Banaba – Rose of India
Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa, Lythraceae), a type of crape myrtle which is also known as rose of India and queen’s crape myrtle, is native to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Southern China, and the Indian subcontinent.1 Banaba is the Tagalog name for this crape myrtle. This subtropical to tropical tree can reach around 100 ft. in height, has a light gray to brown, smooth and peeling trunk and leathery ovate to oblong leaves. The flowers are the typical wrinkled paper appearance of a crepe myrtle, beginning as pink-to-purple (orchid color) and fading to white after two to three days. Only the large, clustered groups of flowers create the fruit, which mature from green to brown and are woody, spherical capsules that split radially into six portions when ripe.
The trunk provides wood known as pyinma which is somewhat hard and durable and considered similar to teak (Tectona grandis, Lamiaceae). The heartwood is termite-resistant and used in construction for boats, wharves, bridges, parquet flooring, mine struts, paddles, and handcrafts. Medicinally, the bark has traditionally been used to alleviate diarrhea and abdominal pain in Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia. The dried fruit and leaves are steeped into a tincture, known as banaba tea, and is used for diabetes, dissolving kidney stones, and high blood pressure. Other applications of banaba include weight loss, blood sugar control, urinary tract infections, and diabetes. Corosolic acid, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and ellagitannins are considered the main active compounds and the reason for banaba’s hypoglycemic effects.2 While it is the leaves that are normally used in modern applications, both leaves and flowers contain corosolic acid.3 Corsolic acid is being studied for its effects of lowering glucose.
Banaba contains a high amount of dietary fiber as well as vitamins and minerals which include magnesium and zinc. Folkloric treatments, other than those previously listed, include constipation, blood pressure control, cholesterol level control, fevers, kidney inflammation, and urinary ailments.
HerbClip™ Managing Editor
1Lagerstroemia speciosa (L.) Pers. Flora and Fauna website. Updated August 26, 2021. Accessed February 15, 2022. https://www.nparks.gov.sg/florafaunaweb/flora/2/9/2991.
2López-Murillo LD, González-Ortiz M, Martínez-Abundis E, Cortez-Navarette M, Pérez-Rubio KG. Effect of banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa) on metabolic syndrome, insulin sensitivity, and insulin secretion. J Med Food. February 2022;25(2):177-182. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2021.0039.
3Banaba herbal medicine. Medical Health Guide website. Accessed February 15, 2022. http://www.medicalhealthguide.com/articles/banaba.htm.