Banaba [ Scientific name: Lagerstroemia speciosa]
Banaba has been a popular medicinal plant in the Philippines for the treatment of urinary tract infections. Most of our grandparents would acknowledge that banaba has been used for over 50 years. It is a tree commonly found in the provinces; its beautiful blue-violet colored flowers make the banaba tree an ornamental tree used also as shades for parking lots and roadside landscaping. You will find several of these in the South Luzon Express Way and at the Alabang Town Center parking lot.
Banaba is also a famous medicinal plant in ayurvedic medicine mainly to lower blood sugar and reducing weight agent. The Philippine banaba has become popular with respect to its anti-diabetic properties. Banaba tea is famous as a health drink in Japan and in the U.S. Technically, the active principle is considered to be corosolic acid, a triterpenoid compound, which promotes glucose transport or utilization in the body cells. The current thinking is that banaba can lower glucose independent of pancreatic insulin. This makes the active principle of banaba a natural form of insulin from plants.
With the reduction of blood glucose is the concomitant reduction in body weight, apparently due to the better control of carbohydrate. The weight reduction was seen even without dietary restrictions.
The leaves are generally used to make a concoction or tea, but the bark, flowers and fruits can be used as well. If you want to prepare your own banaba tea, get mature green leaves and chop them. The ratio is 1 part chop banaba leaves to 3 parts water boiled for about 15 minutes (low heat). You can drink this tea 3 or 4 times a day. If you want some twist in the flavor with added value of herbs, you can add “tanglad” or lemon grass with local citrus such as “kalamansi.”
There are no known side effects or toxic reactions of banaba. In fact, it has been reported that banaba can help detoxify the body and protect the liver. Banaba tea can be considered a health drink.