Banaba: the Tree of Beauty and Health

Banaba: the Tree of Beauty and Health
Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa), being one of the most beautiful trees, looks spectacular in the streets. Moreover, this plant is also medicinally valuable and used for years to treat diabetes mellitus type 2.

Biological Description
Lagerstroemia speciosa is from the Lythraceae family. The tree is also known as Queen’s Crape-myrtle, Giant Crape-myrtle, or Pride of India. It is a large and tall tree (up to 60 feet), which has a fast growing rate. Banaba’s crown is round, spreading to about 40 feet. The tree is also characterized with thin, smooth and easily injured flaky bark.

The oblong opposite leaves of Lagerstroemia are about 12 inches long. Being dark-green in summer, they turn into bright red in autumn before falling down. The most attractive thing about Banaba is the large panicles of its lavender or pink flowers, which bloom from June to July. The fruit of the tree is a hard round or oval brown nutlet. It is known for its persistent nature.

Growing
Lagerstroemia speciosa is native to Asia (mostly to India and Philippines), where it is grown for flowers and medicinal properties. The tree grows well in tropical and subtropical regions. It needs full sun and good drainage, being tolerant to drought. Banaba can grow in different types of soils, except salty ones. This tree is said to be able to tolerate and stand the storms, but it is not frost-resistant.

Parts Used
Leaves of the Banaba tree are used medicinally most often. At the same time, preparations from the bark, roots, and flowers have always been extensively used in Japan, Taiwan, Phillipinea, and other Asian countries.

Market
Tablets, extracts, capsules, powder and tea from Lagerstroemia speciosa are available on the market today.

Action
The potential of Banaba preparations to have insulin-like action is the most valuable and frequently and extensively researched by the modern science. It is known that the tree has a triterpenoid compound called corosolic acid. The latter stimulates glucose receptors increasing their activity and thus aiding in the absorption of blood sugar into the cells of the body. For its action corosolic acid is called “the natural plant insulin”, which helps lower blood glucose level.

By this time it has been found out that the effect of sugar lowering depends on the dose of the plant remedies taken. The larger the dose, the more pronounced results are.

Lagerstroemin, flosin B and reginin A – the ellagitannins isolated from the leaves of Lagerstroemia speciosa – are the other components, which may add to the efficacy of the plant remedies to lower glucose level.

The largest amount of the above mentioned constituents was isolated from the old leaves and ripe fruits of the Banaba tree. The young leaves and the flowers of the plant also contain these chemicals, although in much smaller doses.

Another effect of Lagerstroemia speciosa is promoting weight loss due to suppressing appetite, as well as delaying and reducing the absorption of carbohydrates in the body.

The tree is said to contain high concentrations of dietary fiber and minerals such as zinc and magnesium, 16 amino acids, tannins, and lipids. Due to its chemical composition Banaba may possess antibacterial, diuretic, and purgative properties. It may also be helpful in alleviating fevers.

Health Benefits
The preparations of different parts of Lagerstroemia speciosa are widely used for the treatment of a number of health conditions. For example, the problems of the digestive tract, as diarrhea and constipation, and urinary disorders (dysuria, bladder and kidney inflammations) are often treated with Banaba remedies.

These days Banaba’s potential to fight obesity received wide popularity, thus the plant is used in numerous dietary supplements for weight reduction.

However, the primary action of the tree preparations has always been and still remains reducing blood glucose level in patients with diabetes type 2. Such condition as insulin resistance syndrome is also managed with the same remedies. It is worthy to mention that a consultation with a professional health-care provider and a skilled naturopath is always necessary prior to starting the treatment with Banaba due to its strong action and possible risks of hypoglycemia in case of overdose.

It also looks like the information on Banaba effects on the human organism is not sufficient these days, and more studies are needed to evaluate the possible risks and long-term influence of this plant’s remedies.