Facts about Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea)

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Butterfly Pea Quick Facts
Name: Butterfly Pea
Scientific Name: Clitoria ternatea
Origin South America
Colors Green turning to brown as they mature
Shapes Pods flattish, linear-oblong, 6–12 cm long by 0.6–1.2 cm wide
Taste Bitter
Health benefits Boosts brain health, Home Remedy to Headache, Helps in conjunctivitis, Solution to Irregular Period in Women, Natural Remedy to Diabetes, Great for Digestion System, Improves Nerves System, Treats Asthma Naturally,
Clitoria ternatea, commonly known as Butterfly Pea, Asian Pigeonwings, Bluebellvine, Blue Pea,  Cordofan Pea and Darwin Pea, Blue Butterfly Pea, Butterfly Pea Flower and Cocos is an evergreen climber belonging to the Fabaceae family. Native territory of this vine is unclear… some say Asia and some say tropical America. The specific epithet is in reference to the Island of Ternate in Indonesia which was considered by Linnaeus as native territory. Regardless of native origin, it is today pan tropical thanks to naturalization from human cultivation. The flowers of this vine were imagined to have the shape of human female genitals, hence the Latin name of the genus “Clitoria”, from “clitoris”. Specific epithet means in clusters of three.

Clitoria Ternatea is one of four herbs traditionally used as Shanka Pushpi, an Ayurvedic medicine used to promote neurological health. It is grown as an ornamental plant and as a re-vegetation species (e.g., in coal mines in Australia), requiring little care when cultivated. As a legume, its roots form a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria known as rhizobia, which transform atmospheric N2 into a plant usable form, thus, this plant is also used to improve soil quality through the decomposition of N-rich tissue.

Plant Description

Butterfly Pea is a short lived, fast growing, perennial climbing, herbaceous scrambling or trailing leguminous herb that grows about 2.5 meters high. The plant is found growing in grassland; open woodland, bush lands, riverine vegetation, and disturbed forests. It can be found invading river banks, creek lines, the margins of waterholes, irrigation channels, disturbed sites, roadsides and disturbed open woodlands and grasslands. The plant is adaptable to a wide range of soil types from sandy soils to heavy clays including calcareous soils. It is moderately tolerant to salinity. The plant has strong woody root stock and thin, glabrous or sparsely pubescent, climbing or twining stems.


Leaves are imparipinnate, arranged in 2–3 pairs, bright green, petiolate (1.5–3 cm long), leaflets are elliptic-ovate to elliptic lanceolate, 1.5–5 cm by 0.4–3 cm wide, acute or notched apex and rounded base, margin entire.

Flower & Fruit

Flower occurs in clitoris-like flower shape with large obovate, reflexed, funnel-shaped standard, around 4 cm (1.6 inches) in length and 3 cm (1.2 inches) wide, light to deep blue, mauve or white and yellow at the inner base. Flowering normally takes place from June to November. Flowers are followed by long, pods with each pod enclosing anything between six to ten seeds. Each fruit of this species measures between 5 cm and 7 cm (2 inches and 2.8 inches) in length and pods are flattish and linear-oblong and also can be consumed when they are young and soft.

Health Benefits of Butterfly Pea

So far only some locals in the countries where this flower plant is originated like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are using this flower in daily basis. In those countries, the petals of the flower are used as natural food coloring while the other parts are used as traditional or herbal medications. Below is the list of health benefits of Butterfly Pea

1. Boosts brain health

Good brain health is dependent on the communication levels of the brain. Butterfly pea consists of Acetylcholine, and its consumption helps to increase the levels of Acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine decreases with progress in age causing loss of memory and other problems. Consumption of butterfly pea can reverse this process and improve the thinking abilities. (1)

2. Solution to Irregular Period in Women

Asian women must have known how great Clitoria ternatea is in helping them dealing with their irregular period issue. Furthermore, this beautiful flower is also able to help dealing with some reproductive issues in women.(2)

3. Improves Nervous System

Nervous system has essential role in the whole body metabolism and wonderfully Clitoria ternatea consists of some compounds that are great to improve the function of nerve system. In other words, this flower is also great for brain. (3)

4. Treats Asthma Naturally

Allergic reaction could be the trigger of asthma. However, several researches have shown the effectiveness of Clitoria ternatea in treat this condition.(4)

5. Natural Remedy to Diabetes

One of the amazing health benefits of Clitoria ternatea is able to control the absorption of blood sugar so it could help in controlling the blood sugar level in diabetic patients.(5)

6. Helps in conjunctivitis

Roots of the butterfly pea plant are used to cure many eye ailments, particularly in Southeast Asia. The beautiful flowers of the butterfly pea are used to treat eye infections like ‘pink eye’ or conjunctivitis. (6)

7. Great for Digestion System

Due to its antibacterial properties, this flower can help to treat some digestion problems including food poisoning. However further treatment from professional is still required. (7)

8. Used as Tonic to Treat Dementia

Several animal research have shown how effective Clitoria ternatea in improving ability of a mouse in memorizing, so it is possible to treat dementia in human. (8)

9. Act as Antidepressant

Depression is not an easy thing to deal with but at least Clitoria ternatea could help in reducing the worst of this condition.

10. Home Remedy to Headache

Got problem with your headache but somehow you cannot consume painkiller; you don’t need to worry because Clitoria ternatea could be used as home remedy to headache. (9)

11. Treats Insect Bites or Poisonous Bites of Snake

Among Asian people, poisonous bites of snake and insect could be treated naturally by this beautiful flower plant though seeing a doctor immediately is still highly recommended to prevent further issue.

12. Hair Loss

In ancient Thai medicine, Butterfly Pea herb has been used for centuries to treat male pattern baldness and premature graying. A key ingredient in Butterly Pea is Anthocyanin, thought to increase blood flow in the scalp and sustain and fortify hair follicles.

13. Helps in pregnancy

The butterfly pea plant derives its botanical name from the resemblance it shows for the female genitals, the clitoris. As such, it is supposed to help in conception, and much like chamomile and green teas, it provides a healthy alternative to caffeine during pregnancy. (10)

Traditional uses and benefits of Butterfly Pea

  • Roots and seeds are used in traditional medicine.
  • An infusion or herbal tea is prepared by boiling the fresh petals with water.
  • In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, it has been used for centuries as a memory enhancer, nootropic, anti-stress, anxiolytic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant, tranquilizing and sedative agent.
  • It was used traditionally in an attempt to treat sexual ailments, like infertility and gonorrhea, to control menstrual discharge, and also as an aphrodisiac.
  • Clitoria ternatea, a traditional Ayurvedic medicine, has been used for centuries for many diseases and disorders.
  • It has been used as a memory enhancer, nootropic, anti-stress, anxiolytic, antidepressant, anti-convulsant, tranquilizing and sedative agent and used in the traditional Indian system of medicine as a brain tonic and is believed to promote memory and intelligence.
  • Plant parts have been considered cooling, acrid, purgative, laxative, diuretic, anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anthelmintic.
  • Root, leaves and flowers are used in the form of powder and decoction to treat edema, mental disorder, goiter, vitiligo, snake poisoning, toothache, eye disease, fever, asthma, jaundice, earaches, pile, throat infections, skin diseases (boils and scabies), renal stones and filariasis, and also used as an aphrodisiac.
  • Leaves were used as wet dressing for wounds; root decoction taken to treat inflammation of joints, and the seeds used in poultices for swollen joints in Philippines.
  • Seeds are considered aperient, the roots are cathartic, the leaves are used as poultices, and juice of white flowers was used for inflamed eyes in Indonesia.
  • Flowers are used as hair tonic, for hair growth, as stimulant and for hair coloring in Thailand.
  • It not only helps to improve our eyesight, but is also useful for treating eye infections and opthalmitis.
  • Phytochemical is also effective for nourishing the skin and hair, supplying the body with antioxidants and perking up the immunity of our body.
  • Flowers of this herb produce a blue concentrate, which is added to various hair care products to encourage healthy hair growth.
  • In present times, people in Thailand use the flowers of butterfly pea to rinse their hair and also as a natural substitute to chemical hair dyes.
  • Ancient Thai herbal medicine used this herb for treating hair loss as well as prematurely grey hair.
  • When applied to the hair, this herb helps to promote blood circulation to the scalp, nourishes as well as strengthens hair follicles.
  • People in Southeast Asia have been traditionally using this herb to enhance their memory power, reduce anxiety and stress and in the form of an anticonvulsant, antidepressant as well as a sedative.
  • Entire top part of this herb is smoked to improve respiratory problems like asthma.
  • Butterfly pea plant contains oil that is warmed and used for massaging inflamed joints caused by arthritis and rheumatism.
  • Decoction prepared from the whole Clitoria ternatea plant is used for rinsing piles.
  • Juice obtained from the leaves of the plant is used as a nasal drop to treat headaches.
  • Oil is used for cleaning wounds and preventing them from being infected.
  • An infusion prepared from the whole Clitoria ternatea plant is drunk for its tranquilizing actions, while the decoction possesses diuretic properties and is used in the form of a gargle to cure sore throats.
  • Whole plant decoction or tisane can also be used internally for treating colds and coughs, indigestion and constipation.
  • It is also used in the form of a blood purifier.
  • Juice extracted from the petals of butterfly pea is blended with honey in equal amounts and taken internally for curing skin and liver disorders.
  • When this juice is pressed with ginger root juice, it works to check excessive sweating by acting as a coolant.
  • Fresh petals of this herb are boiled in water and prepared into syrups and sherbets.
  • It is believed that drinking these syrups and sherbets helps enhance the sperm quality and also do away with fatigue by revitalizing the body.
  • They also work to reinforce vitality and vigor in the entire body.
  • Seeds and roots of this herb are dried and powdered for treating fevers.
  • It helps in fatigue, weakness, gas in stomach, dyspepsia.

Ayurvedic Health benefits of Butterfly Pea

  • Constipation: Take some seeds. Roast. Powder them. Have a pinch with luke warm water for 3 days. OR Take 10 g roots. Soak in 2 cups water for 5 hrs. Drink it twice in a day for 3 days. (Excess may cause loose motion.)
  • Earache: Take leaves extract. Warm it. Mix a little salt. Steam the area.
  • Elephantiasis: Take the roots. Make paste with little water. Have a pinch with luke warm water.
  • Swelling: Grind some leaves. Add a little salt. Mix it. Apply paste on the affected part twice a day.
  • Ulcer: Take fresh leaves. Prepare an infusion. Wash the affected area with it.
  • Memory Enhancer: Fry root paste of butterfly pea in clarified butter. Take 3 g of it twice a day.
  • Uterine bleeding: Grind dried flowers of butterfly pea. Take 1 g of the obtained powder with honey. Have it thrice a day.
  • Migraine: Chew 2 dried leaves of butterfly pea daily.
  • Indigestion: Intake of 5 g root powder of butterfly pea helps to cure indigestion.
  • Leucorrhoea: Crush roots of butterfly pea to make powder. Consume 4 g of it daily.
  • Dizziness: Take 2 g of butterfly pea dried herbs and grind them into a fine powder. Mix with 100 ml of milk. Consume it twice a day.
  • Constipation: Take seeds of butterfly pea and dry ginger in equal quantity. Powder them. Mix rock salt. Have a pinch with luke warm water twice a day for 7 days.
  • Elephantiasis: Take seeds of butterfly pea and dry ginger in equal quantity. Powder them. Mix rock salt. Have a pinch with luke warm water twice a day.
  • Alzheimer: Take celastrus paniculatus, butterfly pea, indian pennywort, bacopa monnieri, withania somnifera. Grind them together. Have ¼ tsp with lukewarm water daily.

Culinary uses

  • In Southeast Asia the flowers are used to color rice in puddings and cakes.
  • An aqueous extract is used to color glutinous rice for kuih ketan (also known as pulut tai tai in Peranakan/Nyonya cooking) and in nyonya chang in Malay cooking.
  • It is used to color white rice for Nasi kerabu in Kelantan.
  • Syrupy blue drink is made called nam dok anchan (น้ำดอกอัญชัน), it is sometimes consumed with a drop of sweet lime juice to increase acidity and turn the juice into pink-purple in Thailand.
  • Flowers are also dipped in batter and fried in Burmese and Thai cuisine.
  • Flower, fruit and leaves are edible.
  • Leaves are used in salad and for frying in Thailand.
  • Young pods are edible and eaten as vegetable.

How to make butterfly pea flower tea

If you have fresh butterfly pea flowers, then put them all in a plate and cover with a cloth. Let these flowers dry under the sun till they turn crisp.

  • Mix dried butterfly pea flowers in 1 cup of water and boil for some time.
  • Steep until the color of the water turns blue.
  • Strain the mixture and add some sugar or honey for taste.
  • You can also add pinch of lemon to the tea to change the color and taste.

How to Make Blue Rice

Blue Rice is famous in other parts of Asia. Here’s a recipe on how to make it using Butterfly Blue Pea.


  • ¼ cup dried Butterfly Pea Flowers or Butterfly Pea Tea (get it here)
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water


  1. Start by boiling ½ cup of water. Once it starts showing bubble, turn off the heat and add ¼ cup of butterfly pea flowers. Let it steep for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove the flowers.
  2. Mix the water that has now turned blue to the remaining water. Pour it in to your rice cooker.
  3. Rinse your rice once or twice then pour it in to your rice cooker. Cook like how you cook regular steamed rice.
  4. Serve it hot.

Other Facts

  • Butterfly Pea is grown as an ornamental plant on fences and trellises because of its showy blue or white flowers.
  • It is also grown for dye production and medicinal purposes.
  • Butterfly Pea is often planted to increase soil fertility and improve yields of crops such as maize, sorghum, and wheat.
  • Butterfly pea is a multipurpose forage legume.
  • It provides bioactive compounds for medicinal use and it is also an ornamental plant on fence rows, cover crop and green manure crop.
  • Butterfly pea, a highly palatable forage legume, is generally preferred over other legumes by livestock such as sheep, goat and cattle.
  • It has thin stem and large leaves, nil bloat and nontoxic which make it ideal for forage and haymaking.
  • Its vigorous growth, tolerance to frost and dry periods and heavy grazing pressures make this suitable for wasteland development.
  • It is used as a re-vegetation species on coal mines in central Queensland, Australia.
  • It is used as a cover crop in rubber, cocoa and coconut plantations.
  • Flowers are still widely used for making dye in Southeast Asia because they are rich in blue anthocyanin, a plant pigment.
  • Dye is added to cosmetics, fabrics and shampoo (which help keep dyed hair dark) and used as a food colorant.
  • Blue dye is also used as a natural pH indicator in the pharmaceutical industry.


  • Excessive drinking is not recommended as some of its dynamic ingredients could cause harmful impacts over the long haul.
  • Pregnant ladies and breastfeeding moms should maintain a strategic distance from its utilization.
  • It may cause diarrhea.














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