Family: Cucurbitaceae (Pumpkin family)
Genus: Momordica
Botanical name: Momordica charantia
PLANT NAME IN DIFFERENT LANGUAGES Sanskrit: Kaarvellakah, Kathillah, Paraaru, Sushavi, Urdhvaasitah
Hindi: Karela
English: Bitter guard
Malayalam: Paval, Pavakka, Kaippakka, Kaipa, kaypa
This herbaceous, tendril-bearing vine grows to 5 m. It bears simple, alternate leaves 4–12 cm across, with three to seven deeply separated lobes. Each plant bears separate yellow male and female flowers. In the Northern Hemisphere, flowering occurs during June to July and fruiting during September to November.
The fruit has a distinct warty exterior and an oblong shape. It is hollow in cross-section, with a relatively thin layer of flesh surrounding a central seed cavity filled with large, flat seeds and pith. The fruit is most often eaten green, or as it is beginning to turn yellow. At this stage, the fruit's flesh is crunchy and watery in texture, similar to cucumber, chayote or green bell pepper, but bitter. The skin is tender and edible. Seeds and pith appear white in unripe fruits; they are not intensely bitter and can be removed before cooking.
As the fruit ripens, the flesh (rind) becomes tougher, more bitter, and too distasteful to eat. On the other hand, the pith becomes sweet and intensely red; it can be eaten uncooked in this state, and is a popular ingredient in some Southeast Asian salads. When the fruit is fully ripe, it turns orange and mushy, and splits into segments which curl back dramatically to expose seeds covered in bright red pulp.
The whole plants of Bitter guard is used for vitiated conditions of kapha and pitta, skin diseases, leprosy, ulcers, wounts, burning sensation, rheumatalgia, diabetes, inflammation, asthma, cough, impurity of breast milk, fever and debility. Seeds are useful in the treatment of ulcers, pharyngodynia and obstructions of the liver and spleen. The leaves and fruits are used for external application in lumbago, ulceration and bone fractures and internally in leprosy and jaundice.
Bitter Guard
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