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Ampalaya in the treatment of diabetes

Can ampalaya really cure diabetes? Which part (fruit, leaves, or roots) of the ampalaya should people with diabetes take? – Lina M., Manila

First, let me make one thing straight. Ampalaya (the Tagalog name of Mormodica charantia) cannot cure diabetes, but it can help control the disease.

Diabetes millitus is a disorder in which the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood is abnormally high because the pancreas, a gland located behind the stomach, produces little or no insulin or because the body’s cells do not respond appropriately to insulin.

There is no known cure for diabetes yet, but we know enough of the disease to be able to control it and prevent its complications (i.e., through proper diet, exercise and medicines).

There are two main types of diabetes mellitus: Type 1 and type 2. Most (90-95 percent) diabetes suffers from type 2 (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus), and it is in this type of the disease where ampalaya has apparent beneficial effects.

A substantial number of scientific studies on the effect of ampalaya on blood glucose levels have already been undertaken. The latest of these studies is a 10-year trial, which was conducted by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD). The study compared ampalaya (Makiling variety) leaves with the anti-diabetes drug glibenclamide.

The results of the trial showed that 100 milligrams per kilo dose per day of ampalaya is comparable to 2.8 milligrams of the anti-diabetes drug glibenclamide.

This means the action of ampalaya on blood sugar is equivalent to the action of the medicine. In response to the study, the Department of Health (DoH) has elevated the status of ampalaya from a mere nutritional supplement to a real medicine.

The blood sugar lowering property of ampalaya is attributed to its content momordicin, a substance that is sometimes called plant insulin. This is also the substance that is responsible for the bitter taste of of the plat’s leaves and fruits.

The clinical studies on the sugar lowering effect of ampalaya have so far been limited to its leaves either eaten as food or in the form of tablets, capsules and teas. There are no conclusive studies on the effect of the fruits and roots yet.

A local drug company will soon make and sell ampalaya leaves tablets or capsules, although no announcements on how much the capsules will cost have been made yet.

The good news is that diabetics who wish to try ampalaya need not buy it in tablet, capsule or tea form. They can cultivate the plant or buy it from the market and make their own preparation.

To prepare ampalaya extract, the DoH suggests the following steps:

  • Wash and finely chop ampalaya leaves.
  • Add six tablespoons of chopped leaves in two glasses of water.
  • Boil the mixture for 15 minutes in an uncovered pot.
  • Cool down and strain.
  • Drink 1/3 cup of the solution 3 time a day.

Alternately, ampalaya, which goes by a variety of other names in the country – amargosd (Spanish and Aklanon), apalia (Pampango), palia (Ifugao), paria (Visayan region) – has some other reported medicinal uses.

Books and articles on Philippine Medicinal plants list several diseases where ampalaya is apparently beneficial. Reportedly, the extract from the leaves or roots shrinks hemorrhoids.

The leaf juice said to be good antitussive (i.e., it stops cough) and antipyretic (i.e., against roundworms). It is also used to treat sterility in women and it can alleviate liver problems.

Likewise, it has some antimicrobial activity and can help heal infected wounds. Lately, some reports further claim ampalaya has substance Q and is some value in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

However, none of the other reported medicinal uses of ampalaya are listed above have been scientifically proven.

Address inquiries on health matters to Dr. Eduardo G. Gonzales, DLSU College of Medicine, Dasmariñas, Cavite 4114.

source:Manila Bulletin
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