In humans, bitter herbs can stimulate the appetite, aid digestion, tone up the liver and kidneys, and derail a host of diseases. Bitter melon, in particular, has been shown in studies to have a remarkable capacity to lower blood sugar, owing partly to chemicals such as beta-sitosterol-d-glucoside and charantin; and to ease rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, because of immunosuppressive constituents such as alpha- and beta-momorcharin. Its phytochemicals, lanosterol and xeaxanthin, are considered to be cancer-preventive, and the saponin diosgenin helps to protect the liver. Not surprisingly, given the role of bitter chemicals in plant defense, bitter melon also has antibiotic properties.
Bitter herbs, in general, can galvanize our digestive systems to function at their peak by stimulating the production of digestive juices and the dispatch of stored bile (necessary for fat digestion and sugar metabolism) from the gallbladder to the small intestine after meals, thus aiding nutrient assimilation. Bile itself is a natural laxative.
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