Musa sapientum (M.sapientum) commonly known as ‘banana’ is widely used folk medicine for the treatment of various ailments including diarrhea, wounds, stomach ulcer, diabetes, heart burn, inflammation and others. Banana is normally used for human consumption providing nutrients, but is there really a scientific basis for the many health benefits it brings?.
Common Name; Saging, Kela, Platano, Cavendish, Fen ba jiao
Banana is one of the all year round fruits known for the firm, elongated but creamy white flesh enclosed in fibrous skin jacket. Banana comes in many varieties but ripe bananas are usually taken as dessert. Banana is likewise packed with vitamins and minerals that have many health benefits.
According to Wikipedia, banana may have probably originated from the tropics of America especially southern Mexico where it was first cultivated and was later propagated in other tropical and sub-tropical countries in the continents of America, Australia, Africa and Asia.
Bananas (Musa sapientum Linn) are native to tropical Southeast Asia, but has long been cultivated in many countries from Asia to Europe for its fruit and to a lesser extent for its fiber.
Banana is commonly mistaken as a tree but it is actually a large perennial flowering herb with leaf sheaths that form trunk-like pseudostems that grows from a corm. Banana can grow up to 7 meters in height that has about 8 - 12 spirally arranged leaves that are up to 2.7 meters long and 0.6 meter wide.
The pseudostem produces a single inflorescence, the banana heart, containing many bracts between rows of flowers. The banana fruits develop from the heart, in a hanging cluster made up of tiers (hands), up to 20 fruit to a tier that ripen in 60 to 90 days after the first flower appeared.
The banana fruit is commonly elongated and curved in varying sizes depending on the variety but the best bananas are those that are long and firm, have sweet tasting creamy flesh, undamaged and unblemished skin, evenness of ripening and color. Other variety of banana fruit are starchy in taste firm and are usually eaten after cooking.
The humble banana is one of the most nutritious fruit that provides valuable health benefits to the body.Comparatively speaking, bananas are more nutritious than apples. It is rich in potassium, have five times more vitamin A and iron and have two times more carbohydrates and three times as much phosphorous.
Banana is a very versatile plant where all of its parts provides its respective health benefits as used in traditional herbal medicine.
A study done in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Durban, South Africa, investigated the effects of methalonic extract of green banana fruits in streptozotocin-treated diabetic mice. The study showed that the methalonic extract of green banana has the ability to reduce the blood sugar concentrations in diabetic mice (P<0.01 – 0.001). This study suggests that methanolic extract of green banana possess hypogylcemic activity, and thus lends credence to the folkloric health benefits of banana as used in the management and control of adult onset, type-2 diabetic mellitus among the people in South Western Nigeria.
The Department of Pharmacology, Khon Kaen University in Thailand conducted a study on the antipeptic ulcer effects of bananas in acetic acid induced gastric lesions in rats. The study indicated that the different varieties of bananas have different antipeptic ulcer benefits. The Palo variety of banana have gastroprotective effects against peptic ulcers while the Horn variety has an ulcer healing benefits. (Journal of Phytotherapy Research. August 2001).
The Department of Food and Nutrition of the University of Cacutta, India conducted an experiment on the antioxidant activity of different cultivars of banana flowers in vitro. In this experiment, the total polyphenol, flavonoid and antioxidative properties of different banana flowers were compared with a standard. Results have shown that banana flowers are found to reduce the radical cation scavenging acitivity, inhibit lipid peroxidation and has protective effect against chemical induced DNA damage in vitro. The study thus suggests that different varieties of banana flowers can be a potential source of natural antioxidants. (Journal of Food Science, Nov- Dec 2011)
Bananas are available in most grocery stores, supermarkets and fruit stores. In buying ripe ready to eat banana, select those that are slightly soft, have no sunken dark spots, and have no cracks.
Bananas can also be bought unripe and can be ripened at home for later consumption. Unripe bananas are firmer and the skin has a green color. Unripe bananas can be stored in a basket or paper bag at room temperature. Do not refrigerate unripe bananas. As the banana ripens the skin color will turn yellowish and the texture softer.
It is best to store ripe banana in a refrigerator and should be consumed within 2 days. Just like any other fruits, when a banana is sliced open and exposed to air, the banana flesh will soon oxidize.
Generally safe. Consumption of banana is generally safe if consumed in moderate amounts..
Allergy. Banana may pose an allergic reaction for people that has sensitivity to latex.
Constipation. Unripe banana contains reistant starch that when consumed in large amount can cause constipation.
Hyperkalimea. Bananas contain a good amount of potassium. Where too much has been consumed, the potassium level in the blood may increase causing a condition called hyperkalimea which may affect the pulse rate, that can even lead to heart attack.
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Article last reviewed: 09.07.2016