A native plant of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, the bitter gourd (or karela as we know it) may be a vegetable we all love to hate, but it’s actually loaded with health benefits vouched for, not only by practitioners of traditional herbal medicine, but also modern research.

Here’s but a few:

1. It’s great for fighting infection. Because it contains Vitamin B9, potassium, magnesium and zinc, it helps fight all kinds of infections, maintains muscle strength, prevents kidney stones, promotes liver health and cures digestive disorders.

2. It helps weight loss. The bitter gourd is especially beneficial for weight-watchers as it contains lectin, which suppresses appetite decreasing blood glucose concentration.

3. It’s anti-diabetic. According to Diabetes UK, there are three substances in the bitter gourd that have anti-diabetic properties. These three work together to keep blood sugar levels down.

4. It’s a powerful detox treatment. If you’re riddled with acne breakouts, rashes or digestive disorders, try drinking two tablespoons of bitter gourd juice for a few days. This treatment is also recommended by herbalists for people suffering from jaundice.

5. It reduces cholesterol levels. The compounds in the bitter gourd reduce accumulation of LDL (the bad cholesterol) in your blood vessels, aiding in maintaining cardiovascular health and preventing heart attacks and strokes.

*The best way to reduce the bitterness in the gourd is to peel it, rub salt on it and then wash and cut after half an hour.