What is Ampalaya?
Ampalaya is the scientific name to refer to a vine grown in both the tropics and the subtropics. It is indigenous to a variety of areas and has been cultivated for its fruit in the Caribbean, the Amazon and the area surrounding the Amazon, as well as South Asia (in particular, the Philippines).
Ampalaya is known to be a climbing vine that has grown to lengths of up to five meters and has tendrils that grow to lengths of twenty centimeters. The leaves are deep green and have been described as “heart-shaped” with five to seven lobes. At maturity, the leaves span five to ten centimeters wide. All Ampalaya plants produce small, yellow buds that are of both the male and female variety that eventually develop into the gourd-like fruit. The vine produces the fruit, identified as bitter melon, and it is known for its consumption in a variety of dishes in the areas where it is cultivated, as well as its use in traditional medicine.
When ripe, the fruit bears some resemblance to an English Cucumber with its oblong shape and green color. However, it varies slightly upon closer inspection as each end of the bitter melon tapers off into a point, with the skin having a much more wrinkled texture. In addition, certain varieties have intense ribbing. Upon maturity, the bitter melon will burst to distribute its seeds for reproductive purposes.
Ampalaya Benefits and Uses
All parts of the Ampalaya plant have a long history of being used in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments and afflictions.
Diabetes: Bitter melon has been used in patients suffering from diabetes for the purposes of lowering their blood sugar and treating diabetes in general. This has been one of the long standing uses of bitter melon in traditional medical practices, but its efficacy has been proven in more recent years in studies conducted on human and animal test subjects. Testing conducted in August 2012 showed that bitter melon could potentially be effective in patients with type 2 diabetes for glycemic control. Further testing in April 2015, confirmed these results. Another study was released showing the effect of the liquid extract seeds from bitter melon on rats with induced diabetes. In an additional study on humans they were treated with one hundred and fifty milligrams of the seed extract via oral administration over the course of thirty days. By the end of the trial, test subjects showed decreased levels of hydroperoxides, blood glucose and substances that react to renal thiobarbituric and hepatic acid. Researchers concluded that the extract reduced the contingency of difficulties associated with diabetes by rapidly applying protective action against peroxidation of the lipids.
Cancer: In addition to its antioxidant properties (see below) Ampalaya is believed to be an effective treatment and preventative element for cancer. Several supplements for preventing breast cancer include extract of bitter melon, due to the promising data resulting from a variety of studies. This was tested in a study published in March of 2010. The study applied extract of bitter melon to test its effect on breast cancer cells collected from humans. The extract of bitter melon was also applied to mammary epithelial cells collected from humans to serve as a control and model an in vitro result for bitter melon’s efficacy. Results showed not only a decrease in proliferation of the cells, but apoptotic death of the cells as well. Further studies resulted in data that showed that the same extract used in the initial studies can inhibit both claspin and survivin, enhanced p21, p53, inhibited cyclin B1, cyclin D1 and pChk1/2 expression. This has led researchers to believe that bitter melon extract contains an additional mechanism that regulates the cycle of the cells. Such promising results show the efficacy of bitter melon extract for modulating pathways and inhibiting cell growth of breast cancer. As always, you should defer to your oncologist’s expertise and follow their treatment plan. However; Ampalaya might be a reinforcement you should ask about.
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Cholesterol: Bitter melon has proven to be a popular food for those wishing to lower the cholesterol levels in their blood. Ampalaya has been proven to lower LDL levels in the blood while raising HDL levels in trials conducted on both animal and human subjects making this claim verifiable.
Anti-Inflammatory: Practitioners of traditional medicine value juice derived from Ampalaya for its role in reducing the pain and symptoms associated with body pains, headaches and fevers. Many balms and topical treatments contain the extract of Ampalaya leaf mixed with coconut oil. They are used to treat inflammation and bodily pains such as arthritis and rheumatism. A report published in May of 2006 reported on the anti-inflammatory effect of the aqueous extract of Ampalaya on rats.
Weight Loss: Ampalaya is used in a variety of supplements for the purpose of increasing the body’s metabolism and the ability to burn fat at a faster rate. Diabetic test subjects showed an increased ability to control weight during trial periods (this also improved the symptoms of diabetes).
High Blood Pressure and Hypertension: High Blood Pressure and Hyper Tension go hand in hand with obesity. Since Ampalaya can be used as a weight loss aid, it makes sense that it would work for all three if any efficacy is shown. In a 2011 study, Ampalaya showed promising results by lowering elevated blood pressure in Wistar Rats over a 52 day period. Unfortunately when the study was carried over into a clinical setup there was no difference noted in high blood pressure or heart rate. The obvious conclusion is further testing is needed but there is some evidence it might work in treating hypertension.
Skin: Ampalaya is a folkloric medicine for skin problems such as ulcers, burns, wounds, fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, psoriasis and parasitic infections such as ringworm. Practicing of traditional medicine will involve drying and crushing Ampalaya or simply rubbing it over the skin to treat the symptoms associated with ailments of the skin. Testing has proved that Ampalaya in its various forms has anti-fungal and anti-parasitic effects as well as being effective in treating acne, while being gentle on sensitive skin. One trial even showed the administered extract was effective in treating acne on a six-year-old, while still being gentle on the test subject’s skin.
Liver: It is believed that Ampalaya is an effective herbal remedy in protecting the liver and preventing damage from activities such as consumption of drugs and alcohol. This is due to increased hepatoprotection activity in response to Ampalaya intake. Trials show that Ampalaya extract effects glutathione, catalase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione-s-transferase in the both the liver and kidneys in diabetic rats.
Respiratory Health: The fruit and the leaves of the Ampalaya plant produce a juice that is purported to treat pharyngitis, bronchitis, wheezing cough and asthma. Ampalaya has a long history of being used for this purpose. As a result, many natural practitioners and individuals who have used it report improvement to their respiratory health.
Hair and Scalp: Bitter Melon has been used to treat a variety of problems associated with the scalp and hair. Such ailments include scalp-centric acne, hair loss, dry skin in the scalp area, lice and other parasites that reside in the scalp area. Several studies showing Ampalaya’s effective treatment of skin as well as its antiviral, antibacterial and antiphrastic capabilities, validating all the claims about Ampalaya for hair and scalp health.
Stamina and Energy: Due to the large variety and amount of minerals and vitamins found in bitter melon, it is often recommended in treatments for building energy and stamina, while treating fatigue. This is a popular reason for recommending Ampalaya in online forums and in articles. The nutritional content of the fruit supports these claims.
Antioxidant: Ampalaya is high in antioxidants making it a good food to potentially prevent cancer. In the aforementioned 2015 study conducted on diabetic rats, researchers have inferred that the extract of bitter melon seeds were effective in normalizing the antioxidant status in test subjects that had streptozotcin-induced diabetes. If you are thinking of taking Ampalaya for its Antioxidant abilities, it might be better to look into a high ORAC berry like Maqui.
Stomach: Herbalists recommend the extract of the Ampalaya leaf to treat ailments of the stomach that include constipation, diarrhea, parasite infestations, dyspepsia and indigestion. Testing has proven that the extracts of Ampalaya, the leaves and the bitter melon effectively treats the majority of these ailments.
Immune System: It is claimed that Ampalaya can be an effective treatment for the immune system, helping it build the body’s defenses and increasing resistance during illness. Tests showing the anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties of Ampalaya seemingly confirm this.
Menopause: Supplementary teas for women going through menopause often contain Ampalaya as it serves as a remedy for some associated symptoms. Amapalya is anecdotally used or recommend. There is no known evidence to support this claim.
Hemorrhoids: The astringent property of Ampalaya has made it a popular treatment for hemorrhoids in areas, where they grow in abundance. Although this use for Ampalaya has fallen out of practice in favor of other natural treatments such as witch hazel, it can still be utilized for this purpose.
Pregnancy: Historically, Ampalaya has been used to prevent pregnancy and, at times, as the “active ingredient” can terminate pregnancies. However, practitioners of modern medicine acknowledge that this particular usage of Ampalaya is merely folkloric and is most likely ineffective in this regard.
Eye Health: According to folklore, juice derived from the Ampalaya plant is very good for the eyes and can help cure problems related to the eyes. The claim is that Ampalaya can improve the consumer’s eyesight, reduce pain associated with problems in the eye and prevent cataracts from developing. Clinical testing regarding the efficacy of Ampalaya for this purpose is limited. However, several anecdotal accounts swear by its use for this purpose.
It is generally recommended that Ampalaya intake not exceed that of regular food dosages except as recommended by a physician. When consumed as a tea, no more than a cup or two a day is considered necessary when it is brewed in a ratio of one cup of leaves to a standard kettle. Recommended dosages may vary for Ampalaya supplements in pill form, but it is suggested adults limit their intake to two separate doses a day (one in the morning and one in the evening) of 1500 mg each.
Ampalaya Side Effects and Disadvantages
Bitter melon is considered largely safe for consumption. It has been used as a major component in many traditional dishes over the centuries. Physicians generally recommend the application for common sense when it comes to the intake of bitter melon or other Ampalaya products. Moderation is recommended for the intake of Ampalaya as with any other herbal supplement or treatment. Taking Ampalaya in excessive dosages may only serve to aggravate or counteract effectiveness for diabetes, hypertension or heart problems. Studies suggest that bitter melon or other Ampalaya products may have abortive effects during pregnancy when taken in large quantities. As such, women who are pregnant or nursing are advised to avoid Ampalaya. It is recommended that a physician is consulted before usage of Ampalaya for these purposes.
What is the Best Ampalaya Supplement?
Ampalaya comes in a variety of forms, the most popular of which is in cooking. The fruit of the Ampalaya plant is the most popular component when it comes to cooking, however the leaves are often found in bundles. Both are popularly available in Asian markets, in particular the ones with a large portion of Chinese clientele. Since these tend to be open air markets, they tend to be purchased per piece, by the kilo or in fresh bundles.
As suggested by the name of the fruit, the flavor is similar to more “bitter” fruits and vegetables and, therefore, is made more palatable by being paired with compatible foods. This includes strong flavor profiles of spicy (such as chilies), sour (a bit of lemon after cooking) or savory (spare ribs or similar meats).
For those who find they cannot accustom themselves to the flavor of the fruit in their meal, Ampalaya comes in the form of both capsules, tablets and extracts. All three of these methods of consumption are widely available in stores where health food is available in the supplement departments, Asian food markets and herb shops. These forms of Ampalaya can be found online as well. When seeking out Ampalaya in the form of supplements, it is recommended that one makes sure that it has at least a four to one ratio or a five to one ratio of whole fruit.
The dry leaves can also be ground into a poultice for the purposes of external use for skin conditions and anti-inflammatory properties.
Ampalaya Nutrition Facts
Per 1 3 Inch Ampalaya
Dietary Fiber 4g
Vitamin A 2%
Vitamin C 14%