Friday, April 17, 2009

Grow Your Own Medicine

Last week I provided strategies for growing your own vegetables. If you choose to do that you’ll not only be eating fresher and healthier food, you’ll avoid harmful chemicals and pesticides. This is more important today than ever before for a couple of reasons: Much of the food we consume comes from bioengineered plants, and those plants are much more dependent upon chemicals than the plants they’ve replaced. As a result, we’re exposed to chemicals to a much greater extent than we were in the past. Additionally, much of the food we consume today comes from foreign suppliers, including China, where regulations and inspections are not as thorough as they should be. And unfortunately, only a small percentage of food imports are inspected as they enter the United States.

While your garden might include great-tasting tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and so on, you might also consider growing medicinal crops. Many people have already switched to alternative medicine due to the high cost of conventional medicine, while others choose alternatives when conventional medicine fails. The possibility of a dramatic cure, improved quality of life, and increased life expectancy are a few more reasons some people choose alternatives.

Of the medicinal crops that you might consider, Bitter Melon is one that can be used to treat a variety of disorders, including diabetes and HIV. Bitter Melon is a green, cucumber shaped fruit, with gourd-like bumps. While all parts of the plant have been used, the fruit is the safest and most prevalent part of the plant used medicinally. Rich in iron, bitter melon has twice the beta carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, twice the potassium of bananas, and contains vitamins C and B 1 to 3, phosphorus and good dietary fiber. It is believed to be good for the liver and has been proven by western scientists to contain insulin, act as an anti-tumor agent, and inhibit HIV-1 infection. Multiple clinical studies have clearly established the role of Bitter Melon in people with diabetes. Practitioners of Chinese medicine have been using it for hundreds of years with good results. In the Philippines, Bitter Melon (known as Ampalaya) is also used to treat infections, fevers, and rheumatism.

Bitter Melon contains an insulin-like principle, known as plant-insulin, which has been found effective in lowering blood and urine sugar levels. The diabetic should take the juice of about four or five fruits every morning on an empty stomach. Bitter Melon seeds can be added to food in a powdered form. Fresh juice from the leaves of Bitter Melon can be used to treat a variety of disorders. To prepare a Bitter Melon extract:

Wash and finely chop the leaves.
Add 6 tablespoons of the chopped leaves in 2 glasses of water.
Boil it for 15 min. in an uncovered pot.
Cool down and strain.
Drink 1/3 cup of it 3x a day.

Although research supports the use of Bitter Melon as a treatment for many conditions, it is not clear what dose is safe and effective. Bitter Melon should be used cautiously, with close monitoring by your health care provider.

Need seeds? Let me know.


Check out Garden Web, Asian Vegetables section, for information about growing Bitter Melon. As you search for additional information, keep in mind that Bitter Melon is also known as Ampalaya and Bitter Gourd.

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