The Health Benefits of Butterfly Pea

You must have seen the beautiful blue flowers of Butterfly Pea climbing on your neighbour’s fence, blooming in the wild, in the parks, or community gardens. It is a popular horticulture favourite in South East Asia. The scientific name for this plant is Clitoria ternatea, and it is a very versatile plant commonly used as a natural colouring for traditional cooking and as remedies for many ailments. For example, the Butterfly Pea flowers give the Nonya kueh salat the signature blue tinge!

Butterfly Pea is a remedy in many traditional systems of healing. In Ayurvedic medicine, extract from Its roots and seeds is considered a tonic for the nervous system. The leaves and roots are used to treat infections and urinogenital diseases. The root decoction or powder is a remedy for rheumatism and ear-diseases [1]. Originated from Central and Latin America, this plant is also a traditional remedy used in Cuba, Mexico, and the Caribbean for liver and intestinal problems.  

The distinctive blue colour of Butterfly Pea flower is used to make many Nonya delicacies.

Butterfly Pea is rich in anthocyanin, a potent antioxidant [2]. Scientific studies on this popular plant have found many potential beneficial effects on human health. The most important ones include:

  1. Enhancing learning and improve memory – The root extract from Butterfly Pea was found to affect the growth of neurons in hippocampus and amygdala, these are brain structures concerned with learning and memory [1].
  2. Antidepressant and stress reduction – Butterfly Pea may potentially affect the brain chemicals dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin and acetylcholine to attenuate stress and depression [3].
  3. Lowering blood sugar – The leaf extract of Butterfly Pea has potential antidiabetic properties. It may help to reduce the drastic rise in blood sugar and insulin response after taking sugar, as shown in one recent human study [4].  
  4. Reduce inflammation, pain and fever – The extracts of Butterfly Pea were demonstrated in several human and animal studies to be as effective as paracetamol and another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug to treat inflammation, pain, and fever [2].
The best-known benefit of the Butterfly Pea is to improve memory and enhance brain function.

A word of caution, though, Butterfly Pea may also slow down the aggregation of platelet in the blood [2]. Hence, it may not be suitable for patients after surgery or those on blood-thinning medication.

Due to its bright blue colour, the flower of Butterfly Pea has a variety of usage in food and beverages. The easiest way to enjoy this fantastic traditional goodie is to make a cup of tea as follows:

  1. Add one or two flowers (either dry or fresh) of Butterfly Pea in a glass or jar
  2. Bring water to boil and pour into the glass.
  3. Allow the flowers to steep in the water for 5 minutes
  4. Remove the flowers and serve
  5. Add honey and a slice of lemon for extra flavour.

Enjoy!

Blue Butterfly Pea Tea
The easiest way to enjoy the benefits of Butterfly Pea – make a cup of tea!

References

[1]        P. K. Mukherjee, V. Kumar, N. S. Kumar, and M. Heinrich, “The Ayurvedic medicine Clitoria ternatea—From traditional use to scientific assessment,” J. Ethnopharmacol., vol. 120, no. 3, pp. 291–301, 2008.

[2]        G. K. Oguis, E. K. Gilding, M. A. Jackson, and D. J. Craik, “Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea), a Cyclotide-Bearing Plant With Applications in Agriculture and Medicine   ,” Frontiers in Plant Science  , vol. 10. p. 645, 2019.

[3]        N. N. Jain, C. C. Ohal, S. K. Shroff, et al., “Clitoria ternatea and the CNS,” Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav., vol. 75, no. 3, pp. 529–536, 2003.

[4]        C. Chusak, T. Thilavech, C. J. Henry, and S. Adisakwattana, “Acute effect of Clitoria ternatea flower beverage on glycemic response and antioxidant capacity in healthy subjects: a randomized crossover trial,” BMC Complement. Altern., vol. 18, no. 1, p. 6, Jan. 2018.

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