The prevalence of diabetes, cancer and other lifestyle-related conditions has exploded in the US, as well as many other Western countries over the last few decades. In the 1960s, only around 0.5 percent of the population had type 2 diabetes – they type where insulin action in the cells is blocked as a result of excessive intramyocellular lipids (or fat within the cells). But since then, the prevalence of the diseases has rocketed to more than 8.5 percent of the population, thanks mainly to Western diets and lifestyles.
This explosion in prevalence has led to the search for drugs which can better manage the disease. But the problem with many of these drugs is that they come with severe side effects, including life-threatening heart attacks.
Now, many smart people are looking for natural, safe alternatives to treat their condition. And one of the most promising right now is banaba leaf extract, believed by many to be a possible cure for chronically elevated blood sugar levels.
What Is Banaba Leaf Extract?
Banaba leaf extract, also called Lagerstroemia, is a plant that is used for antidiabetic purposes. It comes from the family of plants called Banaba and is often used as part of a blend in holistic medicine.
You may see Banaba leaf extract called any of the following:
- Queen’s Crape Myrtle
- Pyinma, Pride-of-India
- Myrte de Crepe
- Lagerstroemia flosreginae
- Extrait de Banaba
- Crepe Myrtle
- Crape Myrtle
- Corosolic acid
- Banaba extract.
Banaba comes from crepe myrtle trees, found most often in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. For centuries, it’s been used as medicine by indigenous people in the area for diseases associated with metabolic syndrome.
The banaba leaf plant itself can grow more than 30 feet tall. It produces pink and lavender flowers and its leaves are up to 7 inches long.
Examples of Banaba Leaf Extract Benefits
Banaba leaf extract is associated with a broad range of health benefits, although many of these benefits are yet to be quantified by Western science. Here we’re going to investigate some of the purported benefits to see whether Banaba leaf extract is a supplement you should incorporate into your regime.
- Weight Loss
If you take a look at an obesity map of the US – or any Western country – you’ll see that obesity rates have exploded since the 1970s. The reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, but leading researchers think that it’s a combination of a high-meat, high-sugar diet, low levels of activity and an obesogenic environment, (by which they mean a fast-food restaurant on every corner). As a society, our consumption of calories has increased while our burning of calories has gone down.
When obesity first became a public health issue back in the 1950s, doctors tried to get people to reduce their weight by putting them on a “reducing diet.” These diets were essentially the same diets that they had been eating, just with fewer calories. Doctors thought that they could coax people into eating less over long periods of time, but they soon found that this strategy simply wasn’t practical. Unless patients were under constant supervision, they reverted to their original calorie intake.
This led to the search for more effective treatment regimens: treatments that would provide the metabolic advantage people needed to shift their fat without limiting calories – something which seems impossible for most people over the long term.
In 1999, the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology published a study on the efficacy of banaba on fighting obesity. The researchers took some mice and separated them into two groups. To one group, they added banaba extract to their food, while the other group continued to eat their regular chow. The animals eating the banaba extract experienced no significant weight gain relative to the control group, suggesting that banaba extract could help prevent weight gain. In addition to weight loss, those eating banaba leaf extract also saw a reduction in their triglycerides, fatty acids that can build up in the bloodstream on high-carbohydrate diets. This led researchers to suggest that humans might experience similar benefits.
- Lower Cholesterol
Although the scientific evidence is limited, some experts suggest that consumption of banaba extract can lead to markedly reduced levels of cholesterol. Cholesterol is believed to be a necessary and sufficient condition for heart disease and the main reason why people get heart attacks and strokes. Lowering cholesterol is, therefore, essential for maintaining long-term cardiovascular health. The chairman of the Therapeutics Committee Dr. John Gullotta suggests consuming herbs like banaba to bring cholesterol down. When the mice in the aforementioned Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry study were fed banaba, the researchers noted that both their blood sugar and their cholesterol had gone down.
- Lower Blood Pressure
Studies on animals show that banaba leaf extract also has a beneficial effect on blood pressure. Yamaguchi et al. fed rats corosolic acid (one of the active ingredients in banaba leaf) for fourteen weeks to see if it had any effect on their health. They found that it significantly decreased their blood pressure and also a host of other oxidative stress markers.
Diseases That Banaba Extract Fights
The principal problem in type 2 diabetes is an inability for insulin to do its job. In people who don’t have diabetes, insulin is the key that unlocks the door of the cell, allowing glucose inside. But the problem in diabetes is that the lock is gummed up with fat. When the insulin comes knocking, the lock won’t turn, and the chemical signal to the cell is interrupted. As a result, glucose levels in the blood rise and when they get too high, damage is done to sensitive cells around the body, including the capillaries, back of the eyes, and kidneys. In extreme circumstances, high blood sugar levels can lead to coma and death.
Controlling blood sugar is, therefore, vital, and one of the many Banaba leaf extract benefits. Since the 1920s, physicians have been doing this with exogenous insulin – insulin synthesized outside of the body and then injected into patients, giving them enough insulin to sugar into cells. Data from laboratory studies in animals suggests that Banaba leaf may have similar effects, helping to protect people against chronically elevated blood sugar levels. A study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry in 1996 found that treating diabetic mice with banaba reduced episodic high blood sugar levels.
A follow-up study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology investigated whether the same held true in humans. They took a bunch of type 2 diabetes patients and gave them banaba extract to see whether their blood sugar control improved. The found that after just two weeks there was a significant reduction in blood sugar levels, reducing insulin requirements.
Further research has discovered that banaba leaf extract has an immediate impact on blood sugar control. Fukushima et al. published a study in Diabetes Research Clinical Practice in 2006 where they fed patients the equivalent of 10 mg of corosolic acid or a placebo before a 75 g glucose tolerance test to see how quickly they responded. They found that those who had taken the corosolic acid had lower blood glucose levels 60 to 120 minutes after the glucose tolerance test.
The idea that we can use natural remedies to combat cancer is slowly gaining currency, even among the medical community. And like many other natural remedies, there is evidence that Banaba leaf may be an effective treatment.
Researchers based at the Changhai Hospital in Shanghai, China, wanted to find out whether an acid in banaba leaf extract, corosolic acid, was effective at killing human cervical cancer cells. What they found was quite remarkable: corosolic acid provoked the body into producing cancer-killing enzymes which appear to help cancer cell death. Though the findings are preliminary, they suggest that some compounds may be able to stimulate the body’s natural defenses to protect against diseases as serious as cancer.
The initial findings were so dramatic that researchers from the DIO decided to continue testing extract on other cancer cells from different parts of the body. They found that derivatives of banaba extract were effective against liver, breast, and leukemia cancer cells.
- Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions which are highly correlated with one another. First identified by Gerald Reaven in the 1980s, metabolic syndrome has quickly come to describe a range of conditions including diabetes, abdominal obesity, hypertension, inflammation and high triglycerides – conditions which seem to go hand in hand in affected populations. The basic theory is that they all have the same root cause, rather than just occurring simultaneously by chance as the result of different factors. It turns out that there isn’t one single cause that explains all these factors, but rather that they are the product of more general lifestyle patterns.
Can banaba extract help people with metabolic syndrome? Researchers at Mukogawa Women’s University in Nishinomiya decided to put it to the test. They took a group of people, fed the banaba extract and followed them for 10 weeks. They then compared their blood sugar, blood pressure, fat metabolism and levels of inflammation. In most cases, they found that these disease markers had either improved or normalized, suggesting that banaba extract is able to operate in multiple ways to reduce the signs of metabolic syndrome.
- Kidney Health
Banaba leaf extract is also hypothesized to assist kidney health, thanks to its anti-diabetic properties. Lower levels of blood sugar protect the kidneys from damage, allowing them to carry out their normal functions for longer. So far, science has not uncovered any conflict between banaba leaf extract and drugs for kidney diseases, such as Novolog or Lantus.
Could banaba leaf extract protect against HIV? Possibly, according to some studies. In 2013, the Indian Journal of Medical Research published a study in which two acids found in banaba extract – ellagic and gallic acids – helped inhibit HIV infection by reducing the ability of the virus to use enzymes to attack the body. Thanks to their powerful effect in the lab, researchers have suggested that banaba leaf extract might be a potent topical remedy for HIV infection and could form part of the next wave of anti-viral drugs.
Although it might seem harmless, just breathing and taking in oxygen damages your body. The reason for this is because oxygen is a highly reactive gas. It’s one of the reasons you need oxygen for a fire to burn.
When oxygen goes into your body, it reacts with dozens of other chemicals. It’s an essential part of the body’s respiratory process, helping us to burn energy and providing us with the ability to stay warm and active. But all the byproducts of these reactions can take their toll on your cells, causing them to sustain damage over the long term. This is one of the reasons why many physicians now recommend we all take antioxidants – chemicals which help to neutralize the adverse effects of oxygen metabolism. The addition of antioxidants to our bodies, either in diet or pill forms, ramps up their defenses, helping them withstand the harmful effects of metabolic reactions.
So what about banaba leaf? Scientists writing in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology found that Banaba leaf extract contains several powerful antioxidants with significant activity in lab experiments. They concluded that at doses of around 150 mg/kg body weight, rats exposed to oxidative stress were able to retain normal antioxidant levels, potentially protecting them from the damaging effects of diabetes.
Forms In Which Banaba Leaf Extract Is Consumed
Traditionally, banaba leaf extract was consumed in the form of tea. Banaba leaf tea bags are available on the market. However, they are prohibitively expensive for most.
The most cost-effective way to get large quantities of banaba leaf extract – and the way that most studies do it – is to take it in supplement form. Supplements are relatively cheap and easy to take, requiring a minimum of preparation. Most banaba leaf extract pills contain 8-48 mg of banaba leaf extract. About one to two percent of that is the active ingredient, corosolic acid.
- Meal Replacement Shakes
Some companies use banaba leaf extract in their meal replacement shakes. They do this because of the belief that banaba extract reduces the body’s need for insulin. Adding banaba leaf to a shake helps blunt the insulin spike that comes after a meal, helping to reduce feelings of hunger.