Historical note Bitter melon is used as a traditional medicine wherever it is found. It has a long history of use in Asia, Africa and Latin America and has been widely acclaimed as an important remedy for diabetes mellitus since ancient times. The term momordica means ‘to bite’ and refers to the jagged edges of the leaf, which appear as if bitten. Bitter melon has been used to treat fevers, viral infections and as an emmenagogue in reproductive health. It has also been used as a treatment for gastrointestinal complaints, worms, constipation, headaches, skin conditions and diabetes. The fruit is used topically for wound healing. The plant has also been used in traditional ceremonies and considered a powerful charm which is worn as a necklace, wrist or ankle bracelet or crown (Beloin et al 2005). The ritual ceremonial importance of the plant is accompanied by its considerable reputation as a medicinal plant for the treatment of disease.