Bananas: Your Surprising Summer First Aid Kit

Did you know that bananas offer an amazing bonanza of first-aid benefits, from relieving poison ivy and bug bites to soothing bruises, removing splinters and even curing warts? Technically classified as a berry (because they contain many tiny seeds inside a fleshy pulp) bananas also fight skin dryness, wrinkles, and blemishes, while contributing to a smooth, glowing complexion.

What’s more, a recent study suggests that eating three bananas a day cut risk for stroke by 21 percent. This could prevent up to 1,155,000 stroke deaths annually, worldwide, according to a 2011 study published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which tracked more than 250,000 people for over 30 years. The miracle ingredient is potassium, which reduces blood pressure, thus combating a leading cause of stroke.

Whether you eat the tasty, creamy fruit, or apply banana pulp or peels to your skin, this remarkably versatile plant can be a surprisingly effective medicine for what ails you. Here’s a look at 10 surprising banana-based remedies:

1. Zapping zits
Banana pulp and peels have natural antibiotic properties, research shows, and also fight inflammation. To battle skin breakouts, after cleansing your face at night, rub the inside of the peel on pimples, then rinse off in the morning.

2. Pacify poison ivy and bug bites
Stung by mosquitoes during a summer barbeque? Or did you stumble into poison ivy while weeding your yard? Quickly grab a banana and smear the inside of the cooling peel on the affected area to quell itching and inflammation.

According to the Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac Information Center, the treatment works best if re-applied two to three times a day to dry poison ivy blisters and sores.

3. Remove splinters
Forget poking around with a needle and tweezers to extract a splinter. Try this simple—and pain-free—kitchen remedy endorsed by Dr. Oz: Cut a piece of ripe banana peel about the size of the affected area and tape it fleshy side down over the splinter with a Band-Aid. Amazingly, enzymes in the peel will draw the splinter to the skin surface overnight.

4. Get rids of warts
The same method used for splinter removal also works on warts, but takes weeks of daily treatment, with the banana peel applied each night at bedtime and removed in the morning, according to the People’s Pharmacy.

5. Hangover cure
Planning a night of partying? Heavy drinking depletes the body of potassium and leaves you dehydrated, leading to such dreaded morning-after symptoms as a pounding headache and churning stomach. Eating a potassium-rich banana or two before bed, washed down with at least 16 ounces of water, helps prevent hangovers, because bananas are 75 percent water and packed with potassium to help you rehydrate and restore a healthy electrolyte balance.

And if you do wake up with a hangover, one of the quickest—and tastiest--solutions is to sip a banana milkshake sweetened with a couple tablespoons of honey. Or try mixing banana-strawberry frozen yogurt with a few ounces of Ginger Ale to settle your stomach. For more banana hangover recipes, click here.

6. Morning sickness relief
Bananas also appear to ease morning sickness in some moms-to-be. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends the bland, easy-to-digest BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) to combat queasiness during pregnancy. Since this diet doesn’t supply all necessary nutrients, it’s only intended for short-term relief. Ask your doctor how long you should stay on the BRAT diet, which is also advised for GI problems, particularly diarrhea.

7. Banishing bloat
Low in calories (about 105 for a large banana), the yellow fruit has inspired the trendy “Morning Banana Diet” in Japan, because it’s an excellent food for weight loss. The potassium in bananas can also help reduce fluid retention, particularly swelling around the ankles during pregnancy.

Bananas are high in fiber, so they help you feel full longer, with a low glycemic index (carbs are released slowly, avoiding spikes and drops in blood sugar).

8. Glowing skin facial
Fight wrinkles and dry skin with an all-natural moisturizing and softening banana face mask. One popular recipe calls for mashing a ripe banana and mixing it with an egg yolk and 1 tsp of sour cream. Apply to your face for 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Banana masks can also soften rough, chapped hands.

9. Workout energy enhancer
Bananas are an excellent fuel to boost stamina before you hit the gym or jogging trail. And they’re also a great recovery food after your workout. Try peanut butter and banana slices on brown rice cakes, or a swig a banana, milk and yogurt smoothie to provide fluid, healthy carbs, and protein.

10. Improved sleep and mood
Sometimes called a sleeping pill in a peel, the banana is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid linked to healthy slumber, says Elisabetta Politi, M.PH., R.D., nutrition director at Duke Diet & Fitness in Durham, North Carolina. “Tryptophan increases serotonin in your brain and blood, which can improve relaxation.”

And there’s a reason why bananas are shaped like a bright yellow smile: Serotonin has a calming effect on the brain, improving mood, and acts as mild sedative.

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