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The Wonders of Butterfly Pea Flower

History

Known for its brilliant blue hue, Butterfly Pea Flowers are featured in foods, drinks, and cosmetic products. The plants are native to Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand and Vietnam. Also known by its scientific name, Clitoria ternatea, the plants are rich in anthocyanins, which give the flowers their incredibly recognizable vibrant blue flowers(1).


Ancient communities used the plant for health benefits and beautification properties. Now, the Butterfly Pea flower has many meanings in different countries. In India, the flower is named after the Hindu goddess, Aparajita, and is commonly offered during prayer rituals of worship. In Thailand, the story behind the tea comes from a woman named Isra, who was taken on an adventure by a half-woman half-bird creature, called a kinnari. The kinnari presented her with the flowers, instructing her to grow and use them for healing. The butterfly pea flower has also been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries in India. The flower is believed to have a range of health benefits, including promoting hair growth, improving memory and cognitive function, and treating skin irritations(2).

The cultural significance of the butterfly pea flower extends beyond its use in traditional medicine and drinks. In Thailand, the flower is used to make a traditional dessert called "khanom chan," which is a multi-layered, colorful dessert made with rice flour, coconut milk, and butterfly pea flower juice. The dessert is often served at weddings and other celebrations and is a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Furthermore, the butterfly pea flower has also been used as a natural dye for textiles and clothing in Southeast Asian countries. The vibrant blue color of the flower is extracted by boiling the dried flowers in water, and the resulting liquid is used to dye fabrics and clothing. The dye is believed to have protective properties, and it is often used to dye clothing for newborn babies(3).


The butterfly pea flower has a rich history and cultural significance in Southeast Asia, where it has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, food, drinks, and textiles. Its bright blue color and unique properties have made it a beloved and important part of many cultural practices throughout the region.


THE BLUE HUE FLOWER

When steeped in boiling water, the Butterfly Pea flower has a strong blue colour. Unlike other teas, an interesting feature is that their colour is affected based on the acidity of tea. Adding an acidic ingredient to change the PH of the drink, such as lime juice or hibiscus petals, can change the colour from blue to purple or even red. Butterfly pea flowers can be purchased online and in food stores, in whole or powdered form. With whole flowers, the tea is produced by steeping them in hot or cold water to infuse the flavours and colours(4). In addition to its color-changing properties, the butterfly pea flower is also known for its mild taste. When used in tea, the flower produces a refreshing, earthy taste that is slightly sweet. It is often used as a caffeine-free tea alternative to traditional teas like black tea or green tea. Its floral notes make it an excellent choice for those who enjoy drinking floral tea(5).


HEALTH BENEFITS

Butterfly tea flowers are used by cosmetic manufacturers in a large range of beautification products. It carries rich antioxidants, which are beneficial in increasing skin hydration, slowing down aging, and treating irritation. The flower contains anthocyanin, which increases blood flow to the scalp. The increased blood flow promotes hair growth, leading to the strengthening of hair follicles(6).


Butterfly Pea tea is also used to treat digestive systems, with anti-inflammatory properties to soothe stomach muscles, alleviating nausea and indigestion. They help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and also act as a mild laxative that stimulates the flow of bile from the liver. These traits have also inspired studies to research how relieving the body’s digestive system from unnecessary waste aids in weight loss efforts. One study also suggests that the flowers extract may slow the formation of fat cells by regulating certain pathways involved in cell progression. Some studies have indicated that butterfly tea contains ternatins that block the synthesis of fat cells in the body(7).

For centuries, Butterfly Pea flower was commonly known as a brain herb as it has been used to enhance memories, and treat anxiety, depression, ADHD, stress, and Alzheimer’s. The active compound, acetylcholine, is memory-enhancing and essential for brain health(8). Butterfly pea flowers may also reduce the risk of diabetes and related symptoms. They increase antioxidant levels to reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. Studies also show that the antioxidant properties of butterfly pea flowers may protect against cell damage and complications related to diabetes. The antioxidant compounds and ternatins are also shown to alleviate inflammation and prevent cancer cell growth(9).


The antioxidants are also shown to increase blood flow to the eyes, assisting in improving vision. It helps with treating glaucoma, damage to the retinas, blurred vision, and tired eyes. It has also been shown to enhance night vision and generally protect the eyes from potential damage(6). Butterfly Pea tea produces specific peptides called cyclotides. The effects of cyclotides have evidence backing up that it is toxic to cancer cells and fight against HIV, various forms of cancers and other diseases(6).


What Makes this flower so effective?

Butterfly pea flower tea, also known as blue pea tea, has been consumed for centuries in traditional medicine for its various health benefits. Recent studies have identified the compounds in butterfly pea flowers that are responsible for its health benefits. One of the main compounds in butterfly pea flowers is anthocyanin, which gives the flower its blue color. According to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, anthocyanins have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The study found that anthocyanin-rich extracts from butterfly pea flowers can scavenge free radicals and protect cells from oxidative stress(10).

Butterfly pea flower also contains acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in cognitive function and memory. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that the acetylcholine in butterfly pea flowers can improve cognitive function and protect against Alzheimer's disease(11). In addition to its cognitive benefits, butterfly pea flower has been found to have a positive impact on digestion. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that extracts from butterfly pea flowers have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can help reduce inflammation and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut(12). Another study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that butterfly pea flowers can help relieve constipation and improve bowel movements(13).


Butterfly pea flower is also caffeine-free, making it a great alternative to traditional caffeinated teas. A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that butterfly pea flower tea can help regulate blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. The study found that butterfly pea flower can help increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood glucose levels, making it an effective natural remedy for managing diabetes(14). Finally, butterfly pea flower has been found to have potential anti-cancer properties. A study published in the journal Food & Function found that extracts from butterfly pea flowers can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and induce cell death in a variety of cancer cell lines. The study also found that butterfly pea flowers can help regulate the expression of genes involved in cancer cell proliferation and apoptosis(15).

In conclusion, butterfly pea flower contains a variety of compounds that offer numerous health benefits, making it a great addition to a healthy lifestyle. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its impact on cognitive function and digestion, make it a valuable component of natural remedies for a variety of ailments. Its caffeine-free nature and potential anti-cancer properties make it a great choice for those looking for a natural and healthy alternative to traditional teas.


Sources

  1. https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_763_2004-12-20.html#:~:text=Although%20it%20can%20be%20found,much%20later%20to%20the%20tropics.

  2. https://blog.nurserylive.com/2016/07/13/devi-the-flowers-used-in-the-worship-of-the-mother-goddess-and-gardening-in-india#:~:text=The%20flowers%20said%20to%20be,Lotus%20or%20any%20red%20flower.&text=The%20flowers%20of%20Aparajita%2C%20also,whom%20no%20one%20can%20defeat.

  3. https://the.republicoftea.com/tea-culture/the-health-benefits-of-butterfly-pea-flowers

  4. https://www.birdandblendtea.com/blogs/tea-academy/the-science-behind-our-colour-changing-blue-tea#:~:text=Our%20colour%20changing%20tea%20is,produce%20a%20bright%20blue%20liquid.

  5. https://artfultea.com/products/butterfly-pea-flower-herbal-tea#:~:text=Butterfly%20pea%20flower%20is%20commonly,similar%20to%20that%20of%20chamomile.

  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/butterfly-pea-flower-benefits#:~:text=It%20is%20rich%20in%20antioxidants,potential%20addition%20to%20your%20diet.

  7. https://draxe.com/nutrition/butterfly-pea-flower-benefits/

  8. https://draxe.com/nutrition/butterfly-pea-flower-benefits/#:~:text=Supports%20Cognitive%20Health&text=Because%20of%20its%20ability%20to,chronic%20stress%2C%20depression%20and%20ADHD.

  9. https://the-qi.com/blogs/journal/11-benefits-of-drinking-butterfly-pea-tea#:~:text=Stabilize%20Blood%20Sugar%20Levels,against%20cell%20damage%20and%20diabetes.

  10. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jmf.2017.3960

  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874115003733

  12. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf400545w

  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471652/

  14. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09637486.2018.1520053

  15. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304670820_Butterfly_pea_Clitoria_ternatea_seed_and_petal_extracts_decreased_HEp-2_carcinoma_cell_viability




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