The wild banana species Musa acuminata has a healing potential.
Photo: © Jacobs University

Banana skins instead of plasters?

The banana Musa acuminata, a wild species that grows in South East Asia, is not only a food crop. Scientists have found out that different non-food morphological parts of the plant bear various pharmacological properties, including anticholinesterase and antioxidant activity.

Not only do bananas taste good, they also heal wounds well. Instead of using a plaster, open wounds are covered with banana leaves or skins in many tropical countries. Even larger wounds can be successfully treated with them. Headed by Professor Nikolai Kuhnert, a team of scientists at Jacobs University Bremen, in Germany, have now taken a closer look at the healing effect of bananas and discovered 70 different ingredients that could be responsible for wound healing.

The research project was prompted by a visiting professorship sponsored by Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation supporting research by Professor Mubo Sonnibare, a pharmacist from Nigeria, at Jacobs University. Both in West Africa and in large parts of Asia, bananas are traditional remedies. However, these are not the usual Cavendish banana, which is not thought to have any medicinal effects, but Musa acuminata, a wild banana species.

Musa acuminata features a number of polyphenolic, i.e. aromatic compounds. Some have an antibacterial, disinfectant effect, which contributes to protecting a wound against bacterial infections. Others are astringent, or constricting – an effect that can be felt i.e. by the tongue. If these compounds meet with the skin, they modify its proteins and form a sort of protective layer on the wound.

In order to precisely determine the medicinal potential of the individual components, further, elaborate experiments have to be conducted, Kuhnert says, pointing out that a whole range of factors play a role in wound healing. “The research has provided us with a deeper understanding of a traditional drug,” he notes. The survey results have now been published in the "Journal of Food Measurement and Characterization".


More information:

Sonibare, M. A.; Ayoola, I. O.; Gueye, B.; Abberton, M. T.; D’Souza, R.; Kuhnert, N., Leaves metabolomic profiling of Musa acuminata accessions using UPLC–QTOF–MS/MS and their antioxidant activity. Journal of Food Measurement and Characterization 2018, 1-14.

Homepage of Jacobs University, Bremen

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