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The Banana (Lagerstroemia speciosa) is a Southeast Asia native tree belonging to the Lythraceae family that grows spontaneously in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, but that is also widespread in Australia and on the Pacific coast. Southeast Asia traditional local medicine has promoted the use of its leaves for phytotherapeutic purposes since their active ingredients are useful for the treatment of obesity and hyperglycemic conditions, besides being of great help for those who are prone to the development of insulin resistance (typical of the Metabolic Syndrome).
Banaba leaves have traditionally been used for the treatment of type II diabetes and kidney problems too. Recently, the popularity of this plant has aroused the interest of many researchers because of its hypoglycaemic properties. Several studies have confirmed its interesting antidiabetic activity and have identified several Banaba components with a hypoglycaemic activity. The secret of these properties resides in the corosolic acid in leaves that behaves similar to insulin, favoring cells’ use of glucose, allowing its better regulation, absorption, utilization; and positively intervening in the regulation of sugars and plasma levels. It is not surprising that, in the nutraceutical sector, this substance is also called “Phyto-insulin” or “green insulin” because of this ability to modulate insulin and glucose levels. It must be said that an active lifestyle with a balanced diet is key for a good physical condition and that the therapeutic effects of banaba can easily be lost without a healthy lifestyle. Its action should not be compared to the pharmacological one but, surely, this nutraceutical has interesting supporting activities in controlling the blood sugar, reducing and limiting hunger pangs and stress eating, favoring weight loss. Fluctuations in blood sugar are, in fact, often associated with the desire for carbohydrate-based and fatty foods to satisfy the so-called “nervous hunger”.
Among the various studies that brought out banaba’s healthy properties, one in particular, published by “Biosci Biotechnol Biochem”, has shown that banaba leaves herbal tea inhibits the action of a-amylase up to 38%, while other research suggests that the extracts of methanol and water inside the leaves of this plant may counteract both a-amylase and a-glucosidase. These two enzymes are involved in the digestion of carbohydrates and are responsible for the increase in blood glucose levels after eating foods containing starches and sugars. Hindering their enzymatic activity, therefore, the absorption of carbohydrates will be slowed down with a consequent better control on blood sugar.
Dosages tested by scientific research range from 8 to 48 mg of 1% corosolic acid extract and, at these levels, they have shown no toxic effects, confirming the safety of banaba use. Due to the lack of specific experimentation, it is preferable, as a precaution, not to take it in pregnancy and childhood. Before starting any exclusive or adjuvant use, it would always be advisable to consult your doctor or diabetologist.