Musa sapientum (M.sapientum) commonly known as ‘Banana or Saging’ is widely used folk medicine for the treatment of various ailments including diarrhea, wounds, stomach ulcer, diabetes, heart burn, inflammation and others. Saging 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
Saging is one of the all year round fruits known for the firm, elongated but creamy white flesh enclosed in fibrous skin jacket. Saging comes in many varieties but ripe Saging are usually taken as dessert. Saging is likewise packed with vitamins and minerals that have many health benefits.
According to Wikipedia, Saging 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.
Saging (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.
Saging 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. Saging 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 Saging heart, containing many bracts between rows of flowers. The Saging 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 Saging fruit is commonly elongated and curved in varying sizes depending on the variety but the best Saging are those that are long and firm, have sweet tasting creamy flesh, undamaged and unblemished skin, evenness of ripening and color. Other variety of Saging fruit are starchy in taste firm and are usually eaten after cooking.
The humble Saging is one of the most nutritious fruit that provides valuable health benefits to the body.Comparatively speaking, Saging 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.
Saging 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 Saging fruits in streptozotocin-treated diabetic mice. The study showed that the methalonic extract of green Saging 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 Saging possess hypogylcemic activity, and thus lends credence to the folkloric health benefits of Saging 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 Saging in acetic acid induced gastric lesions in rats. The study indicated that the different varieties of Saging have different antipeptic ulcer benefits. The Palo variety of Saging 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 Saging flowers in vitro. In this experiment, the total polyphenol, flavonoid and antioxidative properties of different Saging flowers were compared with a standard. Results have shown that Saging 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 Saging flowers can be a potential source of natural antioxidants. (Journal of Food Science, Nov- Dec 2011)
Saging are available in most grocery stores, supermarkets and fruit stores. In buying ripe ready to eat Saging, select those that are slightly soft, have no sunken dark spots, and have no cracks.
Saging can also be bought unripe and can be ripened at home for later consumption. Unripe Saging are firmer and the skin has a green color. Unripe Saging can be stored in a basket or paper bag at room temperature. Do not refrigerate unripe Saging. As the Saging ripens the skin color will turn yellowish and the texture softer.
It is best to store ripe Saging in a refrigerator but should be consumed within 2 days. Just like any other fruits, when an Saging is sliced open and exposed to air, the Saging flesh will soon oxidize.
Generally safe. Consumption of banana is generally safe if consumed in moderate amounts..
Allergy. Saging may pose an allergic reaction for people that has sensitivity to latex.
Constipation. Unripe saging contains reistant starch that when consumed in large amount can cause constipation.
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Article last reviewed: 09.07.2016