Butterfly Pea Offers More Than a Cup of Tea!
The Butterfly Pea Flower (Clitoria ternatea)
The Butterfly pea is a herbaceous climbing plant. This climbing plant has deep blue flowers with a yellow heart and is found everywhere in the tropics. Most likely, the Butterfly pea originally came from tropical America or southeast Asia. The Latin name Çlitoria ternatea was given by Carl Linnaeus (a Swedish botanist of the 18th century), because of the resemblance of the plant to the human female genitals. This special plant has a rich history of use in the Asian cuisine and, as mentioned before, a traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine. The color of the Butterfly pea can change from intense blue to violet when the pH value changes. This is possible because the flowers contain a dye known as anthocyanin. In Asia this natural dye is used for coloring foods such as rice and pastries, but also tea, (fruit) juice, or cocktails.
Studies of the Beneficial Properties of the Butterfly Pea Flower (Clitoria ternatea)
Several studies have been done on the healing power of the Butterfly pea in China and India. These are all animal studies where the tests were mostly done on rats. These studies mainly concerned brain functions such as memory and learning ability, acetylcholine levels in the hippocampus, and so on. Other facts about the healing power of the Butterfly pea may not have been scientifically researched, but they have been proven through centuries of use and the positive experiences in ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
Consuming the Butterfly Pea Flower (Clitoria ternatea)
The Butterfly pea is safe for consumption. In studies where the oral toxicity of doses in mg/kg body weight was assessed, no significant toxicity was noted in the Butterfly pea.1The use of the Butterfly pea should only be based on the advice of a certified doctor with regards to any treatment using this herb.
Butterfly Pea Flower In Food
This herb got its English name because it tastes a bit like peas. In Kelantan (Eastern Malaysia) the locals add a few tops of this flower to a pot, when they cook white rice, to add a bluish tint to the rice. In traditional Thai cuisine, the flowers are pressed for their blue extract and then mixed with coconut milk and other basic ingredients to color the Thai desserts in blue and purple. In Burmese and Thai kitchens, the flowers are also dipped in batter and then baked.
Drinking Butterfly Pea Flower
This herb also contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties which can help to reduce fatigue and stress when using a cup of Butterfly pea tea every day. The Butterfly pea tea is traditionally made from the petals and dried lemongrass. The blue color of the tea will change to violet when something sour is added to it, for example, lemon or lime.
The Health Benefits of Butterfly Pea Flower (Clitoria ternatea)
The Butterfly Pea Flower is Packed With Antioxidants That Combat Stress
The Butterfly pea has yielded promising results as a natural remedy for a series of health problems in animal studies. The Butterfly pea is full of health-promoting antioxidants, flavonoids, and peptides. Many beauty products contain elements of the Butterfly pea, because of the effects of the flavonoid and quercetin on the skin and hair. The flavonoids, anthocyanins, and phenolic compounds in the Butterfly pea flower also help to reduce stress caused by free radicals. Free radicals are known for their disease-causing and aging effects.
The Butterfly Pea Flower is a Brain Booster
The Butterfly pea has a calming effect on the brain. Animal studies of the Butterfly pea bore promising results for its memory-enhancing effects with a broad spectrum of neurological benefits (anti-depression, anxiolysis, antipyretic), although more research is needed. These studies have shown that the Butterfly pea can improve cognitive function, memory and thinking power. In Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, the hippocampus is one of the first structures in the brain that is affected. The hippocampus contains acetylcholine, which decreases considerably as we get older. According to the studies, the Butterfly pea flower can increase the levels of acetylcholine in the hippocampus.2
The Butterfly Pea Flower Improves Vision
The Butterfly pea contains an antioxidant, called proanthocyanidin, which promotes blood flow to the capillaries of the eye. This has a beneficial effect in the treatment of glaucoma, poor vision, damage to the retina or tired eyes.3
The Butterfly Pea Flower as Fever Medication
The Butterfly pea can suppress fever (antipyretic) by expanding the blood vessels just below the skin. This increases blood flow, making it easier to cool the fever. This study suggests that the antipyretic effect of the extract is similar to that of paracetamol (150 mg/kg body weight), a standard drug prescribed for fever.4
The Butterfly Pea Flower Lowers Hypertension
The Butterfly pea is traditionally used as a diuretic. It is generally thought that the Butterfly pea flower promotes the drainage of water (miction), so that the blood mass decreases and this, in turn, lowers hypertension. Experience has also shown that this diuretic effect causes a rapid decrease in weight, but this is only of short duration.5
The Butterfly Pea Flower is a Natural Remedy for Stress and Anxiety
The Butterfly pea also has anxiolytic and antidepressant effects. These stress-reducing effects promote good sleeping habits. High doses of the Ternatea Clitoria are therefore also considered to be apoptogenic.6
The Butterfly Pea Flower for Heart Health
The Butterfly pea also shows promising results when it comes to cardiovascular health. The root extract of the Butterfly pea is able to reduce total cholesterol, while both the seeds and the root extract reduce triglycerides (a type of fat (lipid) found in human blood).7
There are still a number of investigations going on, such as the effect of the Butterfly pea flower on cancer cells. These studies have not yet been completed, but the researchers are predominantly hopeful about the expected results. In any case, it can already be concluded that the Butterfly pea flower has much more to offer than the enjoyment of a cup of tea.
- Clitoria ternatea root extract enhances acetylcholine content in rat hippocampus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12490229
- Evaluation of antipyretic potential of Clitoria ternatea L. extract in rats. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944711304703359?via%3Dihub#aep-abstract-sec-id5
- Diuretic activity of roots of Clitoria ternatea L. in dogs. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14486285
- Clitoria ternatea and the CNS. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12895670
- Antihyperlipidemic activity of Clitoria ternatea and Vigna mungo in rats. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20673179
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Carol Essed