Banana is one of tropical fruits liked by many people in the world. The fruit contains many health benefits, along with high energy content which is often added in athlete’s diet. But not many people know that the banana leaves also have many health benefits. Banana leaves (dried one and fresh one) can be used as herbal too. They have many benefits for our health and beauty, and can cure ailments such as sore throat, cough, common cold, and fever. It is also used as traditional spa ingredients in Bali, which is very good for the skin.
In South-east Asia, banana leaves are often used as garnish to enhance the appearance of foods and as food wrapping. So far, most people only know banana leaves as food wrapper or as a material for handicrafts.
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The dried banana leaves has important compounds for our health, such as polyphenols (act as antioxidants), lignin, hemicellulose, protein, and allantoin. Banana leaves also have astringent effect. That is why banana leaves can cure ailments. To get the benefits of dried banana leaves, we can use it just like other herbal medicines, for example use it as infusion like making tea, or boil it to make decoction.
1. High in Antioxidants
Banana leaves are high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidants. Antioxidants is needed to fight many disorders caused by free radicals in our body. It fights free radicals, thus preventing micro-inflammations caused by free radicals. Those micro-inflammation can cause many degenerative diseases, such as atherosclerosis, alzheimer, dementia, even cancers. High anti-oxidants is also known to prevent early aging signs such as wrinkled and dull skin. To get this benefits, we can drink banana leaves tea 1-3 times a day.
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2. Cures Sore Throat
Sore throat is a symptom of many respiratory-related illnesses, and mostly caused by virus, so antibiotics may not help at all. Sore throat is really annoying, making us feel painful when swallowing foods or beverages. Drinking banana leaves decoction atleast once a day can reduce the sore throat gradually.
3. Reduces Fever
Antioxidants and astringent contained in banana leaves are good substances to reduce inflammations, which often take form in fever. The astringent effect will also sooth the unease feeling of fever. To reduce fever, we can drink the decoction 3 times a day.
4. Boosts Immune System
Dried banana leaves contains allantoin, a substance known to boost immune system, accelerates healing process and acts as an astringent. This is why banana leaves can cure sore throat and fever, which are mainly caused by poor immune. Even if we do not have such ailments, we also can drink banana leaves decoction or tea atleast once a day to boost our immune system, so we cannot contract the ailments easily.
5. Treatment of Dysentery
Allantoin and polyphenols in dried banana leaves can reduce intestinal bleeding in dysentery. We can drink the decoction atleast once a day to stop the bleeding. The astringent effect also reduce the stomach pain due to hyperperistaltic activity of intestines. The good news, banana leaves do not interfere with prescribed drugs, so in severe dysentery we can take drugs and banana leaves tea/decoction together.
6. Heals Wounds and Skin Irritation
Fresh banana leaves are used traditionally to cure wounds and irritation. Just crush some banana leaves by a mortar, then put it on the affected area. We can bind it with bandage to prevent it falling away. Change the leaves and bandage 2-3 times a day.
Banana Leaves for Beauty Tricks
Meanwhile, there some health benefits of banana leaves that support for beauty tricks.
7. Maintains Healthy Hair
Banana leaves extract can cure dandruffs, maintain healthy scalp, and keep the natural color of the hair, thanks to its high allantoin and astringent effect. If we often have itchy and sore scalp, this banana leaves hair mask is proven to be very effective.
We can take some fresh banana leaves, then crush it with blender. Apply it as hair mask on the scalp and hair, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then rinse it off with cool water. Using this hair mask regularly will also make our hair looks shiny and more beautiful.
8. Maintains Healthy Skin
One of the health benefits of banana leaves is to promote healthy skin. Banana leaves mask has been used in traditional spa for generations to maintain healthy skin. The fresh leaves are crushed with mortar or blender, then applied to the face or all over the body. The allantoin and antioxidants helps preventing early aging signs on the skin (such as wrinkles and dark spots), cures skin irritation, reduce acne and pimples, and keep the skin moist and soft.
9. Reduce Cellulites and Body Weight
Traditional spa also uses banana leaves as traditional weightloss program. There are 2 ways in using the banana leaves: first, the mashed fresh leaves are used as body mask to reduce the cellulites and keep the skin healthy. The second, the whole banana leaves are steamed and then wrapped on the desired area (usually belly, upper thighs and upper arms) for 1-2 hours. After the treatment finishes, a cup of tea made of banana leaves and ginger is taken. This treatment was popular in Sultan’s Palace in Yogyakarta and the Kings’ Palaces in Bali, to maintain the beauty of the queens, princesses and concubines. But now we can find this traditional treatment in many spa in Bali. However, the treatment will be more effective if we do low-calories diet and sports too.
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Other Traditional Uses of Banana Leaves
10. Food Wrappers
Traditional South-east Asian foods, such as Vietnamese, Thai and Indonesian foods often use banana leaves to wrap the cakes, chicken and fish. The banana leaves give particular pleasant aroma that can increase our appetite. Foods wrapped in green banana leaves also looks beautiful.
Rice or other foods wrapped in banana leaves for take-away will last longer too. The mechanism is still unknown, but banana leaves probably has some anti-microbial effects which can kill germs that cause foods to rot. For example, the Sundanese nasi timbel (rice wrapped in banana leaves) can last for 24 hours without rotting, and is often prepared for picnics and travels.
The banana leaves are also used for wrapping fruits in big baskets when transporting the fruits to the local markets. This makes the fruits last longer and keeps their colors and firmness.
And the most important of South-east Asian cultures, banana leaves are often used as garnish for foods offerings in temples. We can see this kind of garnish in Thailand and Bali, also in many other places in big ceremonies such as wedding.
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11. Livestocks’ Foods
Livestocks such as goats, sheep, cows, chickens, even rabbits like to eat banana leaves. They like the taste, especially the young leaves. Banana leaves also contain good nutrition for them and act as their natural medicine. If we have livestocks or pets at home, we can feed them fresh banana leaves. It is cheap, and sometimes people just throw away the leaves after taking the fruits. The dried leaves can be stored and used like hay. Now, many animal food factories use powdered banana leaves as an ingredient of their products.
Many handicrafters use dried banana leaves for their products. Usually, dried banana leaves are woven and made into bags, belts, and bracelets. Dried banana leaves are seen as waste in tropical countries, but those handicrafters can transform them into beautiful artistic goods, which are highly priced. Some designers now are looking for these goods to make up their fashion ideas, as a program of reducing waste.
How to Prepare Banana Leaves
- We can dry the fresh banana leaves under the sun, or take the dried banana leaves directly from the tree.
- If we dry it ourself, take some fresh banana leaves, clean it under running water, then dry it under the sun until they are brown, dry, and make crisp sound when you squeeze them.
- Wash the dried leaves.
- Take a handful of dried leaves into a pot, add 3-4 cups of water, and boil it until the water is only 1 cup left.
- Let it sit until warm, strain it, then drink it. We also can add honey to enhance the taste. Take this decoction atleast once a day to accelerate the healing process.
Banana leaves has no toxic effects and no side effects. In fact, animals like goats can eat a lot of banana leaves and they remain healthy. So, we can drink banana leaves tea or decoction anytime we want. The decoction also does not interfere with prescribed drugs, so it is completely safe to drink as supplement. Also, you can get many health benefits of banana leaves.
Banana can grow rapidly in tropical regions. So far, we only know the uses of banana fruit. If we live or travel to tropical countries, we can use banana leaves as traditional medicine if we fall sick. It is very cheap, but has lots of benefits. If we have artistic or handicraft hobbies, we also can learn how to use banana leaves in handicrafts, since it can be good to increase the economy.