Karela juice is a beverage made from a rough-skinned fruit called bitter melon.
As the name suggests, the fruit and its juice have a bitter flavor that some find unpalatable.
However, karela juice has gained popularity for its many health benefits, which include lower blood pressure and improved skin health.
This article reviews all you need to know about karela juice, including its nutritional information, potential health benefits, and how to make it.
Karela juice is made from a fruit called bitter melon, or Momordica charantia. It takes its name from translations of “bitter melon”in Indian languages.
The fruit has distinctly rough, bumpy skin and can generally be found in two varieties — Chinese and Indian bitter melon (1).
The Chinese variety grows to nearly 8 inches (about 20 cm) and has a pale-green color. Its skin has smooth, wart-like bumps.
The Indian variety is smaller at nearly 4 inches (about 10 cm) with pointed ends, spiked skin, and a dark-green hue.
Both have white flesh on the inside that grows more bitter as the fruit ripens. Either variety can be used to make karela juice.
To make karela juice, follow the recipe below. It involves simply blending raw bitter melon with water. Some people find that adding a dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice makes it more delicious.
The fruit is a common ingredient in cuisines from subtropical regions like the Caribbean, Africa, Southeast Asia, and parts of China. Its juice is also a popular health tonic in these and other parts of the world.
SUMMARYKarela juice is made by blending bitter melon fruit with water. The fruit itself has a distinct appearance and sharp taste. There are two main varieties of bitter melon, both of which can be used to make karela juice.
Karela juice is packed with several important nutrients. For instance, blending 1 cup (93 grams) of raw bitter melon with 1/2 cup (118 ml) of filtered water will deliver the following nutrients (2):
- Calories: 16
- Carbs: 3.4 grams
- Fiber: 2.6 grams
- Protein: 0.9 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Vitamin C: 95% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Folate: 17% of the RDI
- Zinc: 10% of the RDI
- Potassium: 6% of the RDI
- Iron: 5% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 4% of RDI
- Sodium: 0 mg
Karela juice provides ample amounts of vitamin C, an antioxidant that plays a role in promoting immunity, brain health, and tissue healing (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
It’s also a great source of provitamin A. This is a substance that your body converts into vitamin A, which helps with eyesight and skin health (5Trusted Source).
What’s more, every 1 cup (93 grams) of bitter melon you blend into your juice provides about 8% of your daily fiber needs to support healthy digestion. Dietary fiber can also help control your blood sugar (6Trusted Source).
SUMMARYKarela juice offers important nutrients, with minimal calories and carbs. It’s a great source of provitamin A and vitamin C.
The benefits of karela juice go beyond its nutritional profile.
It has long been touted for its variety of uses and incorporated into many non-Western medicinal practices, such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine (7).
Can help reduce blood sugar levels
Several studies have shown that karela juice may help manage blood sugar levels.
It contains three main components that have been shown to have glucose-lowering properties — polypeptide-p, charantin, and vicine (8, 9Trusted Source).
Polypeptide-p is thought to function in a manner similar to that of insulin, an important hormone that helps regulate blood sugar by facilitating the absorption of sugar from your blood into cells and tissues (9Trusted Source).
Charantin and vicine have both been shown to lower blood sugar as well. However, it’s currently unclear exactly how this works in your body (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
What’s more, several other compounds in karela juice may help protect and even regenerate cells in your pancreas, the organ responsible for releasing insulin (9Trusted Source).
One study gave 24 people 2 grams of bitter melon extract or a placebo every day for 90 days. Those who took the bitter melon extract experienced reduced levels of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), an indicator of long-term blood sugar levels (11).
Lower HbA1c levels indicate better blood sugar control and a reduced risk of developing diabetes (12).
While these findings are promising, larger studies are needed to determine exactly how bitter melon or its juice may be used to help control blood sugar levels.
May promote skin health
Karela juice is also consumed around the world as a beauty aid. Many believe it can help boost your skin’s glow.
Karela juice is a rich source of antioxidants, including vitamin C and provitamin A, both of which are important for healthy skin and wound healing (1).
In one study, rats that were topically treated with bitter melon extract experienced significantly faster wound healing. This effect was even seen in rats with diabetes (13).
In non-Western medicinal practices, karela juice has been used to manage symptoms of psoriasis, eczema, and ulcers. However, these applications need to be explored formally in human studies (14, 15).
While bitter melon and its juice have a long history in folk medicine, more research is needed to determine how they may affect skin health.
Other potential health benefits
Karela juice may offer several other health benefits, including aiding weight loss.
One study found that when 42 participants were given 4.8 grams of bitter melon extract daily, they lost significant amounts of belly fat. After seven weeks, they had lost an average of 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) from their waistline (14Trusted Source).
While this study could not determine the exact cause of weight loss, it’s clear why karela juice can be a great addition to a weight loss regimen. It’s high in fiber, low in calories, and hydrating.
This combination may help keep you feeling full longer, as fiber moves through your digestive tract more slowly than simple carbs (6Trusted Source).
Given that it keeps hunger at bay, it may keep you from eating foods that are higher in calories and lower in nutrients.
Furthermore, some test-tube and animal studies show that some of karela juice’s components may have cancer-fighting properties (14, 16Trusted Source, 17, 18Trusted Source).
Finally, some evidence from animal studies indicates that karela juice could increase HDL (good) cholesterol, as well as decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol and total triglyceride levels (1, 19Trusted Source).
SUMMARYKarela juice may provide many impressive health benefits, including lowering blood sugar levels and boosting skin health. More research is needed to determine if it can help reduce belly fat.
Downsides of karela juice
While some people find karela juice delicious, others may find its bitter taste unpalatable.
In addition, it may not be good to drink too much of this juice, as doing so can lead to adverse effects like stomach pain, diarrhea, and an upset stomach. Yet, there’s not enough scientific evidence to determine how much is safe to consume (20Trusted Source).
What’s more, since its long-term effects are not known, it may not be for everyone.
Given its impact on blood sugar, people with diabetes and those taking medication should consult their healthcare provider before starting a karela juice regimen (20Trusted Source).
Further, bitter melon extract may affect your endocrine system, which controls hormones and reproduction. For this reason, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare provider before adding karela juice to their daily routine (21).
SUMMARYKarela juice is safe for most when consumed in moderation, but those who have diabetes, take medication, or are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult their healthcare provider.How to make karela juice
You can easily make karela juice at home. All you need is raw bitter melon, a blender or juicer, and water.
Select bitter melons that are bigger, and avoid those that are riper, with a slightly orange or red hue. Doing so will help you avoid the harsh flavor generally associated with the fruit.
To help mellow the taste, you can soak bitter melon flesh in water with lemon juice for about 30 minutes before blending it.
- 1 bitter melon
- water or other juice
- lemon juice, salt, or honey (optional)
- Wash the bitter melon under cold water.
- Place it on a cutting board and slice off each end (there’s no need to peel it).
- Cut the melon crosswise and lengthwise. You should now have four pieces.
- Scoop out the seeds from each piece using a spoon and discard them.
- Place the remaining outer green flesh flat-side down on the cutting board. Slice these into medium-sized pieces.
- Add water to the blender to equal about one part water to two parts bitter melon. You can adjust these proportions to your taste, and you may replace water with another type of juice, if desired.
- Add the pieces of bitter melon to the blender. You may also add a few drops of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon (5 ml) of honey or salt for taste. Blend until smooth.
- Pour over a wire mesh strainer to filter out chunks of fruit. Press a wooden spoon over the solids to strain out as much juice as possible. Serve immediately or chill.
If you own a juicer, you may use this instead of the blender. Simply add water at the end and skip the step of straining the solids.
You can blend other ingredients into your karela juice too. Green apple, cucumber, ginger, pineapple, and strawberries are all popular additions.
SUMMARYYou can make karela juice easily at home using either a blender or juicer. If its bitter taste is a concern, select bitter melons that are bigger and paler green.The bottom line
Karela juice is highly nutritious and associated with many health benefits, including improved skin health and blood sugar control.
Given that it’s made from bitter melon, it can be an acquired taste. When making the juice at home, you can try adding other fruits and vegetables to reduce its sharp flavor.
While more research on karela juice’s health benefits is needed, it can deliver many key nutrients and may help optimize your health when consumed in moderation.