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That banana peel appeal

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Banana peel (Callie Jones)

If you were paying attention last month (December 2008) — as I am sure you were — you will know that the skins of ripe bananas glow bright blue under ultraviolet light (PJ, 6 December 2008, p677). But that is not the only interesting fact about banana peel. Oh no.

Banana skins have been credited with various medicinal uses, including analgesia.

Applying banana peel to the site of a pain can result in almost immediate relief, according to the Pain Research Institute, which describes itself as “a worldwide organisation of doctors who believe the root cause of pain is broken, cut or suppressed endogenous electrical signals between cells”.  

In the opinion of an unnamed neurologist quoted on the institute’s website, headaches are often caused by a failure of these electrical signals across the forehead and the back of the neck.

These broken circuits can be reconnected by applying banana peels to both sites, he says, suggesting that the high potassium content of banana peel may be the reason for the effectiveness of the treatment.

The website cites many sufferers who claim to have used banana peel for rapid relief of many types of pain.

Another use claimed for banana peel is the cure of warts. Advocates says that taping a piece of peel to a wart overnight, fleshy side down, or just rubbing nightly with a piece of peel, will get rid of the wart within a couple of weeks. Similar applications may also be effective against psoriasis and haemorrhoids.

Banana peel is also claimed to have anti-inflammatory, antipruritic and antimicrobial properties. It will apparently relieve the pain and swelling of insect bites and plant stings. And it can even be used as a repellant to ward off biting insects (but not stinging plants).

Other complaints for which banana peel has been recommended include diarrhoea, constipation, gastric ulcer, stress and anxiety, preventing cancer and heart disease, premenstrual syndrome, anaemia, hypertension, hangover, heartburn, obesity and morning sickness.

One intriguing possibility is the use of a banana peel extract in macular degeneration. American researchers have found that lutein, an antioxidant carotenoid, may allow the eyes to filter short-wavelength light and thereby curtail damage to the macula (the centre of the retina).

And researchers from Taiwan claim that banana peel is rich in lutein and that in tests an extract has regenerated retinal cells damaged by exposure to strong light.

The Taiwanese researchers add that banana peel is also rich in serotonin. They suggest that depression can be eased by boosting one’s serotonin with a daily drink of either juiced banana peel or water in which the peel has been boiled.

Banana skins have also been credited with many non-medicinal uses, including a polish for both leather shoes and houseplant leaves.

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