lele duji
  • Panama: balsamino
  • Paraguay: andai mi; andai nu; ani mi; calabacaita
  • Peru: balsamina; papayilla
  • Philippines: amargosa; ampalaya; ampalia; palia; paria
  • Senegal: barbouf; beurhoh; liane mereveille; yombebute; zara
  • Sri Lanka: pahal-kai
  • Sudan: abu eloffein
  • Suriname: wild soproro
  • Thailand: ma hai; ma roi ruu; mara pah; phak hai; phak hoei
  • Trinidad and Tobago: carailee; carilla; cerasee bush
  • USA/Hawaii: peria
  • Venezuela: maravilla
  • Vietnam: cay muop mu; muop dang hona; muop dong



Bitter melon is an herbaceous climbing liane with axillary tendrils. The leaves alternate and are palmatipartite with lobes roughly dentate. Cordate at the base and palmately nerved veination with petiole of about 7cm long. It has golden yellow flowers which is about 3 cm wide, 5  lobes obtuse  corner at  the  top, with  three  longitudinal  streaks. Male flowers on top of a peduncle axillary, 4 to 7 cm long, a heart-shaped leaf-like bract a little above the base. Female flowers at the top of the ovary peduncle 3 to 4 cm and covered with dense spines. The fruit is berry ovoid with an acute apex which is bright orange at maturity, along with 3 to 6 cm, 2-3 cm wide, soft spines and releasing mature, seeds equipped with a red aril.


Ethnomedical uses

Momordica  charantia  is  a  popular medicinal  plant widely  used  in  traditional  medicine  in  all humid and sub-humid tropical countries, where they grow spontaneously.

In Ghana, the leaves are used for the treatment of hypertension, cut wounds, measles, otitis media and chicken pox. The climbing stem is used for the relief of dysentery, helminthiasis and abdominal pains. The whole plant is used for diabetes, dracontiasis, infective hepatitis and abdominal pains. It is used for dermatitis, yaws and malaria. The ariel parts are used to treat septicemia while the fruits are used for treating wounds, whitlow, as contraceptive and to treat diabetes mellitus.

Among the Yorubas of Nigeria, the decoction of Momordica charantia is used to treat malaria and in Senegal, the leaves are indicated for fever, whilst the fruits and leaves are used against itchy skin conditions such as scabies (Paulino de Albuquerque et al. 2007). The decoction or poultice of the leaves or stem bark is used to treat mouth sores, gangrenous wounds and gastric ulcers (Agyare et al., 2009), while the whole plant is used treat malaria, stomach ache, stomach acidity, fever, diarrhoea, intestinal parasites and kidney-complaints (Luziatelli et al., 2010). Fruit, tender shoot and tender root are used for diabetes, blood purification and snake bite. Others also use the leaves to treat rabies, chest and rheumatic pains (Pradhan and Badola, 2008).

The whole plant is powdered down and used for curing leprosy and other intractable ulcers. The powder is also frequently applied topically to heal wounds. In some societies, it is also mixed with other herbal plants in oil and topically applied to treat a number of skin conditions, including scabies, burns, boils, malignant ulcers and as an antidote for snake-bite. The decoction from a mixture of roots, leaves and fruits is also used to treat fever. The decoction is also known to have powerful effects on HIV/AIDS related illnesses. It is reported that regular use of Momordica charantia keeps the blood sugar level in check very effectively. Taking bitter melon juice also helps in the treatment of ulcers, constipation and bleeding gum conditions. It also has good results in expelling worms and parasites in adults and children if taken orally.


Chemical constituents

Charantin, vicine, polypeptide-p, momordicine 1, 2 and 3, momorcrines A and B, momordine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, leucine, leusine, tyrosine, fixed oil; acid resins; vitamin C; carotene; y-aminobutyric acid; mineral salts (e.g.  salts of silicon, calcium, phosphorus, strontium, copper,  lead,  zinc,  sodium  and  iron);  pectic  acid,  pectin;  saponins,  5-hydroxytryptamine; albumin, globulin and glutelin rich in essential amino acids and vitamin B, carotene and alpha-amino butyric acids; alkaloids and saponins Orthophthalique acid was also isolated from a Brazilian species. Olaniyi and Marquis (1975).


Therapeutic Actions

Therapeutic actions include antimicrobial, antifertility,  antidiabetic, antitumor, antiviral, antihelminthic, antidiarrhoeal, antineoplastic, vulnerary,  anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent antiulcer and febrifuge.


Therapeutic Indication

·         Hypertension ·         Diabetes ·         Wounds
·         Ulcers ·         Herpes ·         Skin diseases
·         Parasitic infections ·         Abdominal pains ·         Burns
·         Cancer ·         Contraception ·         Dermatitis
·         Dracontiasis ·         Fever ·         Hiv/aids
·         Whitlow ·         Stomachache ·         Skin rashes (e.g. Yaws);
·         Senile debility ·         Malaria
  • Infectious diseases (e.g. Dysentery; gonorrhoea, chickenpox)

Product containing Momordica from Kenoch is Kenoch Baktafight Mixture which strengthens body immunity to fight bacterial and fungal infections.



Persons with a genetic erythrocytic deficiency of glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase,


Please contact your medical herbalist before using any plant you have not used before.


Agyare, C., Asase, A., Lechtenberg, M., Niehues, M. et al. (2009). An ethnopharmacological survey and in vitro confirmation of ethnopharmacological use of medicinal plants used for wound healing in Bosomtwi-Atwima-Kwanwoma area, Ghana. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 125:393–403.

Dennis, F. (Ed) (2002). Manual for the propagation of medicinal plants in Ghana. Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species.

Ghana Herbal Pharmacopoeia (1992), 95-98, The Advent Press: Accra, Ghana.

Luziatelli, G., Sørensen, M., Theilade, I., Mølgaard P. (2010). Asháninka medicinal plants: a case study from the native community of Bajo Quimiriki, Junín, Peru. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 6: 21.

Mshana, N.R., Abbiw, D.K., Addae-Mensah, I., Ahiyi, M.R.A., Ekper, J.A., et al., (2000). Traditional medicine and pharmacopoeia. Contribution to the revision of Ethnobotanical and Floristics Studies of Ghana. Organisation of African Unity/Scientific, technical and research committee.

Olaniyi A. A., Marquis V. O. (1975). Phytochemical and preliminary Pharmacological investigation of an alkaloid obtained from Momordica foetida, Journal of Pharmacy, 6: 117-119


Pradhan, B.K., Badola, H.K. (2008). Ethnomedicinal plant use by Lepcha tribe of Dzongu valley, bordering Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, in North Sikkim, India. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 4, 22.

Paulino de Albuquerque, U., Monteiro, J.M., Ramos, M.A., Cavalcanti de Amorim, E.L. (2007). Medicinal and magic plants from a public market in northeastern Brazil. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 110:76–91. Accessed January 15, 2020 Momordica charantia (bitter gourd) Accessed January 15, 2020




  1. Gilbert

    I enjoyed reading about this Herb , thank you very much. I know it Ewe called KAKLE as you state it . I will be glad to read more of all kinds of herbs we have around continents . Thank you.

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