Banaba
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Botanical:  Lagerstroemia speciosa
Family:  Lythraceae (loosestrife family)
Other common names:  Giant Crape Myrtle, Crape Myrtle, Crepe Myrtle

Banaba is said to possess insulin-like properties and has long been used in folk medicine to regulate blood sugar levels.  Moreover, Banaba may also be a healthy way to support a leaner and more slender body through appetite control and sugar reduction.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

History:
Banaba is a deciduous evergreen that is native to East Asia, India and Australia and has become established in the warmest parts of the United States and other areas throughout the world.  Called the Crape Myrtle (or Crepe Myrtle) in the United States, it is a highly decorative tree and is becoming widely prevalent in home and municipal landscape designs with its sinewy, fluted and patchy-looking stems, shrubby leaves and beautiful flowers of six or seven, crinkly-edged petals on stalks of white, pinkish red, purple or lavender. The flowers are followed by a capsule-like fruit that produces seeds, which provide food for many butterfly larvae, and the leaves are used as a food and, more importantly, in herbal medicines.  The botanical genus, Lagerstroemia, is named after Swedish merchant, Magnus von Lagerström, who supplied Carolus (Carl) Linnaeus with the plants he collected for his work in identifying different species.  We have Linnaeus to thank for the binomial system we use today, giving each plant two Latin words to identify both genus and species.  Banaba is the Tagalog name for Lagerstroemia speciosa  in the Philippine language, and it has been used for many years in that country (and elsewhere) as a folk remedy for controlling blood sugar.  Several of the active constituents included in Banaba Leaf are corosolic acid and tannins, including lagerstroemin.

Beneficial Uses:
Banaba has been used in herbal medicine mainly for blood sugar control. One of its active constituents, corosolic acid, is suggested to possess insulin-like activity, stimulating glucose uptake. Recent research claims that this component was observed to be an activator of glucose transport into cells, which ultimately results in a lowering of blood glucose levels.  Transporting glucose into cells is critical for providing the energy necessary for those cells to carry out their vital functions.  Any compound that can stimulate glucose transport will effectively help to lower blood sugar levels.  In both human trials and laboratory research, it is said that there were hypoglycemic effects produced by Banaba Leaf in those who were genetically predisposed to diabetes.  In a small study in patients with Type-2 diabetes, it was found that an extract from Banaba Leaf (called Glucosol) lowered glucose levels in the blood.  In animal studies, research asserted that there was a lowering of blood sugar in the subjects, even after eating carbohydrates; and the elevation of blood glucose in non-insulin dependent diabetic mice was almost entirely suppressed.  Moreover, serum insulin levels (the amount of glucose excreted in the urine) were also lower in the subjects that were fed Banaba.

Regarding weight management, Banaba has been observed to have anti-obesity effects.  For some people, fluctuations in blood glucose levels are related to hunger and food cravings, particularly carbohydrates and sweets, and by regulating the blood sugar levels, Banaba may reduce the appetite and craving for breads and sweets.  Again, there have been both human trials and animal studies with regard to this activity, and in one study, animals fed Banaba leaf showed a significant decrease in weight and adipose tissue (fat), in comparison to another group on the same diet, without Banaba.

Other effects observed with the use of Banaba leaf included lowering of blood cholesterol levels and the moderation of liver lipid levels.

Contraindications:
It is important to remember that diabetics must check their blood glucose levels often, and any supplement should be taken in consultation with a physician.  Since Banaba may cause blood glucose levels to drop considerably, it should not be combined with other medications that have hypoglycemic activity, such as sulfonylureas (Glyburide or Glipizide, etc.) or herbs without consulting a physician.  At suggested doses, no adverse side effects are expected from Banaba.  Overuse (many times the recommended dosage) should be avoided, however, to prevent dizziness or fatigue, which can happen with extremely low blood sugar levels.

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