A Hindu devotee (right) buys banana leaves to decorate his home during Diwali celebrations at a market in Hyderabad, on November 4, 2021. ( AFP / NOAH SEELAM)

Health experts warn against drinking liquid extracted from banana trees to 'treat acid reflux'

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Facebook posts shared hundreds of times claim that drinking water extracted from banana trees for 15 days can cure acid reflux, a condition that causes heartburn. However, the claim is false; not only is there no evidence the extracted liquid can treat the condition, health experts warned it may contain harmful substances that could inflame the digestive system.

The claim was posted here on April 12, 2022 in a Facebook group with more than 125,000 members.

The post includes an image of a metal spoon filled with a cloudy liquid, which appears to have been collected by jamming the spoon's handle into the trunk of a banana tree. 

The Thai-language caption translates to English in part as: "I used to suffer from acid reflux, I suffered a lot! Medication is expensive and it is not helpful.

"So I resorted to traditional herbs instead. I extracted water from the banana trees and collected two spoonfuls. I drank banana water regularly for 15 days, and I was completely cured. Don’t underestimate Thai traditional medicine. I guarantee this." 

A screenshot of the misleading post on Facebook

According to Britain's National Health Service (NHS), acid reflux is a condition where stomach acids travels up towards the throat, causing a burning feeling in the chest known as heartburn.

Many people experience heartburn from time to time. It can be caused or exacerbated by being overweight or pregnant, or habits such as smoking and eating spicy or fatty foods.

Similar claims about the supposed health benefits of liquid extracted from banana trees were shared here and here

However, the claim is false; health experts told AFP there is no evidence that drinking liquid extracted from banana trees can cure acid reflux.

'Baseless rumour'

"This seems to be a baseless rumour," said Bussaraporn Thanasilungkoon, a senior technical officer at the Thailand health ministry's Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, which oversees research into the medicinal use of traditional herbs.

"There are no studies under Thai traditional medicine which state that banana water treats acid reflux," she told AFP.

Sayarm Sirintornpanya, a gastroenterologist at Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok also told AFP there was no proof the remedy worked for acid reflux.

"There is no medical evidence that shows the water extracted from banana trees has any properties to cure or relieve patients with acid reflux," he said.

He suggested people who suffered from the condition should adjust their eating habits and consume healthier, lighter food or take over-the-counter medication available at local pharmacies in Thailand instead.

Both health experts warned the liquid extracted from banana trees could even be harmful if consumed.

'Unhygienic'

Bussaraporn said the liquid could contain rubber that can harm the digestive system, while Sayarm said the substance could "irritate and inflame the digestive system, which could be dangerous".

Nonthalert Lertnitikul, a professor at Chulalongkorn University's Department of Pharmacognosy and Pharmaceutical Botany, also told AFP that the liquid extracted from banana trees is "unhygienic" and "should not be consumed to cure any diseases".

He said the liquid extracted from banana trees consists of water, banana rubber and other contaminated substances such as germs and dust.

"I certainly don't recommend drinking it as it is not hygienic and could cause danger to your body," he said.