Butterfly Peas are traditional medicine, a decorative plant that attracts beneficial insects, a unique culinary herb, a natural food coloring agent, a great ecological solution for various environmental problems, an important ingredient in several religious rituals, and also an amazing material for creative science experiments.
The botanical name of the butterfly pea is Convolvulus pluricaulis/Clitoria ternatea. The name comes from the shape of the flower that resembles the female genital part, the clitoris. The second half of the name comes from the place where it possibly originated, I. E. Ternate island, Indonesia. Butterfly pea is known by various regional names mostly because of the appearance of the flowers.
Regional Names of Clitoria ternatea
- Aparaijta/ Aparajitha: the one who cannot be defeated
- Gokarna: Shaped like a cow’s ear. Sanskrit word Go means Cow and the word Karna means Ear.
- Shankhapushpi: The name Shankhapushpi comes from its conch-like shape. Shankhapushpi syrup is a commonly used brain tonic in India.
- Cordofan Pea: The plant grows in Cordofan region in West Africa which gives it the name Cordofan pea.
- Blue Pea: Because of the blue color of the flowers, it is known as a Blue Pea.
- Asian Pigeonwings
- Kamachile: This name is used in the Philippines
- Anchusin: Korean Name
- Darwin pea
Butterfly Pea Plant Origin & Distribution
Not sure if the plant originated in Indonesia or West Africa but they are commonly grown in tropical countries in the Indian subcontinent. Later these plants were distributed to other continents Australia, Africa, and the Americas. It may not be common before here in the US but with increased globalization more and more gardeners are now growing these beautiful vines in home gardens.
Benefits of Butterfly Pea
Butterfly pea is an ancient traditional or ayurvedic medicine. In ancient Indian medicinal books, it is mentioned by several researchers and medical practitioners for the treatment of various diseases, to improve overall health and boost immunity.
As a traditional medicine, Butterfly Pea is commonly used to relieve stress and improve brain function. In India, it is famously known as Shankhapushpi and is taken in the form of syrup. The dried flowers are also used to make tea for sound sleep and relieve anxiety. The leaves of butterfly peas are used to treat mental illnesses, depression, and epilepsy. It is also used to lower blood pressure.
Asian pigeonwings or butterfly pea was used as an antidote for toxins for animals and humans. Butterfly pea is believed to treat intestinal worm infestation and to control skin infections. Tea made from the delicate flowers of the butterfly pea is very popular. It is believed that drinking this herbal tea improves voice quality.
Building on ancient research, modern-day researchers are trying to evaluate these health s benefits and finding promising results in animal studies.
Other than the traditional health benefits, butterfly pea plants also are widely used in the food industry.
Butterfly pea flower extracts are safe to use as a blue food dye which can be used to make various color-changing drinks, candies, cookies, and pancakes. In science experiments, the Decoction of the butterfly pea flower can be mixed with drinks of different pH levels. The liquids change color and students can observe these changes. It is a fun way to learn some science concepts using natural ingredients.
Butterfly pea is a great forage crop for cattle in areas where not enough nutritious pasture is available. Animals prefer the taste of this plant compared to some other grasses. The butterfly pea vines are hardy, very low maintenance, and have good disease resistance. they can also be used as a cover crop and for green manure. Just like other beans and legumes, butterfly pea plants are nitrogen fixers. They improve soil quality and increase the nitrogen content in the surrounding plants. Overall, it is a great ecological solution to solve many problems easily.
Butterfly Pea is a legume. The young pods are edible but the flowers steal the show. The ornamental value of butterfly pea plants is unbeatable. The flowers are red, blue, violet, or white in color. The bright flowers attract various beneficial insects like bees, bumblebees, and several other beneficial insects. It is of great help if you are practicing organic gardening. The plant adds a lot of to the garden. As the flowers are shaped like a conch and also like a cow’s ear, and both these things are considered holy in the Hindu religion, the flowers are important in Hindu religious rituals.