The idea of people being able to grow their own medicine in their own backyards is being touted as a local reality. With almost 68 different helpful compounds, bitter melon locally known as (carrilla, corilla or carrila), which is a locally grown vegetable with a bitter taste, has been recognised over the years as a master drug, according to Professor of Physiology, Jaipaul Singh.
A Guyanese by birth now residing in England, Professor Singh, is attached to the Department of Biological and Forensic Sciences at the University of Central Lancashire, England, and has for the past 10 years been working on several papers on bitter melon as a treatment for diabetes and even cancer.
It has been found that the compounds within the bitter melon has anti-diabetic and anti-cancer effects, according to Professor Singh who has been working closely with Dr Emanuel Cummings, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Guyana as it relates to the role of the vegetable to treat diabetes.
“Why not grow your own medicine in your own garden rather than have to go to the doctor and get treatment. People need to know about this,” said Professor Singh during a recent interview with this newspaper.
And the effects of bitter melon, he said, can be realised simply by eating it raw, as cooking it could denature its value, or by liquidising it with some water and drinking it as a juice before meals. “In the morning you can have about 20 millilitres and in the afternoon another 20 millimetres just like a medication before your meals.”
However, Professor Singh has cautioned that persons who are diabetic and are already on medications should speak with their General Practitioner before attempting to use bitter melon as a remedy.
“We intend to continue with this work to find out more about bitter melon because we believe that it has an insulin-like compound.”
And though research on the medical values of bitter melon has been the norm for many centuries in countries such as Sri Lanka, India and even more recent in the Caribbean, Professor Singh said that he has been looking closely at the time course of diabetes in those infected.
This move has seen him categorising his subjects according to age groups in order to find out what are some of the changes that occur in their blood. “We call it inflammatory mediators, substances that are produced inside the body and how they can lead to a heart attack.
“As you become more of a diabetic you produce compounds which can tell you that you may get a heart attack.”
Through his research, Professor Singh has discovered that a simple diagnosis could be most informative and even serve to help save the life of a diabetic patient. And while he is not sure that practitioners would opt to adapt the use of bitter melon in the treatment of diabetes, Professor Singh said that it has been recommended for thousands of years.
“But it is not the practitioner to really recommend it…It is for the people within the government – the Nutrition Department in the Ministry of Health – to get someone to publicly do some talks about bitter melons.”
However, the introduction of bitter melon as a possible remedy should be directed mainly to the poorer faction of the society who can ill-afford to purchase medication. On the other hand practitioners may not be willing to tell their patients to use bitter melon for fear of losing their patronage.
It is assumed that more than 150,000 people in Guyana are diabetics and there are possibly many more, according to Professor Singh, who are not aware of their status.
“We need to talk to people and explain to them what diabetes really is; how they can get it and how it can be diagnosed.” The earlier diabetes is diagnosed the better it can be controlled, he added.
A combination of exercise, a good diet and bitter melon could work wonders in terms of treating diabetes, Professor Singh speculated.
As such, he is of the belief that the Ministry of Health should train persons who can teach patients how to deal with their diabetes.
In addition to his diabetes research projects, Professor Singh has two students under his charge that are currently engaged in examining the anti-cancer effect of bitter melon. And the master drug, he added is also believed to have anti-hypertensive compounds.
“There are many, many roles of bitter melon…I have published many papers about the benefits of bitter melon and I have worked with many people in different parts of the world,” said Professor Singh who has for the past few weeks been rendering his service as an external examiner at the local university.
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