Banaba leaf has been used for centuries to treat high blood sugar and other problems. In modern-day history, we still see this herb used frequently used to control blood sugar and reduce cholesterol. Banaba is not misspelled, it is not intended to be banana, it is “banaba” and therefore has nothing to do with the delicious starchy fruit you might be thinking of. Many of you will recognize the banaba flower as the crepe myrtle flower. Yes, same thing!
Known in the botanical world as Lagerstroemia speciosa (L.), this plant goes by another name in the United States that you may recognize, the crepe myrtle tree! When in full bloom, these are the most beautiful trees you will ever see, at least in Florida! And the flowers are not the medicine, the leaf extract is, and it must be done properly. Whatever you want to call it, banaba leaf is important in the world of holistic medicine.
The hypoglycemic effects of banaba extract come from certain leaf or seed compounds, a few of which include corosolic acid, ellagic acid, triterpenes, flavones, tannins, and others. These special constituents are found throughout the plant such as in the leaves, stem, flowers, fruit, bark, and roots! The herbal medicine needs to be extracted properly, I don’t recommend you try to steep anything or do a DIY project!
You are more than likely going to hurt yourself. There are commercial preparations of this natural ingredient sold in health food stores and online retailers. Banaba is often found in combination with other herbs in dietary supplements for managing glucose. My GlucoScript capsules contain an effective amount of banaba in it, in case that interests you–> it’s for a faster metabolism, cholesterol balancing, and blood sugar.* GlucoScript is also sold on AMAZON.
I wrote a book on diabetes, one that is prized and sometimes used in medical classrooms for Functional Medicine seminars. I’m very proud of that. Anyway, your blood sugar numbers don’t matter a whole lot, compared to the bigger picture. If you are interested in my book, you can find it here on AMAZON, it’s called “Diabetes Without Drugs”
If you want to read an article where I explain more about blood glucose numbers, CLICK HERE.
Also, just FYI, there is a circadian rhythm to blood glucose. Insulin sensitivity tends to go down during the daytime hours. See my graphic here.
Banaba is not a brand new ingredient, we’ve known about the powerful benefits of this herbal extract for more than 80 years! Physicians could access the very first published clinical research report proving the benefits of banaba back in 1940! Why this paper and hundreds of others got swept under the rug is beyond me!
Studies in animals, as well as humans, show benefits to the human body from head to toe. Let’s go over those now:
4 Remarkable Benefits of Banaba:
1. Banaba Can Illicit Reductions in Blood Sugar
Corosolic acid has been reported to have immediate effects. For example, it was shown that this compound could decrease blood sugar levels within 60 min in participants who were tested. Banaba has other compounds which help reduce blood sugar and these include Flosin B, and Reginin A.
The beneficial effects of these and other compounds are mediated in the body by your PPAR pathway and glucose uptake into the cell (so less of it in your blood), improved insulin sensitivity, reduced glucose formation, and impaired hydrolysis of starch.
When these things occur, your levels of inflammation and cytokines go down, and the hope is that there is then a reduced risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack and amputation. There are studies all over pubmed that will affirm these effects, and others in case you are interested.
The benefit of having more balanced blood sugar is that you have fewer cravings, and you can start losing weight! Any antidiabetic effect (even from medication) causes the same effect.
2. Banaba Can Cause Reductions in Cholesterol
When you reduce cholesterol to an average healthy amount (not a ridiculously low amount), then your risk for heart disease decreases. And when I say “cholesterol” I don’t actually mean total amounts, I mean the LDL and VLDL components. You can measure these in a “Lipid Panel” by self-ordering your own blood test or asking your practitioner to order it for you. You Can Order Your Own Blood Work and Lab Tests.
The same constituents I mentioned above in banaba play a critical role in reducing cholesterol, and studies prove this. Here is one animal MODEL and here is another more recent 2021 STUDY. This herbal extract should not interfere with statin use either, so if you are already taking atorvastatin, for example, it’s more than likely fine to take it, but consult with your physician just to be sure. Maybe now you see why I put a full amount of Banaba extract in my custom, one-of-a-kind formula which supports cholesterol and healthy blood sugar metabolism: GlucoScript
3. Banaba May Support Breast Cancer Patients
To learn more about this effect, you can read the STUDY entitled, Identification, ADMET evaluation and molecular docking analysis of Phytosterols from Banaba ( Lagerstroemia a speciosa ( L.) Pers) seed extract against breast cancer.
There are many papers about this incredible effect, and what’s interesting is that, unlike many other herbs that have anti-cancer activity, banaba works differently. Most other herbs cause a cancer cell to die (ie to end its own life), the term for this is called “apoptosis.”
With banaba, the anti-cancer effect comes from several other mechanisms, and the overall result suggests it could benefit people dealing with kidney and/or liver cancer. You can read more here in this PAPER which discusses its antiproliferative effect.
4. Banaba May Have a Slight Role in Reducing Blood Clots
There isn’t a super tight correlation with banaba, but there could be a side benefit to improving the health of your blood cells. In other words, do NOT give up on your aspirin, clopidogrel, warfarin, or other… do NOT abandon those fish oil, lumbrokinase, or ginger either! But do at least ponder the fact that there could be a correlation.
There have been some papers hinting at the antithrombotic effect of banaba so I don’t want to dismiss it entirely. But unfortunately, they’re tiny studies done on animals or in test tubes and so I wouldn’t put much weight on these.
Nevertheless, anything at all that could help with blood clot formation gets my attention because that is one devastating situation and we’re seeing unnaturally high rates of stroke and heart attack lately! So if you’re so inclined, here’s one animal STUDY suggesting benefits and ANOTHER. Even Healthline wrote an article that gave honorable mention to this effect.
If you have had covid and want to check your D-dimer levels, that would be a good idea. D-dimer may be elevated for a while afterward too. Here’s an article I wrote, Understanding D-Dimer and 10 Strategies to Reduce It.
Side Effects of Banaba
Be careful when using this herbal derivative because it can lower blood sugar, which can be dangerous, especially if you’re taking anti-diabetic medications or herbs.
Many people do not know the symptoms that can occur with excessive blood sugar, termed hyperglycemia, or excessively low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Take a look at this image to learn more and stay safe as you make changes to your protocols. Of course, always consult a physician before making changes to your diabetes protocol, even if that includes changes with dietary supplements.
Banaba has been known to cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Just like any medication or plant-derived herb, this is a possibility.
There are many other benefits of banaba, but the ones listed above can definitely contribute to longevity. We know that high cholesterol, sticky blood, elevated blood sugar, and problems with DNA contribute to a shorter lifespan. So when you consider herbal extracts, it’s clear to see that the pros outweigh the cons.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.