Banaba leaf comes from the banaba bush, or Lagerstroemia speciosa, an ornamental plant indigenous to Australia, Southeast Asia, and India. It is also found in other warm climates throughout the world including the temperate regions of the United States, where it is commonly known as crepe myrtle. In addition to its use as a decorative shrub, the banaba bush has been prized for its medicinal properties. Banaba leaf extract contains high levels of a plant insulin known as corosolic acid. Studies have shown that the corosolic acid naturally present in banaba leaf may improve blood sugar control in type II diabetics.
Banaba has been used for years in the Philippines and other parts of Asia as a method of controlling blood sugar. It may stimulate the transport of glucose into the cells resulting in lower blood sugar levels. Other natural herbs that may assist in lowering blood sugar include lipoic acid, fenugreek, chromium, and cinnamon. Homeopathic remedies for high blood sugar sometimes use a combination of these herbs and nutrients for maximum effect.
Some users have reported a decrease in blood cholesterol levels when using banaba leaf. It has also been used for the relief of urinary tract infections, and may aid weight loss when used as an appetite suppressant to control food cravings. In animal studies, weight loss occurred with the ingestion of banaba leaf extract without the reduction of calories.
Additional studies have indicated that the corosolic acid present in banaba leaf may have practical applications in treating bacterial infections, upset stomach, and cough. Elevated lipid-blood levels and elevated levels of fatty acid compounds in the blood may be decreased with its use as well. In addition, evidence has shown that the regular use of banaba leaf tea may provide relief for the discomfort associated with kidney stones and help prevent gallbladder stones.
Banaba leaf extract is commonly ingested in the form of tea, juice, or dietary supplements. Some of the only known side effects of banaba leaf are fatigue, dizziness, and headache associated with hypoglycemia, commonly known as low blood sugar. There may also be interactions with other medications and herbal remedies. It is always a good idea to consult a physician before beginning a regimen including this or any other homeopathic remedy. Medical supervision while using this supplement is particularly important for individuals being treated for diabetes because it can compound the effects of common diabetes drugs like insulin, phenformin, chlorpropamide, and glyburide.