Using banana leaves is an integral part of our culture and I can’t imagine any important events without it. Banana leaf also has wonderful health benefits and medicinal uses. It is also the first item we write down to buy, when any important functions come up and we make sure we get big sized, top part of the banana leaf (Thalai Vazhlai Ilai in Tamil) to serve the guests.
My husbands grand mother who we are all very fond of and who lived till 94 years, used to eat only in banana leaf all her three meals. She was also very very good with home remedies and we still talk often about how she treated so many ailments with such ease. I have not seen her eat even a meal in a plate and she used to say, eating in banana leaf is the best way to remain healthy and I truly agree with her.
I can’t help but smile when I write this because even today, I used only banana leaves for eating my lunch, as I feel it brings out the best taste in food. If we sit cross legged in the floor, eat in banana leaves like our elders did and eat food after offering it to god, we will start viewing food differently.
Apart from using banana leaf for eating, we also use it for it’s wonderful medicinal uses. Especially the banana leaf body wrap is very effective and is practiced all over the world. One of my aunts uses the dried leaves of banana leaf to treat sprains. She has been using this remedy for years now and she says that this remedy works like a charm.
Where To Buy Banana Leaves?
6 Top Uses Of Banana Leaves:
1. Banana Leaves For Serving Food:
The first best reason banana leaf is perfect for serving food is because of it’s size, you can serve a large variety of dishes in the leaf from sweet to savory. We serve the small leaves for breakfast & dinner and the largest leaf is reserved for lunch, as usually lunch has a huge variety of dishes.
It is very very hygienic, In many hotels in India, they provide a banana leaf on top of the plate exactly cut to the plates size which I really like, because we just have to sprinkle water and wipe, and the leaves are clean in a few seconds.
It is eco friendly to dispose a banana leaf, whereas plastic plates worsen the environment and in a small way, if each one of us start using biodegradable natural materials, we will have a much cleaner and safer environment.
Banana leaf is full of antioxidants and eating hot, freshly cooked foods on the banana leaf is one good way to get all the antioxidants easily. Lastly, I am a strong believer that eating in banana leaf enhances the taste of the dish 🙂
2. Banana Leaves For Packing:
Next time, you go on a trip, try packing food in banana leaf. I remember when I was younger, whenever we went out, the food (usually different varieties of rices) will be packed in a banana leaf. After a long road trip, opening up the banana leaf for eating is an amazing experience.
The rice usually tamarind rice (as it stays longer with spoiling) will taste like heaven and is usually had along with pieces of fresh coconut pieces. Nowadays we have replaced banana leaf with aluminum foils and I really miss banana leaf packing. It is easy to pack with banana leaves.
To use, cut the required size of the banana leaf and wash it to remove any impurities and dry it completely, else the food will spoil easily. See whether it folds, if it breaks when you fold, take the leaf with a tong and fry it in direct flame for a few minutes, now it will be flexible. Keep the food, fold it and wrap it around and tie it with a thread securely.
3. Cooking With Banana Leaves:
Banana leaves are also excellent for cooking. We use banana leaves for shaping batter before deep frying and I always prefer banana leaves over plastic sheets. We cut a small square piece of banana leaf and place it near the frying pan. We simply wipe it with water and then take a required amount of batter and place it over the leaf, make small rounds and then deep fry.
This method can be used for any deep frying any batter. Banana leaves are also used all over the world for cooking various things from fish, chicken, idlies and even certain dessert use banana leaves.
Try to use tender leaves, so it does not tare easily. The dishes cooked by wrapping it banana leaves have an unique flavor. If you have not tried cooking with banana leaves, I strongly suggest you try few recipes with it.
4. Banana Leaves For Pooja & Decoration:
All our prayers and rituals require banana leaf and even a simple daily ritual of offering the food to crows is done in banana leaf. But for poojas, we make sure we only use the top end part of the leaf called thalai vazhali ilai and even if we go the markets, we will ask for the thalai vazhlai ilai.
We also serve guests only with the thali vazhlai ilai, which shows the guest how much they are appreciated and welcome in the home. Beautiful decorations can be done with banana leaf, once I visited an exhibition where they had showcased the beautiful things done with banana leaf. Each and every thing was so beautiful and very artistic.
5. Banana Leaf Body Wraps
Many natural treatments include banana leaf body wrap treatments in their program. After a body massage with warm oil and applying body packs the whole body is covered with banana leaf to keep the body warm, this is said to remove the toxins from the body and is said to be very relaxing.
We apply banana leaf as a bandage for treating burns, as it helps to heal it faster. This treatment is still carried out today in many villages. Small burns that is caused due to fire, hot vapor & hot water can all be cured very fast, if we tie banana leaf around it.
6. Banana Leaf For Health: Cure For Sprains
This is the home remedy that my aunt uses with great success for sprains: Take the dried leaves of banana and burn it, now collect the ash and mix it with little slaked lime and palm jaggery (karupatti in Tamil). When you mix, it will form a thick paste.
Now apply this paste over the affected area, it immediately dries up into a thick coat. My aunt said that usually the person will feel better very soon. The slaked lime that we use is called Sunambu in Tamil, Chuna in Hindi and Pickling lime in English.
Thats a nice shot… beautifully captured. nothing can beat vazhai illai saapadu
A few years ago I was travelling to Chennai by Tamil Nadu express. An elderly lady and her grand child were my fellow passenger. They kept taking out one packet after another (all banana leaf btw) of idlis, dosas, various rices for the entire 31 hour journey. I learnt a valuable lesson and whenever I travel long distance I try to take food in banana leaves. Works great for fish and rice with a dash of lime . Unfortunately I found my friend pack his lunch in plastic wrap in a village in Kerala. He owns a farm with lots of banana plants but I guess convenience has its pros.
Hi I just want to share my experience with you all. When I was young I had this skin disease all over my body, the disease was similar to chicken pox, almost my whole chest was covered with rash of itchy inflamed blisters and I was having fever as well. My parents didn't have money to take me to hospital so they went to alternative medicine. They brought me to this old woman, we call them "tambalan". She put coconut oil, "lana" as we call it locally, over my body and then covered it with young banana leaf. in just 1 day the blisters and itch was already gone and i was completely fine already.Now I have 2 kids and everytime they have blisters I just cover them with banana leaf and they will be fine. If you or one of your family members get the same skin problems, try it too.
Thanks a lot for sharing your experience, I am sure this remedy will be helpful for many…
In Kerala, people going to work and office take their lunch packed in banana leaf. The banana leaf is first washed and then shown to flame for few seconds (on top of the stove or a the flame) to make it more flexible packing material. Lunch pack of the school children were also done in this way in past and even now the same is followed in villages. Its taste and smell is good. The hot food packaged in banana leaf absorb chlorophyll from the leaf and adding the health benefits to the food.
Thanks for taking your time to write about banana leaf….
Hi, my name is uma devi and I live in Hyderabad but my native place is W.G.dist. After reading this article I felt like sharing my experience also. In my childhood my grandma used to make minaparotti. After putting the black gram batter in a thawa she used to keep fresh banana leaves on the top of the thawa and on top of the banana leaves also put few burnt cow dung cakes (pidakalu). And let it cooked for more than one hour. This preparation is really very tasty and remain fresh for next day also. Now and then I am practice it and showing to my kids. Even I use banana leaves for idly preparation also.
Dear Uma, thanks lot for taking your time for sharing this with all of us. We should treasure our traditional practices…
Hi Ramya , Wonderful work. By the way can anyone guide me how to use leaf for idly preparation. Thanks
Hello!My son has a skin condition that is in his hair on scalp and beard. I wonder if using coconut oil and banana leaf remedy would help him. I have several banana trees so leaves are readily available. He has tried a lot of different methods but none successfully work. Tea tree oil is closest thing to help so far. Please tell what you think of that. It's itchy and red, with moisture. I'm glad I found your page! My name is Angel and I live in Texas 🙂 my husband works in Hyderabad and we embrace the culture whole heartedly ♡
Hi Angel, So glad to know that you are interested in natural medicine. I would suggest using neem leaf and turmeric paste, this paste treats all skin inflammations very well. The turmeric might stain the beard and scalp but it will treat the infection very quickly. You can also try neem oil first and see if it works and then try the turmeric and neem leaf paste mixture…
You can take turmeric capsules,biotin&aswagandha capsules. It will help the psoriasis like conditions.
Take turmeric, ashwagandha and biotin capsules.
Just curious if banana leaves are edible as well?