Banaba leaves are sometimes confused with banana leaves but these are two different plants. The role of banaba in traditional medicine makes it one of the top choices in alternative medicine for reducing the risk of imbalanced blood sugar and save from diabetes.
The scientific name of Banaba is Lagerstroemia speciosa and it naturally grows in Southeast Asia mainly in India, the Philippines, and Malaysia. All parts of this tree have medicinal benefits to offer but it is most popular for its role in sugar regulation.
Banaba leaves significantly reduce the onset of diabetes symptoms by regulating blood sugar naturally. This anti-diabetic effect is proven with research which is why many herbal supplements use banaba leaves to save a person from diabetes.
There are numerous compounds in its leaves such as gallotannins, corosolic acid as well as ellagitannins. Out of these, Corosolic acid significantly lowers the blood sugar levels as it increases the body’s natural insulin sensitivity. As a result, the glucose uptake capacity is increased and alpha-glucosidase is decreased. For these benefits, some herbalists call banaba leaves “natural insulin”.
Insulin a hormone that is responsible for regulating the body’s sugar levels. People who are diagnosed with diabetes type 2, are often a victim of insulin resistance which increases their need for this hormone. The pancreas is not able to fulfill these demands thus diabetic people use insulin injections to meet their needs. Otherwise, blood sugar increases to dangerously high levels.
In one such study evaluating the benefits of banaba leaves in diabetes, the participants were given corosolic acid capsule (10mg). After a couple of hours, their blood sugar was checked using an oral glucose tolerance test. The observed findings were then compared to the other group which was not given this capsule.
The benefit is not just limited to the corosolic acid alone, other compounds such as ellagitannins i.e. flosin B, reginin A and lagerstroemin also help to regulate sugar levels naturally.
These compounds make sure that the sugar uptake is continuous and smooth. For that, they activate a glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4), which is basically a protein that takes up glucose from the bloodstream and supplies it to the body muscles as well as fat cells, where it is needed.
Similarly, gallotanins also help in sugar regulation as it stimulates the sugar supply to the body cells. Some researchers believe that one particular type of gallotanin which is called penta-O-galloyl-glucopyranose (PGG) is responsible for most of this stimulatory activity. Its potential is much higher than corosolic acid as well as ellagitannins.
There are no side effects of using banaba leaves or its extracts as a part of herbal remedies. However, using it along with sugar-lowering medicines such as metformin or herbs such as fenugreek may drop blood sugar to a dangerously low level.
There a number of studies that imply the obvious benefits of banaba leaves in diabetes. However many of these studies tested a combination of certain herbs and banaba was one of them or a combination of some compounds including the compounds from banaba. There is a dire need to investigate the individual benefits of banaba, particularly how they regulate sugar in its users.