A Haitian Treasure: Asowosi or Asosi (Bitter Melon)

Asowosi is known as bitter melon in English and Ku gua in Chinese. I'm really excited to write about this herb because it is one that I use in both the Naturopathic and the East Asian Medicine clinic very often. The latin name is Momordica charantia L. and it is in the Cucurbitaceae family, like other melons. It grows abundantly in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Jamaica and of course, our beloved Haiti. It can be consumed at all stages, but is most palatable in its early yellow and green stage.
Image source: Google search
Haitians use asowosi for many many things, but mainly for blood sugar management and to reduce fevers. In some parts of Haiti, it is referred to as yesken. It is most commonly consumed as a tea in Haiti.  The Chinese used it for similar reasons, but also for liver tonification and clearing inflammation. It will never cease to amaze me how different cultures, separated by time and space, were and are so in sync with each other.

Bitter melon contains high levels of Vitamin K, vitamin B, iron, calcium and minerals. It also contains peptides, saponins, and glycosides that are hypoglycemic, meaning that these compounds lower blood sugar. Diabetes mellitus type II is a complex disease pattern, but at its core is a dysfunction in blood sugar regulation. So you can imagine how a blood sugar lowering herb can help someone with diabetes. This Haitian treasure helps increase insulin sensitivity and uptake, which is incredibly important, as insulin is what clears sugar from the blood. Asowosi helps preserve cellular function and is a wonderful anti-oxidant. Asowosi is detoxifying and cleansing, so it can help support your liver, and thus your skin.

Bitter Melon can be helpful for the following conditions:
- diabetes
- ulcers
- colitis
- high cholesterol
- kidney stones
- hypertension (and hypertension related headaches)
- constipation
Image source: Google search
There are many ways you can prepare this fruit. I fondly remember my Chinese nutrition teacher bringing in this fruit, chopping it up, and making us try it. As the name clearly points out, this fruit is very bitter, so brace yourself. But it is also really cooling, which fits in with its yin picture. The fruit isn't the only powerful part of asowosi; you can also consume the leaves, flowers, and seeds.

Methods of consumption:
- chop it up into slices and eat as is
- boil the slices in water and drink the liquid as a tea (don't sweeten with sugar to defeat the purpose!)
- juice the melon
- sauté it with other foods, preferably pungent ones (for energetic balance from a Chinese perspective)
- consume it in high grade capsule form
Image source: Google search
I want to emphasize that it is so important to monitor your blood sugar, if you have a diagnoses of Diabetes, and to make sure you are properly managed. The major side effect of consuming a blood sugar lowering plant like asowosi is of course that your blood sugar could get too low. And we want to avoid that all costs.

In health,
Dr. Naika

The "Haitian Treasures" series was created by Dr. Naika in 2012. This series explores the magnificent benefits and uses of Haiti's natural resources, which Dr. Naika calls "Haitian Treasures". In this series, Dr. Naika explores the tie between Haiti's natural resources and natural, traditional, and holistic healing.

This blog post was originally posted on Dr. Naika's lifestyle blog, Naika in Balance. Dr. Naika's work is copyrighted. Please do not copy or repost Dr. Naika's work without citing her content as the original source.