MANILA, Philippines - The Banaba tree, scientifically known as the Lagerstroemia speciosa, is another important tree species. It is both medicinal, used in furniture-making and most of all, it is important in landscaping. It belongs to the Lythraceae family and is also known as the Giant Crape-myrtle, Queen's Crape-myrtle, and Queen's Flower. It is native to the Philippines and other tropical Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia
The Banaba is a small to medium-sized deciduous tropical tree growing to about 20 meters in height. It has a smooth but somewhat flaky bark. The leaves are deciduous, oval to elliptic, about eight to 15 centimeters long, and three to seven centimeters wide with an acute apex. The flowers are produced in erect panicles and are about 20 to 40 centimeters long. Each flower has six white to purple petals about two to three centimeters long.
A widely cultivated ornamental plant in tropical and subtropical areas, Banaba leaf extracts are used as a natural health supplement. Research studies suggest that the Banaba extract canlower a person's blood sugar and is thus effective in inducing weight loss. The hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) effect is similar to that of insulin, The primary active ingredient is corosolic acid, and there are also numerous possible synergists including lager-stroemin, flosin B, and reginin A.
The leaves of the Banaba are used as a medicinal tea preparation for diabetes and for weight loss. It's also good for the kidneys as it's said to be a remedy for urinary problems, and dissolving kidney stones. The tea is not only a healer, it also actually tastes good.
Research conducted in Japan shows much promise for this plant and its potential uses in the medical and pharmaceutical industry. Aside from diabetes and weight reduction, it was discovered by researchers from Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology that the Banaba is effective incholesterol reduction and controlling hypertension.
Banaba also contains concentrations of dietary fiber and minerals such as magnesium and zinc.
Banaba is also appreciated for its beautiful flowers, which are moderately large with pink, purple or purplish pink color. Once the flowers are pollinated by insects, it develops into a green oval fruit which turns black when mature and splits into six pieces. The seeds are small and have winged flaps. The Banaba tree is also valued for furniture-making because of its attractive reddish brown wood.
This wonder tree is propagated through seeds. It easily grows into a seedling and thrives well under full sunlight and can be planted on most soils. Just keep it away from sea water; it has a low tolerance for salt.
Young plants could benefit from the regular application of organic or synthetic fertilizers for optimum growth. They become self-sufficient and hardy once they grow into trees.
The Banaba can grow up to 40 to 60 feet in height and a diameter spread of 30 to 40 feet. Because of the shade it provides, It's always a welcome sight in sun-drenched places. It's the perfect tree for a bustling metropolis.
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