If you are from the Caribbean then you are very familiar with the occasional brewing of “Cerasee” tea by your grandparents and parents alike. Despite its off-putting taste, I was always encouraged to endure the short-term discomfort of the rude awakening of my taste buds by the strong bitter taste of the herb, as according to grandma “Cerasee tea good fi you”. Who would have thought that the fruit and even the leaves of Momordica charantia, known to Jamaicans as “Cerasee”, which has a bitter reputation would be so versatile in its benefits when consumed? As a child I abhorred the herb for its “anti-savoury” taste, totally ignorant of the antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antioxidant and antineoplastic properties of the herb.
In a country (Jamaica) where approximately 236,200 of its nationals suffer from Diabetes Mellitus (type 2 diabetes), it is imperative to identify antidiabetic agents to significantly reduce the prevalence of diabetes. Such an antidiabetic agent was proven to be Cerasee. An experiment was carried out where the fruit extract of the Cerasee was injected in rats which had diabetes and hyperglycemic activities (Fernandes et al, 2007). Upon analysis of the results of the experiment, it was found that the blood glucose level in the rats was significantly lowered which corroborates that Cerasee indeed has antidiabetic properties (Fernandes et al, 2007). While the herb is also known to protect the cell from damage and inhibit the growth of bacteria through its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties respectively, one would be most surprised to know that the Cerasee also has antineoplastic properties as well. While more conclusive research needs to be carried out on the antineoplastic properties of Cerasee, some promising research was conducted which showed that the methanol extract of Momordica charantia indeed has anti-cancer activities (Li et al, 2012). The antineoplastic properties of Cerasee initiates apoptosis (cell suicide) of cancerous cells in the colon, lung and stomach thereby preventing the cancerous cells from growing and spreading throughout the body.
Finally, while Momordica charantia has a very bitter and uninviting taste, the herb serves a vital purpose due to its antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antioxidant and antineoplastic properties.
By Rushelle Young
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