the Banaba Plant


The leaves of the Banaba plant have been consumed traditionally in the Phillipines for the treatment of diabetes for years. Scientists, curious about this activity, decided to strike out and find the active components in this plant and to see if it really did have an effect on diabetes.

Historically, the first research on banaba’s insulin-like, hypoglycemic effects was noted as early as 1940 and its use was subsequently introduced into Japan around that era. It wasn’t really until 1996 that the studies on banaba resurfaced. It was at that time studies in mice showed that the extracts from banaba caused a lowering of blood sugar, cholesterol, insulin and weight. Weight decreased by about 10% and food intake of the mice decreased by about 20%.

Using a cellular technique, scientists most recently identified a compound that had an insulin-like glucose transport inducing activity. It had previously been hypothesized that the chemical in the banaba plant responsible for this activity was corosolic acid. This study determined that substances called gallotannins were the responsible chemical for the anti-diabetic activity found in the cellular technique. Gallotannins are from a group of chemicals called polyphenols.

While conducting the study on a cellular lineage from adipocytes (fat cells), it was noticed that the gallotannins exhibited anti-adipogenic (anti-fat producing) properties in addition to stimulating the glucose uptake into the adipocytes. This reinforces the earlier studies done on mice that there is a mechanism in place for controlling blood sugar and weight in the banaba plant.

It has only been since the resurgence in interest in complimentary medicine have pharmaceutical companies been looking for new cures for popular diseases from our plant kingdom. This is just one example of such a pursuit. Researchers stated that they hoped that further studies on the gallotannins will yield positive results in the form of a drug that can help normalized the insulin and blood sugar of people with diabetes as well as helping shrink our ever-growing population girth.

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