A scientist from Bhagyanagar (Hyderabad) has discovered that if the sticky substance secreted in the flowers and leaves of the banana tree is consumed, then it helps in gradual deactivation of the glands which increase cancer. That is precisely why in the olden days people would eat meals on banana leaves. When hot rice or any other food was served on the banana leaf that sticky substance would enter the stomach through that food. However, today the situation is completely different. Usage of thermacol and plastics have resulted in disastrous situation. They have caused serious environmental problems including blockages in drainage and canals resulting in floods. Plastic coated plates, bowls etc have replaced banana leaves at social events such as weddings, both in cities and villages. When hot food is served on them, the plastic coating melts and gets consumed along with the food, increasing the probability of cancer. Now the time has come to turn to our old tradition. The saying, ‘Old is gold’ has been proven through various modern technologies. The practice of eating on banana leaves exists not only in Bharat but also in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Phillipines, Mexico and Central America.
1. Benefits of eating on a banana leaf
The benefits to the physical body from eating
on a banana leaf have been proven by modern science.
A. When you serve hot food on a banana leaf, the healthy nutrients from it gets mixed with the food.
B. Physical ailments such as rashes, itching, boils etc can be averted by eating on a banana leaf.
C. Banana leaves are enriched with polyphenols anti-oxidants such as epigallocatechin gallate and EGCG. These are natural antioxidants which the body receives and help in preventing ageing of the skin for prolonged period.
D. Skin lesions such as boils, rash, pimples etc can be cured early by application of coconut oil on the leaf and tying it to the affected skin part.
2. Primary principles of Bharatiya
traditions and the underlying scientific perspective
All Bharatiya traditions are certainly not meant to be disregarded. Looking at the subtle considerations for human health and nature given by Bharatia traditions, the scientists have also started to view them from different perspective. Bharatiya culture, in principle, believes in worshiping nature, the underlying thought being to protect it. In our culture, the natural energies such as sunlight, wind and rain are considered as Deities and therefore worshipped. Infact Bharatiya culture teaches us to ‘conserve’ nature not to ‘destroy’ it. To cite an example, we milk the cow but do not kill it. Keeping the cow alive and consuming its milk, urine and dung for our benefit is akin to conserving it and killing it for its meat is destroying it. In this way, while utilizing the natural resources, conserving it and increasing their capability is the basic principle of Bharatiya tradition.
Interestringly, people were following these traditions simply as customs or as religious code of conduct without being aware of the underlying science. Today due to advancements in modern science it has become possible to verify the benefits of these traditions against scientific parameters and explain them in scientific terminology. We are also able to decipher which traditions are useful and which are not. Therefore, today we can present the scientific perspective for observing a tradition not just for its sake but because it is scientifically beneficial.
3. Bharatiya tradition of using the banana leaf
Eating a meal on a banana leaf is yet another Bharatiya tradition that gives due consideration to nature and human health. Today modern science has proven the benefits of the banana leaf from the perspective of both health and the environment. For ages the tradition of eating meals on the banana leaf is continuing all over Bharat, predominantly in South Bharat, because of its unique features of large size, fibrous texture, flexibility and abundance in availability. There was also a custom of lining a vessel with a banana leaf when cooking certain types of foods. This would give that food a subtle flavour and also prevent it from getting burnt by sticking to the vessel. Dishes such as aluwadi (Colocassia leaves stuffed with spices and cut into nuggets) are steamed by wrapping in banana leaves. Banana leaves are also used as wrappers in some places. Besides Bharat, the practice of eating on banana leaves also exist in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Phillipines, Mexico and Central America.
4. Benefits of eating on banana leaves
Modern science has proven the benefits of eating on banana leaves. Banana leaves contain ‘polyphenol’ which is a natural anti-oxidant and builds immunity. After a meal the banana leaf is fed to cattle and they relish it. This is a way of returning what belongs to nature, after using it. It also saves the efforts of washing plates and saves water too. Besides as no dish washing soap is used, the generation of sullage is also less.
5. Using banana leaves instead of plastic plates is eco-friendly !
Today there is rampant use of plastic or thermacol plates during functions at home or in social gatherings. The plates are then discarded in the waste increasing the garbage content tremendously. Banana leaf is an excellent substitute for this. As it is easily biodegradable it is eco-friendly as well. In villages these leaves are easily available in the garden around the homes and in cities they can be bought from the market. For farmers cultivating banana around the cities, selling banana leaves along will bananas will serve as an excellent means of livelihood. In Mumbai these leaves are available at Dadar and other railway stations (4 leaves for Rs. 10). Therefore, they are not expensive and it is absolutely possible to use banana leaves in place of plastic dishes for functions at home.
In Kerala the process of using banana leaves both for serving and packing of food has commenced. So what are we waiting for ?