Banaba, known scientifically as Lagerstroemia, is a flowering tree that is native to the Philippines and India, where it has been used for thousands of years as a treatment for digestive problems, kidney inflammation and diabetes. The Medical Health Guide reports that banaba can grow up to 30 feet high, producing pink and lavender flowers and leaves that are 3 inches wide by 7 inches in length. The banaba leaves are often used in herbal preparations, as they offer health benefits. Since banaba does not grow in most other parts of the world, it is taken as a dietary supplement. Never self-treat any medical conditions with banaba leaf, and get approval from your physician before adding it to your routine.
Blood Sugar Control
Banaba leaves contain a compound called corosolic acid, which has been identified as one of the main agents for banaba's glucose lowering effect. According to a study in the April 2008 issue of "Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice," corosolic acid helps the body break down sugars and carbohydrates and send them out to the body as energy through a process known as glycolysis. Drug Information Online (DIO) explains that corosolic acid also helps to repair the connection between insulin and insulin receptors, easing the problem of insulin resistance. Banaba's effects on insulin resistance make it an herb of interest in the treatment of obesity as well.
The corosolic acid in banaba leaves also makes a contribution to cancer treatment. Researchers at Changhai Hospital in Shanghai, China tested corosolic acid against human cervical cancer cells. The results, published in the November 1, 2009 issue of "Cancer Letters," show that corosolic acid stimulates the release of cancer-cell-killing enzymes, resulting in cancer cell death. Not only has corosolic acid been shown effective against cervical cancer cells, but the DIO reports that leukemia, breast and liver cancer cells are also susceptible to its action.
Metabolic syndrome is explained by the American Heart Association as a group of conditions a person may have that increase susceptibility to heart disease and stroke. These conditions include high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and inflammation. Researchers at Mukogawa Women's University in Nishinomiya, Japan tested banaba leaf extract against several metabolic syndrome conditions. They found that by the end of 10 weeks of treatment, blood pressure had been lowered, fat metabolism had normalized and the body's inflammation levels had decreased, according to the published results in the November 25, 2006 issue of "Life Sciences."