Ask the Pharmacist: Bitter melon is useful for oral cancer

Suzy Cohen
Bitter melon is a gourd that belongs to the pumpkin and zucchini family.

There’s a famous quote by Hippocrates that underpins today’s article: Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

Bitter melon is a food that has a new potential use for an unusual cancer. It’s a gourd that belongs to the pumpkin and zucchini family. You’ll likely be told by your doctor that this is just a folk remedy and not “approved” for anything important.

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I disagree. As you know, my life’s work is devoted to researching natural foods and extracts that work along the same pathways as drugs. I’m a pharmacist so I understand all of that. FYI, I happen to also formulate dietary supplements and to be fully transparent. I have included bitter melon in one of them. But it’s in there for blood sugar and insulin sensitivity concerns. Today’s article isn’t about any of that. It’s about mouth cancer. 

Early signs of oral cancer are easy to ignore and include chronic mouth sores, white or red patches in your mouth, numbness, pain, difficulty swallowing, jaw swelling or voice alterations. 

Bitter melon is a gourd that belongs to the pumpkin and zucchini family.

Bitter melon is a food and its constituents have been studied for the past few years for fast-growing malignancies, especially mouth cancer which many smokers get. Tobacco is a risk factor, among others. 

The latest news is solid and suggests that bitter melon extracts can slow down the growth of oral dysplasia and squamous cell cancer in the mouth and throat. This makes me think it could help with stomach and colon cancer too. This also makes me think all smokers should read today’s article. 

Certain inflammatory pathways and pain-causing cytokines rise during the development and progression of oral cancer. If bitter melon can control the cytokines (and again, research proves that it does) then oral cancer progression and spreading is blocked.

Your oncologist might be interested in evaluating certain immune checkpoints that bitter melon is known to suppress. I list the specific pathways and cytokines in my extended article, which I can email to anyone who wants it. Just join my online community at

In a brand new study published in October 2019, researchers proved that bitter melon inhibited both glycolysis and lipogenesis, which is hugely beneficial to oral cancer patients. This should be making headlines everywhere but since it’s not heavily funded, and foods don’t make people money, you won’t hear about it after today. 

A paradigm shift needs to occur in your mind if you’re being treated for cancer. Please tell yourself that many malignancies have natural, proven treatments that can help. Of course, you want to be prudent but keep an open-mind. I hope today’s article gives you renewed hope and a new therapy to consider. Bitter melon is considered a food, but it’s also sold as a tea and dietary supplement. My intention is to help improve or extend the life of someone you know and/or augment their chemotherapy. This is purely educational, so please ask your doctor what is right for you. 

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit