Momordica Charantia (Bitter Melon): Safety and Efficacy During Pregnancy and Lactation

Nkechi Enwerem, Priscillia Okunji, Ntekim Oyonumo, Amos Samson


Background: The leaf, fruit ,and bark of Momordica charantia (MC)(Common name. Bitter Melon). (Cucurbitaceae) has been used extensively in folk medicine as a remedy for diabetes. Biological and pharmacological activities attributed to different parts and extracts of these plants include anti-HIV, wound healing, anti-helmintic, anti-genotoxicity, larvicidal, antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-obesity, antifertility, anticancer, antidiabetes, antidiarrheal .

In Nigeria, a decoction of the leaves or bark is used in folk medicine to manage diabetes. Pregnant and lactating women have been observed, consuming the extract of MC for its folkloric belief as an antidiabetic agent. But its potential for toxicity when administered during pregnancy, lactation and breast feeding has not been completely investigated. The present study was aimed to review the literature for evidence on the use, safety, efficacy and pharmacology of Momordica charantia during pregnancy and lactation.

Methods: Seven electronic databases including the Napralert database were searched. Data were compiled based on the grade and evidence found.

Results: There were no scientific evidence to support the use of Momordica charantia during pregnancy and lactation. However animal studies in both rodents and primates show that the plant extract, induce abortion. In males, seed extracts of M.charantia, showed indirect evidence of reduced availability of pituitary gonadotrophs necessary for spermatogenesis.

Conclusion: Caution should be exercised with the use of Momordica charantia during pregnancy and lactation till human research is conducted to determine its safety. There is a need to be cautious when using preparations containing Momordica charantia. Implications for Nursing: Findings can be utilized by community health nurses and policy makers to advice on the use of Momordica charantia during pregnancy, lactation and in males in their reproductive life.

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International Journal of Studies in Nursing  ISSN 2424-9653 (Print)  ISSN 2529-7317 (Online)

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