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Cerasee – The tea many Jamaicans learnt to love or sort of – But could it benefit those suffering from Diabetes? – Let’s Explore!


Cerasee, bitter melon or Momordica Charantia as it is scientifically known, is certainly one of those plants or ‘bush tea’ as we often say in Jamaica, that I have learnt to appreciate, but not necessarily love.  I remember as a child, you were given these sorts of ‘bitter’ tea during the summer holidays, just before back to school or at certain times throughout the year.  Cerasee was said to be able to cleanse the blood among other benefits, mostly anecdotal. 

Drinking this tea was a whole other experience. As I would either gulp it down and then add a bit of sugar in my mouth to help with easing its bitter taste or add sugar directly to it so that it could be a bit more palatable.  The addition of sugar did not help in most cases.  Further, it was contrary to the intended purpose of drinking the tea in the first place and was still bitter.  But it helped!  How say you?  Yes, I see you!

Well, now as an adult, while I often just drink cerasee tea without the added sugar, my facial gestures still do tell the story of why I have learned to just appreciated it, and not necessarily have a love story to write home about it. But, could this tea benefit those with diabetes? What does the science say? Let’s discuss!

The Discussion

Bitter melon or Cerasee as it is known in Jamaica, is a wild variety of the Momordica Charantia plant that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. Other names for this plant include bitter gourd, bitter cucumber, leprosy gourd, papilla, corilla and karela (Taylor, 2002).  It is typically prepared as a tea (bush tea) for general cleansing of the body.  However, apart from using it to cleanse the body or for a bitter’s wellness routine, it is used for the treatment of diabetes in some Caribbean Countries as well as in Central America (Bailey et al. 1985). 

The Cerasee plant is also reportedly used as a folk remedy for the treatment of hypertension (Raman et al. 1997).  In fact, in one survey, it was said to be the most popular tea used for the treatment of hypertension on the island of St. Kitts (Raman et al. 1997).

Jamaica’s history has also shown a high dependence on the use of medicinal plants for the treatment of certain ailments (Mitchell and Ahmad, 2006) from cerasee to varying plant species largely classified as ‘bush tea.’ Name an ailment, and a Jamaican may be able to advise you of a bush tea you can take for it. In fact, in a study conducted with some Caribbean patients, it was found that most of them (72.6%) used herbal medicines to treat particular illnesses or just for overall good health (Connell et al. 2005). Additionally, in a 2006 study in Jamaica on the use of both herbs and prescription medicine to treat certain ailments, it was reported that at least 79.5% of the participants practices the use of both herbs and prescription medicine to treat or manage diabetes and hypertension (Delgoda et al. 2010).

Different parts of the Momordica Charantia are used for medicinal purposes. Some of the most used parts include the leaves, stem or green fruits or seeds (Singh et al. 2011).  People have even eaten the fruits raw, boiled, or cooked. The pulp of the fruit has also been consumed by many in the form of juice (Singh et al. 2011).  However, the medicinal compound extracted from the herb includes Charantin, which is described as a steroidal saponin agent with insulin-like properties and Momordicin (2) which gives the plant its bitter taste (Pitipanponga J, et al. 2007).  These compounds are two (2) of the active ingredients of cerasee, which is usually extracted particularly for commercial use.

Currently, there are reportedly over Two Hundred and Twenty-eight (228) different medicinal compounds that can be isolated from the cerasee plant, especially from the stems, leaves, seeds, and unripe fruits (Day et al. 1990).  Additionally, Momordica Charantia (cerasee) and its many extracted compounds have been reportedly shown to have a hypoglycemic effect (lowering of blood sugar) on the body due to its various physiological and biochemical processes.

To this extent, in this article, we will be exploring some of the studies of the cerasee plant and its possible positive effect on diabetes. We will also explore some of the questions that are usually asked as it relates to this plant including – can it be used while taking medication for diabetes?

You can read more on a compound of the pine bark family that research has shown could be beneficial for those suffering from diabetes in this post:
Cerasee Diabetes Benefits:
  1. Ceresee and Diabetes Mellitus in General.
  2. Cerasee and Diabetic Neuropathy – A complication of Diabetes Mellitus.
  3. Can cerasee be taken with Anti-diabetic Drugs?
  4. What are the Side-effects of consuming cerasee?
  5. How can I enjoy cerasee?
  6. Can I consume cerasee daily?
Cerasee and Diabetes Mellitus in General

Diabetes Mellitus is reportedly one of the world’s oldest diseases or disorders (Singh et al. 2011). Its global impact is a worldwide health crisis (WHO, 2023).  Generally, diabetes is characterized by an individual having high glucose levels due to the insufficient secretion of insulin by the pancreas cells or the body’s resistance to insulin (Schuster and Duvuuri, 2002).  

Over time if not managed, it can lead to complications such as cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, impotence, poor quality of life and worst yet, blindness (Singh et al. 2011). While there are drugs established to treat or manage diabetes, those often come with unwarranted side effects including low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), weight gain, and gastrointestinal concerns among others (Modak et al. 2007).  As such, alternative therapies, particularly herbal medicines are now commonly explored.

Cerasee or Momordica Charantia is characterized as nature’s own cure for Diabetes Mellitus and has been used extensively to treat a number of different infections and diseases, especially by people considered to be of low economic standing (poor) (Taylor, 2002). Some of the conditions that cerasee has been used to treat include diabetes mellitus, fever, skin conditions, digestive issues, and high blood pressure (hypertension) (Taylor, 2002; Singh et al. 2011). Some persons have also used cerasee to detoxify the body and even for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (Taylor, 2002; Singh et al. 2011).

Importantly, research has shown that cerasee is the most widely used plant for the treatment or prevention of diabetes (Singh et al. 2011).  This is due to the fact that several research has shown that its properties may be able to reduce one’s glucose levels (Taylor, 2002).  High blood glucose is a principal marker for the development of diabetes mellitus.  This is because, when blood glucose levels are high, the endocrine pancreas is unable to produce or does not have enough insulin or the insulin that it does produce is not effective for the optimal functioning of the body (Singh et al. 2011).  Insulin, which is a major metabolic hormone, plays several roles in the body, one major one is to stimulate the uptake of glucose by the body’s cells. This glucose is then used as energy for the body (Singh et al. 2011), therefore, it plays a critical function in the overall health and functioning of the body.

Research has shown that consuming one-half of a cup of regular cerasee leaves or whole herb concentration, 1-2 times daily is sufficient to impact one’s hypoglycemic levels (Singh et al. 2011and Basch et al. 2003).  Research by Jeewathyaparan et al. (1995), denoted that the oral consumption of cerasee may result in the secretion of insulin from endocrine pancreatic beta cells.  The pancreatic beta cells when it comes to diabetes are those cells that synthesize, store and release insulin in response to the body’s glucose levels (Marchetti et al. 2017).

The study by Jeewathyaparan and colleagues was further confirmed by several studies by Ahmed and colleagues (Ahmed et al., 997; 1998; 2004). These researchers investigated the effects of cerasee fruit juice and its effects on particular cells of rats that were induced with diabetes.  These studies observed that cerasee or Momordica Charantia increased the number of beta cells when compared to untreated diabetic rats. Nonetheless, the number of beta cells was still less than those of normal and cerasee-treated controlled rats. 

The researchers purported that these results could be attributed to the duration of the study which was only ten (10) weeks long and that the treatment of Streptozotocin (STZ) may have destroyed some of the beta cells before the commencement of the study. Streptozotocin (STZ) is a compound that is toxic towards the pancreatic beta cells and is typically used to induce diabetes in rodent research models (Graham et al. 2011).

However, the studies concluded that cerasee fruit juice may play a role in the renewal of beta cells in treated diabetic rats or may even play a role in the recovery of beta cells that may have been partially destroyed. Additionally, studies have shown that cerasee may be able to stimulate the secretion of insulin from the endocrine pancreas (Welihinda et al. 1982) as well as help with the uptake of glucose in the liver (Welihinda et al. 1986).

To this extent, the researchers suggested that the hypoglycemic effects of cerasee may be due to its potential to recover as well as increase the number of insulin-producing cells, then subsequently releasing the insulin (Singh et al. 2011). Nonetheless, further research is recommended, especially as it relates to the hypoglycemic effects of cerasee at molecular levels.

Cerasee and Diabetic Neuropathy – A Complication of Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetic neuropathy is a complication of diabetes which can lead to disability (Kumar and Clarke, 2005; Pickup and Williams, 1991). Due to the high cost associated with the treatment of this condition, it would be best if one seeks means to prevent or delay its onset. Cerasee may help with diabetes due to its hypoglycemic effect. As such, research has shown that cerasee juice was not only able to reduce blood glucose levels but correct the core abnormalities of the peripheral nerves in experimental diabetes.  

Therefore, research purports that cerasee possess properties that mimic insulin, thus helping with the management of the condition which could inadvertently help to delay or manage neuropathy issues both the in the short and long term ((Kumar and Clarke, 2005, Zimmet et al. 2003; Sharma et al. 1985; Ahmed et al. 1998).

Can Cerasee be taken with Anti-diabetic Drugs?

The best answer to this question would be for you to consult with your healthcare provider. This is particularly so as more research is recommended as it relates to the effects of cerasee at the molecular level and even its long-term effects on diabetes.  Importantly, herbs in general can interact with certain drugs which includes commercially anti-diabetic glucose-lowering drugs (Basch et al. 2003).  However, more research is recommended to explore the type of interactions that may occur with these types of drugs and the consumption of cerasee for diabetic patients.

Additionally, research contends that regular physical activities and the modification of one’s diet may also increase the benefit of cerasee on diabetes. Nonetheless, always consult with your healthcare provider before consuming this or any other herb, especially if you are on medication.

What are the Side-effects of consuming Cerasee?

Some studies have reported hypoglycemic coma where the consumption of cerasee is concerned.  Reduced fertility was also observed in mice that were studied, convulsions in children, headaches as well as low alkaline phosphatase levels in animals (Basch et al. 2003).  Alkaline phosphate levels (ALP) are enzymes that are found in the blood. Low alkaline phosphate levels may indicate problems with the liver or some type of bone disorder or cancer (;  Additionally, cerasee may even lower one’s glucose levels (especially if on medication) due to its hypoglycemic effects on the body which could lead to fatalities in extreme cases (Jia et al 2017).

Research also contends that it may cause contractions or birth defects. As such, it should be avoided by pregnant women (Khan et al. 2019; Uche-Nwachi and McEven, 2009).  Irregular rapid heartbeats have also been reported when it comes to the consumption of cerasee juice. Severe kidney damage was also a reported side effect, this was experienced by a 60-year-old diabetic male patient who consumes a bitter melon extract. He also suffered from high blood pressure.  The amount of the extract consumed or the duration of consumption was not reported (  As such, it is best to consume it with caution and seek medical guidance if you suffer from diabetes or other illnesses. 

Under normal conditions, reports purport that cerasee is basically harmless to humans. However, there have been reported toxicities (acute, chronic, and reproductive) (Jia et al 2017).  As such, adverse reactions may be experienced based on the type of uptake, the method used to process it, as well as one’s health conditions. As such, always consult with your healthcare provider before consuming this herb.

You can read more on Diabetes and how to manage it in this detailed article:
How can I enjoy Cerasee?

Cerasee leaves are usually used to make tea or what is known in Jamaica and the Caribbean as ‘bush tea. To make the tea, the leaves and stems are dried and boiled in water for a few minutes, then consumed.  It is also reported that some people have cooked or even enjoy the raw, bitter-tasting fruits of the plant. However, most Jamaicans simply enjoy it in a tea format. Moreover, if a Jamaican (like myself) do not have a tree, we can get it from a neighbour, or friend or purchase it at the market. Cerasee is certainly not hard to come by in Jamaica.

Nonetheless, for those who do not have easy access to the leaves of the plant, you can purchase the extract online or from a health food store. It is also available in capsules or dried powdered formats.  Just ensure that you purchase it from reputable suppliers. So, do your research when purchasing.

Can I consume Cerasee/Bitter Melon Daily?

Reportedly, there are not sufficient or reliable studies available as it relates to the safe long-term consumption of cerasee or its daily use.  However, it is best to consume it in moderation for short periods of time. Additionally, as indicated earlier, always consult with your healthcare provider as it relates to the consumption of herbs, especially, if you are on medication.

Illustrative Summary

Here is an illustrative summary of Cerasee Benefits of Diabetes Plus Some Questions Answered!

Illustrative Summary - Cerasee -


Let’s Sum Up!

Cerasee or Momordica Charantia has been extensively studied as it relates to its medicinal properties to treat or manage several ailments, including diabetes. To this extent, it is hailed as a versatile plant that could possibly treat many diseases of mankind. This type of characterization may be due to the fact that it is stated to possess more than Two Hundred (200) medicinal properties. These properties may be able to act on their own or together with other substances to provide the medicinal effects as outlined by numerous research. 

While research has shown its possible beneficial effects on diabetes due to its hypoglycemic effect as well as its potential to help with neuropathy issues, a complication of diabetes, more research is still warranted.

You can enjoy cerasee in the form of tea or powder.  However, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider before making this a staple or using it in conjunction with anti-diabetic drugs or other medications due to its reported side effects and possible interactions.

So, have you ever consumed cerasee before? How was it? Share it nuh!

You can read more on diabetes and other herbs or powerhouse food kinds that could benefit it in these articles:
  • Ahmed I, Sharma AK, Ponery AS, Bener A, Singh J. The influence of Momordica charantia on ultrastructural abnormalities of myelinated fibres in experimental diabetes. Int. J. Diabetes. 1999;7:110–121. 
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  • Ahmed I, Cummings E, Sharma AK, Adeghate E, Singh J. Beneficial effects and mechanism of action of Momordica charantia fruit juice in the treatment of streptozotocin-induced diabetes mellitus in rats. Mol. Cell Biochem. 2004;261:63-70. 
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  • Basch E, Gabardi S, Ulbright C. Bitter melon (Momordica charantia); A review of efficacy and safety. Am. J. Health Syst. Pharm. 2003;60:356-359. 
  • Connell P, McKevitt C, Wolfe C. (2005). Strategies to manage hypertension: a qualitative study with black Caribbean patients. Br J Gen.
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