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Have you ever heard of banaba leaf extract?

Though similar in name to the yellow fruit monkeys love, banaba is very different in its beneficial properties. This extract is widely popular for its antidiabetic effects–particularly weight loss and the lowering of blood sugar. Read on to learn more about how banaba leaf extract can help with diabetes, heart health, and much more!

Introduction

banaba

Lagerstroemia speciosa, commonly known as banaba, is a tropical tree widely grown in the Philippines, famous for its antidiabetic effects [R].

Water and methanol (alcohol) extracts of this tree’s leaves are sold in capsule form and used to help lower blood sugar levels and promote weight loss. The capsules often contain other substances such as green tea, green coffee, tamarind, gymnema, black pepper, and/or metals like vanadium and magnesium [R].

Components and Their Mechanisms

Banaba leaf extract’s key components include corosolic acid, lagerstroemia, and gallotannins [R].

Corosolic acid lowers glucose levels in the bloodstream through a variety of mechanisms. It [R, R, R]:

  • Activates cells in the body to take up higher amounts of glucose
  • Discourages the body from breaking down starches or sucrose into glucose molecules
  • Prevents the body from making glucose for energy from non-carbohydrates (opposes gluconeogenesis)

It also lowers fat levels (triglycerides and LDL, the “bad” cholesterol) [R].

Lagerstroemia is an ellagitannin, a type of molecule that is present in many common fruits and nuts such as pomegranates, strawberries, and almonds [R].

Lagerstroemia increases glucose transport activity by activating glucose transporters (GLUTs) and promoting more signaling (transmission) molecules to be made. Transmission molecules like Nf-kB and MAPK, along with GLUTs, all help cells to absorb glucose and use it for energy [R, R].

PGG, one of the key gallotannins responsible for banaba’s antidiabetic benefits, discourages fat cell production (adipogenesis). Gallotannins are a type of tannic acid, which is the same component that also enables red wine to lower blood sugar levels [R].

Health Benefits of Banaba Leaf

1) Banaba Leaf Is Anti-Diabetic

Banaba leaf increases cells’ glucose tolerance, and thus helps to lower high blood sugar levels. It can decrease glucose production in the body up to 30% and decreases breakdown activity of glucose storage molecules (starch and/or glucagon) [R].

It is unlike other antidiabetic drug because it does not cause weight gain [R].

In a year-long study, 15 diabetic patients took 100 mg of pure water-soluble banaba extract pills daily. At both 6 months and 1 year, the patients had significantly improved glucose tolerance. At the end of the year they had up to a 16% decrease in their blood sugar levels, but did not have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) [R].

In another clinical trial, 24 mild type 2 diabetic patients were given 3 tablets containing a mix of banaba, green tea, green coffee, and garcinia (tamarind) 3 times a day. The patients had an average of 13.5% decrease in their blood glucose levels [R].

In another 2-week study of 10 type 2 diabetic patients, the subjects took 32 mg or 48 mg banaba capsules (with a 1% concentration of corosolic acid) daily. At the end of the clinical trial, they had a 30% decrease in blood glucose levels [R].

2) Banaba Leaf Promotes Weight Loss

A common side effect of diabetes is weight gain, and unfortunately many antidiabetic drugs prescribed to decrease blood sugar do not help with fat loss. By encouraging glucose storage molecules (starch and/or glucagon) to not be broken down, banaba leaf extract optimizes the conservation of energy in the body, and thus reduces appetite [R, R].

It also decreases the production of fat cells (adipocytes), and lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels [R, R, R, R].

In a 60-day pilot study involving 30 participants, tablets containing a mixture of banaba, green coffee bean, vitamin D3, and moringa oleifera leaf (horseradish) lowered body fat levels compared to placebo [R].

3) Banaba Leaf Is an Antioxidant

Banaba leaf extract reduced superoxide levels, such as dismutase, in rats. Dismutase, if left alone, can prevent cells from functioning properly and increase bacterial survival rate at an infection site [R, R].

In diabetic mice, banaba extract helped increase levels of catalase, an antioxidant enzyme in the body. Catalase helps neutralize H2O2, a harmful, reactive oxygen compound [R, R].

4) Banaba Leaf Is Anti-Inflammatory

Corosolic acid from banaba leaf extract helped prevent inflammation by inhibiting arachidonic acid formation in mice. This prevented prostaglandin and leukotriene formation [R].

Prostaglandins are the hormones that induce pain as a side effect, and leukotrienes are cells that release inflammatory cytokines [R, R, R].

In cells, banaba extract blocks the activation of the inflammation-causing NF-kappaB [R].

5) Banaba Leaf Is Antiviral

Corosolic, gallic, and ellagic acid in banaba leaf extract inhibit enzymes that viruses use to take over human cells (proteases and reverse transcriptase). In cells, these acids help prevent viral infection from pathogens such as HRV-4 (Human Rhinovirus) and HIV [R, R, R].

6) Banaba Leaf Is Antibacterial

In a bacteria study, banaba leaf extract derived from water (instead of alcohol) successfully impeded the growth of harmful bacteria such as S. aureus, B. subtilis, P.aeruginosa, and E. coli [R].

The antibacterial activity was shown to be possibly caused by the tannins and triterpenoids (bioactive molecules) found in banaba [R].

7) Banaba Leaf May Help Prevent Cancer

Corosolic acid, one of the main components of banaba, kills human colon cancer cells [R].

Corosolic acid also inhibits 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13 acetate, a compound that encourages preexisting tumors to grow [R, R].

8) Banaba Leaf May Improve Heart Health

Banaba leaf extract contains gallotannins, which are a subclass of tannic acid. Tannic acid, a component of banaba, inhibits the production of endothelin-1, a protein that is heavily involved in heart disease [R].

A treatment of 0.072% corosolic acid, a major component in banaba, significantly lowered blood pressure in hypertensive rats [R].

9) Banaba Leaf May Help Prevent Liver Disease

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is a liver disease that causes excessive fat to build up in the liver. Excessive fructose (sugar) consumption is a major cause for this disease.

In rats, banaba extract decreased liver damage in rats with steatohepatitis, and lowered total cholesterol and blood ALT levels [R].

Limitations and Caveats

Many benefits of banaba were derived from extensive animal studies.

Human studies are few and often use a mixture of supplements, making it hard to conclude how much of the beneficial effects were solely caused by banaba extract.

Side Effects

No adverse effects have been found in clinical trials. Contrary to the logical expectation that the blood sugar-lowering capacity of banaba would cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), 6 clinical trials did not lead to any such effect [R, R].

Drug Interactions

Herbs including fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, and/or horse chestnut, (which all help lower blood sugar levels), along with diabetic medication, theoretically will have enhanced effects when taken along with banaba [R].

Dosage

Banaba extract is commonly provided in pill form, either as an isolated extract, or as an extract combined with other components.

Various studies have used 32 to 48 mg daily of banaba extract with a 1% corosolic acid concentration in adults. However, there is no set standard, and dosage recommendations will vary depending on the product and percent composition of banaba in the pills [R].

Pediatric studies have not been conclusive [R].

User Experiences

Users affected by diabetes and weight gain mainly gave positive feedback when taking banaba extract in varying frequencies.

Users also had their cravings satisfied, and experienced a decreased appetite and weight loss without changing their diet.

Others noticed no difference, or had a decreased appetite but no significant weight loss. One user also complained about bloating.

Additionally, another user said it prevented urinary infections.

Some users took the pills 2 to 3 times a day, while others took them up to 6 times a day during meals and snacks.

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5 COMMENTS

  • Liwayway Mallari

    My husband has undergone angoplasty Procedure…. And he has maintenance medicine for his heart..is it advisable for him to take banaba concoction

  • Paulette Harris

    I’m a diabetic, can I take banaba or sugar solve 24/7 since I”m on insulin? Can the two be taken together????

    1. Helen

      Hi Paulette, we recommend that you consult your doctor before you take any supplements, as they may interact with your medication.

  • Ann Moses

    Is banaba leaf beneficial to those without diabetes?

    1. Helen

      Yes, check out the other health benefits after #1 (like #2, 7, & 8).

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