Banaba or Lagerstroemia speciosa is a species of crepe myrtle found in Asia. It has attractive oval shaped deciduous leaves and pink to purple flowers, and is cultivated as an ornamental in some regions with tropical climates. The plant is also cultivated for use in herbal medicines in Asia, and banaba products can be found on sale in health food and supplement stores in many regions of the world.
In the Philippines, banaba has been used as a folk remedy for diabetes. Studies conducted on the plant seem to suggest that it has compounds which can be successfully used to manage blood sugar levels, with corsolic acid being pinpointed as a major ingredient. Like many herbal medications, banaba is tricky to study, because it contains many compounds and it is hard to isolate the one which is responsible for the effects of the plant. It is also difficult to control the dosage, because many factors can influence the concentration of compounds in the plant.
Diabetics who are interested in using banaba to manage their disease should consult a doctor. The doctor can provide recommendations and assistance, along with monitoring to ensure that the patient's diabetes does not get out of control. There may also be cases in which a doctor feels that the herb would not be appropriate for a patient. Patients should never embark on treatment with banaba on their own, as adverse drug reactions can occur, and it is possible for a patient to get very sick.
This plant is also sometimes used for weight loss products. The way in which banaba binds and transports glucose can promote weight loss. However, people should be careful about buying and using herbal weight loss products, because they are not regulated, and they can sometimes be harmful or ineffective. It is also important to disclose the use of such drugs to a doctor, as herbal medications can react adversely with pharmaceuticals.
Pride of India, as banaba is sometimes known, grows in USDA zones 10 and 11. It needs full sun, and has average water needs. This plant makes an excellent ornamental, and it can be encouraged to grow quite tall and shrubby, producing distinctive flowers in the spring and summer months. Some nurseries stock banaba plants, and others can order them by request from patrons. This plant can also be grown from cuttings, assuming that a gardener can find someone with a thriving plant who is willing to take a cutting.