Going bananas? Scientists say that is the way to go. Recent studies suggest that the fruit and sap of banana (Musa sapientum) tree may be the novel ‘cure’ for migraines, ulcer, high blood pressure, bleeding, post-surgical wounds, among others. CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes.
BOTANICALLY known as Musa sapientum, banana is an herbaceous plant of Musaceae family.
Until now, several studies have shown that extracts of banana could be used for the treatment of gastric ulcer, hypertension, diarrhea, dysentery and diabetes. The anti-diabetic effect of the leaves, stem, fruit, root and flower; as well as anti-ulcerative properties of unripe bananas have been demonstrated.
Other researches showed banana has antimicrobial properties and can used in the treatment of excessive menstruation.
Indeed, studies on the properties of the banana, especially of its pulp, have shown that it is rich in flavonoids and leucocyanidin, which are compounds known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-neoplastic properties and liver-protective activity. The peel it showed potent antihypertensive activity in renal hypertensive rats.
Neoplasm is the abnormal new growth of tissue in animals or plants or rather a tumour.
There are also studies in the literature reporting on the use of the peel and leaves of the banana plant to improve epithelialization and alleviate pain in the treatment of chronic wounds.
Epithelialization is healing by the growth of epithelium over a denuded surface.
A multicenter study showed that banana was useful in the treatment of ulcer dyspepsia; however, its medicinal use is still incipient. Banana has also been shown to promote cellular alteration of the mucosa and increases the synthesis of DNA without carcinogenic or mutagenic effects.
But the story of a British mother who claimed the banana fruit cured her of crippling migraines after 20 years has prompted more interest into the medicinal benefits of banana.
According to a story monitored in Daily Mail Online, a mother-of-two who has been plagued by migraines for almost 20 years says she has been cured after snacking on bananas.
Lisa Poyner, 38, used to suffer episodes that left her bed ridden for days at a time, and tried out dozens of medications to try and relieve her condition. But she realised she could head off attacks if she snacked on the fruit as soon as she felt the symptoms coming on.
However, for the first time, researchers have demonstrated that the sap from the stem of banana plant could be used to stop bleeding and heal wounds.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science concluded: “The traditional use of sap of M. sapientum in the treatment of bleeding is warranted. And its mechanism of action results from a part of it causes vasoconstriction and secondly from the formation of a protein network that serves as a focal point to cell aggregation and the bleeding stops.”
The study is titled “Haemostatic potential of the sap of Musa sapientum L. (Musaceae).”
The Beninoise researchers wrote: The use of M. sapientum in the treatment of bleeding is very common in the South – Benin. Indeed, this plant is used as a hemostatic in Brazil and India. But this study is the first that has focused on assessing the power of hemostatic M. sapientum.
“The addition of sap in whole blood induced a reduction of Clotting Time (CT) significance with an effect not dose dependent. The action of sap on the CT does not appear related to the typical cascade of coagulation reactions typical of coagulation since the addition of sap in plasma did not alter the prothrombin time nor the activated partial thromboplastin time. The sap therefore has no effect on clotting factors (II, V, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII and XIII) of both intrinsic and extrinsic ways. This particular mechanism of action registered sap in the same category as the hemostatic with nonspecific action on the coagulation cascade.
“The decreasing proteins concentration in the supernatant serum after the addition of sap indicates that proteins have become networks. This interaction between sap-protein seems linked to the presence of tannins in the sap.
“Studies on the hemostatic properties of Jatropha multifida and Annona senegalensis have already underlined the role of tannins on the blood proteins. Indeed, the tannins have the ability to transform certain soluble proteins insoluble because of the chemical bonds that develop between them and the tannins. They are bristling with phenolic hydroxyl groups capable of reacting with strong hydrogen bonds with the atoms of the peptide binding protein, which rendered insoluble proteins increases blood viscosity and inhibit the movement of red blood cells. That’s what facilitates their aggregation.
“Like fibrin, we believe that the protein network formed behaves like a net that traps red blood cells but also platelets and leukocytes. The cell aggregation has a significant effect on hemodynamics in vivo. Increased aggregation produced locally in each capillary will immediately disrupt blood flow. This could lead to a reduction in time and volume of bleeding. The haemostatic effect of sap can be enhanced by its astringent properties. Indeed astringent activity favors vasoconstriction, which is an important parameter in hemostasis.”
Scientists have also used gel from unripe banana peel to repair surgical wounds in rats.
The Brazilian researchers in the study published in Acta Cirurgica Brasileira concluded: “The gel of unripe banana peel in the concentration of four per cent improved the wound healing process in rats compared to the other gel concentrations as evidenced by the smaller residual wound area.”
The researchers wrote: “A study on the use of M. sapientum var. paradisiaca extracts was based on the premise that, since the plant has a healing action when used to treat gastric ulcers, it could also be used to treat skin wounds.
“The authors used techniques that allowed the assessment of the contraction of the scar surface area, epithelialization time, and presence of antioxidants. Rats were treated with aqueous and alcoholic extracts of M. sapientum var. paradisiaca for a period of 21 days.
“The results were satisfactory regarding the antioxidative properties of the extracts14. However, the use of the gel of unripe banana peel in wound healing by secondary intention is not well documented. The high economic and social costs for both the government and patients associated with the treatment of wounds are an important motivation for the search of new therapeutic alternatives.
“Therefore, if the effectiveness of unripe banana in the treatment of surgical wounds is confirmed, it will be an important step towards the development of a new alternative wound treatment. The identification of an extract prepared from either the peel or pulp of unripe bananas gives rise to new therapeutic possibilities.”
Another study published in Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry noted that all parts of the banana plant have medicinal applications: the flowers in bronchitis and dysentery and on ulcers; cooked flowers are given to diabetics; the astringent plant sap in cases of hysteria, epilepsy, leprosy, fevers, hemorrhages, acute dysentery and diarrhea, and it is applied on hemorrhoids, insect and other stings and bites; young leaves are placed as poultices on burns and other skin afflictions; the astringent ashes of the unripe peel and of the leaves are taken in dysentery and diarrhea and used for treating malignant ulcers; the roots are administered in digestive disorders, dysentery and other ailments; banana seed mucilage is given in cases of diarrhea in India.