Momordica charantia: a popular health-promoting vegetable with multifunctionality
Products derived from edible medicinal plants have been used for centuries to prevent, treat, and even cure multiple diseases. Momordica charantia L., widely cultivated around the world, is a typical one bred for vegetable and medicinal usage. All parts of M. charantia possess important medicinal properties, including antidiabetic, anticancer, hypotensive, anti-obesity, antimicrobial, antihyperlipidemic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulatory, anthelmintic, neuro-protective, as well as hepato-protective properties both in vitro and in vivo. This review summarized the active components and medicinal properties of M. charantia, especially activities and mechanisms of anti-diabetes and anti-cancer. The anti-diabetic properties involve inhibiting intestinal α-glucosidase and glucose transport, protecting islet β-cells, enhancing insulin secretion, increasing hepatic glucose disposal, decreasing gluconeogenesis, and even ameliorating insulin resistance. Moreover, expressions of PPARs could also be activated and up-regulated. Meanwhile, anticancer property is mostly due to apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, and expression of serum factors associated with immunity. This paper provides the overall knowledge of M. charantia and benefits for its development as functional food.