Banaba is an herbal remedy extracted from the leaves of Lagerstroemia speciosa, a tree native to Southeast Asia. Long used in folk medicine, banaba is now available in supplement form. Proponents claim that banaba can promote weight loss and treat a wide range of health problems.
Banaba contains corosolic acid, a substance shown to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, and blood-sugar-lowering properties. Banaba also contains ellagitannins, a class of compounds that act as antioxidants.
Uses for Banaba
Banaba is touted as a natural remedy for the following conditions:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- kidney disease
- metabolic syndrome
- urinary tract infections
In addition, banaba is often marketed as a natural weight loss aid. Some proponents also suggest that banana can aid in detox and enhance liver health.
Benefits of Banaba
There is currently a lack of scientific evidence for the health effects of banaba. Some preliminary research indicates that banaba may offer certain health benefits, however, most of the available research is over ten years old. Here's a look at several key study findings:
1) Banaba and Diabetes
Findings from laboratory studies and animal-based research suggest that banaba may help control diabetes. In a study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry in 1996, for instance, scientists demonstrated that treating diabetic mice with banaba extract helped protect against elevated blood sugar levels. In addition, banaba appeared to reduce total cholesterol levels.
In 2003, the Journal of Ethnopharmacology published a study finding that type 2 diabetes patients treated with banaba extract for two weeks experienced a significant reduction in blood sugar levels. The number of study participants is unknown.
2) Banaba and Weight Loss
Banaba may help fight obesity, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology in 1999. In an experiment involving obese mice, researchers found that adding banaba to the animals' diets helped prevent weight gain. What's more, banaba-fed mice were less likely to experience buildup of triglycerides (a type of harmful blood fat).
Is Banaba Safe?
Very little is known about the safety of using banaba in the long term. However, there is some concern that banaba may reduce blood sugar levels. If you're considering the use of banaba, talk to your doctor before beginning treatment.
Where to Find Banaba
Widely available for purchase online, banaba products (including banaba capsules and teas) are sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.
Should You Use Banaba for Health Purposes?
Due to the lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend banaba for any health-related purpose. Furthermore, it's important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with banaba and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.
Hayashi T, Maruyama H, Kasai R, Hattori K, Takasuga S, Hazeki O, Yamasaki K, Tanaka T. "Ellagitannins from Lagerstroemia speciosa as activators of glucose transport in fat cells." Planta Med. 2002 Feb;68(2):173-5.
Judy WV, Hari SP, Stogsdill WW, Judy JS, Naguib YM, Passwater R. "Antidiabetic activity of a standardized extract (Glucosol) from Lagerstroemia speciosa leaves in Type II diabetics. A dose-dependence study." J Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Jul;87(1):115-7.
Kakuda T, Sakane I, Takihara T, Ozaki Y, Takeuchi H, Kuroyanagi M. "Hypoglycemic effect of extracts from Lagerstroemia speciosa L. leaves in genetically diabetic KK-AY mice." Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1996 Feb;60(2):204-8.
Klein G, Kim J, Himmeldirk K, Cao Y, Chen X. "Antidiabetes and Anti-obesity Activity of Lagerstroemia speciosa." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2007 Dec;4(4):401-7.
Liu F, Kim J, Li Y, Liu X, Li J, Chen X. "An extract of Lagerstroemia speciosa L. has insulin-like glucose uptake-stimulatory and adipocyte differentiation-inhibitory activities in 3T3-L1 cells." J Nutr. 2001 Sep;131(9):2242-7.
Stohs SJ, Miller H, Kaats GR. "A Review of the Efficacy and Safety of Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa L.) and Corosolic Acid." Phytother Res. 2011 Nov 17. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3664.
Suzuki Y, Unno T, Ushitani M, Hayashi K, Kakuda T. "Antiobesity activity of extracts from Lagerstroemia speciosa L. leaves on female KK-Ay mice." J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 1999 Dec;45(6):791-5.