Lagerstroemia speciosa is a tropical flowering tree that has been used for centuries in the Philippines as an herbal folk remedy. This member of the lythraceae family has also been used in India as a healing herb in the ancient system of Ayurvedic medicine that is still widely practiced in that country today. Commonly known as banaba, lagerstroemia speciosa is ingested to relieve various ailments such as edema, diabetes, urinary dysfunction, fevers, and digestive disorders. It is also used to control cholesterol and blood pressure, and is a popular tea for weight loss. The healing properties of lagerstroemia speciosa have created a demand for this plant around the globe.
Every part of the plant contains medicinal properties: the roots, leaves, flowers, fruits, and bark. Its bark is used to treat diarrhea, and drinking a mixture of the bark, leaves, and fruit can relieve constipation. The root can be used to relieve stomach disorders. Banaba tea is also used to treat inflammation in the urinary tract and to dissolve kidney stones. Its diuretic action helps cleanse the kidneys, and many believe it is a tonic for overall kidney health.
Medical studies have shown that the corosolic acid present in lagerstroemia speciosa acts in a manner similar to that of insulin by lowering the levels of glucose in the blood. This action is promoted by lagerstroemin and gallotannins, other constituents that have also demonstrated the ability to lower blood sugar levels. These agents have made lagerstroemia speciosa a popular remedy for the treatment of diabetes in India and the Philippines. It has been recognized by the Filipino government as an herb that has demonstrated proven effectiveness in the management of numerous afflictions.
Corosolic acid also interferes with the absorption of carbohydrates. Some believe it may interfere with the process of fat storage in the body, as well. These effects are what make lagerstroemia speciosa effective for weight loss in addition to diabetes. One doesn’t have to be diabetic or overweight to receive these benefits, however, since it is also beneficial for athletes who want to improve their physique and performance. These properties have made banaba a popular ingredient in both weight loss and athletic supplements and teas.
Further studies need to be made since banaba is suspected of having other medical benefits. Anecdotal evidence suggests that lagerstroemia speciosa has analgesic properties. Some believe it may also be a good tonic for the liver.