Though an important component of herbal medicine, banaba is an often overlooked supplement for diabetes.
When it comes to blood sugar and insulin regulation, cinnamon and chromium seem to get all the spotlight.
But banaba deserves a place in the glucose-lowering conversation. It has efficient antidiabetic activity. We’ll explain the benefits of banaba below.
What is banaba?
Banaba is a plant that has been used for many years in folk medicine. It is sometimes referred to as its Latin name, Lagerstroemia speciosa.
Historically, banaba tree extract has been used to treat diabetes. The first published research study about banaba for diabetes management was released all the way back in 1940.
The active ingredients in banaba are various phytochemicals. The main phytochemical in banaba is called corosolic acid. This is a type of pentacyclic triterpene that is seen prominently in the mature leaves of the banaba plant. Other phytochemicals in banaba include ellagitannins, gallic acid, and ellagic acid.
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What health conditions are banaba used for?
- Banaba is used to help lower blood glucose levels (also known as blood sugar levels), help improve insulin resistance, and therefore reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- One of the health benefits of banaba is that it’s antihyperlipidemic, meaning it helps to lower blood cholesterol levels. It is used to help lower total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (also known as LDL-C, or “bad cholesterol”), and non-high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (also known as non-HDL-C).
- Banaba is also used as an antioxidant and an antineoplastic (helps against tumor formation). It can be used as an anticancer agent in various types of cancer, including hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) and colorectal cancer.
- Since banaba has antifungal and antiviral properties, it is also used in fungal and viral infections. Banaba is also helpful for any acute (short-term) inflammation, which usually involves pain, redness, heat, and swelling.
- Banaba leaf extract is also used in those who are overweight or obese to help with weight loss. By the same mechanism, it can also help with metabolic syndrome.
- Banaba has also been known to protect the liver against alcohol-induced damage in alcoholic liver disease, and against non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (fatty liver).
- Another possible use of banaba is in those infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).
Banaba extract and its role in the management of diabetes
If you are taking banaba herb, you should certainly expect to see a decrease in your blood sugar levels. Banaba extract can help to achieve optimal glycemic control, improve long term prognosis of diabetes, and minimize the need for insulin medications in those with type 2 diabetes.
When someone takes banaba, they have a lower chance of developing diabetes. People who already have diabetes when they begin their banaba supplements have a lower chance of their diabetes progressing. They may also see improvements in their long term prognosis, as well as less of a need for insulin medications.
Pure corosolic acid has actually been reported to lower blood glucose levels in just 60 minutes in human subjects. Wow, that’s fast! Some studies that yielded positive effects from banaba supplementation were six weeks long. Others were eight weeks, while some were twelve.
Regulation of blood sugar levels
A recent review summarized the up to date research on banaba. It also looked at the constituents of banaba and their relation to blood sugar. They found that banaba’s glucose-lowering properties can be attributed to corosolic acid and ellagitannins.
Banaba’s effects on diabetes have been studied in various animals, humans, and in labs. Many different forms of banaba have been studied. These include:
- Water-soluble banaba leaf extracts
- Corosolic acid standardized extracts
- Purified corosolic acid
- Valoneic acid dilactone
Pure corosolic acid can lower blood sugar levels in just one hour in human subjects.
Besides its effects on blood sugar levels, banaba can help people with diabetes through the following actions:
- Lowers cholesterol
- Builds bone
Another study looked at the glucose-lowering effects of banaba in diabetic mice. Researchers fed the mice a test diet. This diet contained 5% of banaba leaf tea. They ate this for five weeks.
Adding the banaba tea to the mice’s diet was able almost entirely to suppress elevated blood sugar. This was in mice with type 2 diabetes. Banaba herbal tea was also able to lower the amount of insulin in the blood.
The levels of glucose released in the urine were also lowered in the mice fed banaba extract. Once again, banaba also lowered total cholesterol levels. Researchers concluded that banaba leaf extract has beneficial effects on the control of plasma glucose in type 2 diabetes.
Other research has found that banaba has insulin-like glucose transport inducing activity. One compound called PGG (short for Penta-O-galloyl-glucopyranose) has anti-fat properties.
PGG also helps to stimulate fat cells to take up glucose. This combination of glucose uptake and anti-fat formation activity is quite rare. In fact, it’s not even found in the current insulin mimetic drugs. Therefore, researchers concluded that banaba might have great therapeutic potential in type 2 diabetes.
Importance of managing blood sugar levels
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, it is of utmost importance that you take action and create some strategies for managing diabetes. Not only will taking care of your diabetes help you manage unpleasant symptoms, but it will also help prevent some serious negative consequences.
When diabetes is not managed correctly, the risk of long-term morbidity and the risk of mortality increases. That’s some serious stuff, right there.
Unmanaged diabetes leads to a much higher risk of developing both microvascular (small blood vessel) and macrovascular (large blood vessel) complications. These include peripheral neuropathy, which causes weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and/or the feet.
Nephropathy can also occur, which is when the kidneys are affected. You can also experience ophthalmic abnormalities once the eye has been affected. There is also a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and a, therefore, higher risk of stroke and heart attack.
Studies have demonstrated that improving control over your blood sugar levels leads to less dependence upon healthcare and fewer costs related to this (insulin therapy, medications, etc.).
Proactive treatment can delay or even prevent several of the complications related to diabetes. Early treatment leads to a better quality of life and less health care costs related to type 2 diabetes.
It is also vital to have good glycemic control if you are pregnant. There is reliable evidence out there to show that the fetus of a mom with diabetes is at higher risk of significant short-term morbidity in utero as well as once that fetus becomes a newborn baby.
There is also a higher risk for that baby to develop diabetes and other chronic diseases once they are an adult. The risk of all these things happening is actually higher in mothers who had diabetes prior to pregnancy.
Aside from the problems that can occur with high blood sugar levels, severe hypoglycemia can happen as well.
Other ways to naturally lower blood sugar levels
A diet that is low in carbohydrates can help to lower blood sugar. This could be a high protein diet or a high-fat diet, such as the ketogenic diet. One study looked at 14 healthy females and their glycemic score. Researchers gave them 1000 kJ of glucose three times within a three week period. They would also give them a low glycemic test food on separate days twice per week.
Researchers found that the low glycemic test foods produced a significantly lower glycemic response compared to the glucose. In fact, the average blood glucose levels after glucose intake were 122 mg/dL. But the average blood glucose levels after the intake of low glucose test foods was just 89 mg/dL.
The fact that these test foods had such a low impact on blood sugar levels after a meal shows that they would be useful in diabetes. A low carbohydrate diet that is either high in protein or fat would be a good choice for a person with diabetes.
Exercise is usually one of the first things advised to patients with type 2 diabetes. Together with the proper dietary and lifestyle changes, exercise is essential to the treatment of diabetes.
It doesn’t matter whether you do cardio or weight training for skeletal muscle, or a combination of these. Any of these will improve the regulation of glucose in the body. High-intensity interval training is also effective. One added bonus? High-intensity interval training is highly time-efficient.
Researchers analyzed six adults with type 2 diabetes. They had them participate in a laboratory procedure to look at the effects of an acute stressor on blood sugar levels. The participants then went home but continued to have their stress, and blood sugar monitored.
The results showed that blood sugar levels went up with stress levels. Spikes in blood glucose were higher on high-stress days. These findings show us that stress increases levels of blood glucose.
There are several different natural ways to manage diabetes mellitus. They operate using different mechanisms of action in order to help manage symptoms and/or treat the root cause of diabetes.
- Alpha-lipoic acid is a natural remedy that can be used to help in the management of diabetes. Alpha-lipoic acid is effective at lowering blood sugar levels. It can lead to significant improvement in pain, numbness, peripheral nerve conductance, sensory symptoms, decreased nerve fiber degeneration, and improved neuropathy and endoneurial function. But alpha lipoic acid doesn’t just help with nerve-related symptoms. It has also been found to reduce markers of oxidative stress and to inhibit copper and iron-mediated oxidative damage.
- Cinnamon isn’t just a tasty spice. It’s also medicinal, particularly in the management of diabetes! In patients with HbA1c higher than 7.0, it can help to significantly lower fasting blood glucose levels. It is also helpful in managing cholesterol levels of those with diabetes. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides. It also helps to increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“good” cholesterol).
- Chromium is a micromineral that is often used in the management of diabetes. It works by helping to lower fasting blood glucose levels. Chromium is one of the helpful dietary supplements in diabetes treatment, but there is a risk of a minor interaction with metformin. This happens due to added drug effects, which lead to increased effects of metformin specifically.
- Gymnema Sylvestre is a herb that helps with the regeneration and repair of the beta cells of the pancreas. These are the cells that produce insulin in a healthy person. Beta cells may have difficulty with this in someone with insulin resistance or insulin sensitivity. When beta cells in someone with diabetes are repaired, this raises serum insulin levels, which then helps to bring down blood glucose. It is also good at assisting patients to get to the point where they are able to decrease the dose of their conventional diabetes medications, such as metformin or glibenclamide.
- Finally, Coccinia cordifolia is a herb known for its hypoglycemic actions. Compared to placebo, Coccinia cordifolia significantly decreases fasting blood glucose, postprandial glucose, and HbA1c.
- Bitter melon can also help to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.
Although there are some supplement-medication interactions to look out for, there are several supplements that are safe to take with metformin (alpha-lipoic acid, for example). Just be sure to check with your health care provider to see what is and is not safe for you to take.
As you can see, banaba lagerstroemia speciosa can be a highly useful supplement in the treatment of diabetes. If you want to start taking banaba, or any other natural supplement, ask your health care provider. They will let you know whether it’s a good choice for you and the health benefits it can offer. Ask a health care practitioner about a banaba supplement today.