You know bananas as the delicious yellow fruit you eat pre or post workout for a boost of potassium and electrolytes, as well as some fast-acting carbohydrates for fuel. And bananas taste great with, let’s say, a spoonful of peanut butter or some frozen dark chocolate on top. Yet, there’s also another type of use that should be on your radar: banana peel tea.
What is banana peel tea?
Banana peel tea is made from the dried peels of banana. You steep the dried banana peels in hot water, just as you would with regular tea. You then strain out the peels and sip the liquid to get its taste and benefits.
“Using the whole banana, including the peel, is not new. In many tropical countries where bananas grow well, people have been eating the peel and using it for medicinal purposes pretty much as long as bananas have been around,” says Suzanne Dixon, MS, RD.
The exact origin of banana peel tea is difficult to pin down, but it likely originated in a country where wild bananas grow and are now cultivated for the world food market. “Banana tea, which can be made with just the flesh of the banana or the flesh and the peel, is also consumed around the world, in banana-growing regions. One place where banana tea remains popular is Australia and the South Pacific,” Dixon says.
What are the health benefits of banana peel?
While there aren't any controlled human trials demonstrating proven health benefits of banana peel tea, banana peels have a long history of use in folk and traditional medicine practice, says Dixon. “One of the most common conditions for which people recommend banana peel tea is insomnia,” she says.
Banana peels have precursor compounds, melatonin and serotonin, and these neurotransmitters help regulate sleep onset and duration, so you can snooze better after a cup of banana peel tea at night.†
What’s more, “Banana peels and tea made from them also have been promoted as a natural treatment for Parkinson's disease and other neurological conditions because these foods are a ‘natural source of dopamine,’” Dixon adds.†
Banana peel tea might also benefit your heart, helping to lower blood pressure, as it’s often recommended to those with high blood pressure. “Given the potassium content in bananas and their peels, it's possible regular consumption could improve blood pressure numbers, at least a little,” she says.†
Plus, some of the phytonutrients in banana peels may have "vaso-relaxing" effects, which relax blood vessels. This, in turn, may help lower blood pressure, she says.†
They might also help boost immunity. “Another review of the ethnographic history of banana and banana peels lists them as remedies for fever, cough, bronchitis, dysentery, allergies, infections, sexually transmitted infections and some chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer,” she says.†
This review reported the pharmacological activities of banana peel as being antioxidant, antidiabetic, immunomodulatory, hypolipidemic, anticancer and antimicrobial, especially against HIV activity. “Again, these aren't proven therapies for any of these conditions, but rather reported folklore and traditional medicinal uses,” she cautions.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27988402
Should you drink it?
Sure! Just don’t think it replaces medicine. “I would strongly recommend against anyone self-treating any medical issue with banana peel tea. But as a healthy beverage to enjoy in your daily rotation of teas, I think it can be a safe addition for most people,” she says.
Yet, there are a few situations where you might not be able to drink it without physician consent. “I have not come across any reported side effects or adverse events associated with banana peel tea, however, some people may want to ask their doctor or dietitian first, or avoid banana peel tea altogether,” she says.
“Based on the purported ‘dopamine effects’ of banana peels, I would recommend people with Parkinson's disease, especially if they are taking medications, to avoid this tea,” she explains.
The same goes for those on heart medications. “Based on the potassium content of these medications, anyone taking blood pressure medication should ask their doctor or pharmacist before trying banana peel tea,” she says.
Some people are supposed to stay within a range of potassium intake for proper medication action, and banana peel tea could put them far above what they should be consuming for this mineral.
And people with kidney disease should be cautious with banana peel tea, too. “As with blood pressure medication, for some people with kidney disease, they need to monitor potassium intake. Banana peel tea will add potassium to the diet and needs to be accounted for if you're on a potassium-monitored diet,” she says.
How to make banana peel tea
To make banana peel tea, you'll likely need more than one peel, so you should save them for a few weeks. Every time you're done eating a banana, remove the sticky label and place the peels on a plate or in a bowl in the freezer. Save them up until you have several "cups" worth of banana peel, she says.
When you're ready to make the peel into tea, you can thaw the peels at room temperature for about 45 minutes. They will turn black and that's a good sign!
“Place them in a single layer on a tray or pan and back at 150 F until the peels are completely dried out. This usually takes about an hour and then let the peels cool,” she says. Break them up into smaller pieces and pulverize them into small bits in a blender or food processor or with a mortar and pestle.
Store the dried, crushed peels in an airtight container. They will actually look like regular tea at this point!
“For a cup of banana peel tea, place a heaping teaspoon in a tea bag or tea ball and place into a mug. Pour hot water (just slightly less than boiling) into your mug and let steep for 2-4 minutes. Alternately, you can pour water straight into your mug and use filter paper to strain the peels from the liquid after you've brewed the tea,” she says.
And as for flavor, it’s pretty mild with some “astringent” qualities (it’s drying on the tongue, as with black tea or red wine). And you can make it stronger or more mild by varying the steeping time and amount of banana peel. Not so hard, right? Here’s to a new tea to try when you’re warming up on a chilly night!
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.