If you have been following my story, you know I love traveling. One reason is I love to explore.
I love to eat!
One of the great things about traveling the world is getting to sample the local cuisine. When I was living with the Guarani tribe in Peru, I drank beer made of yucca root that the native women spit into the ground and let ferment. I ate raw worms and grubs.
I’ve eaten the “Food of the Gods” in the Amazon. An incredible fruit called cupuaçu that tastes like a heavenly blend of chocolate and vanilla.
I’ve sampled so many unusual foods that it’s hard to surprise me. But that’s exactly what happened in Bali when I was served “blue rice” topped with coconut for dessert.
It was so bright and vivid I thought it had to be food coloring. And it was.
The brilliant blue color came from the butterfly pea plant. The flowers of the butterfly pea are the most spectacular of all the flowers in Bali. And that’s no small feat!
But as I learned from my friends Westi and Lelir, the butterfly pea plant is beloved in Bali for much more than its beauty.
The Balinese call it “Bunga telang.” It comes from the Indonesian words meaning having clear vision. Traditional herbalists on Bali use the roots to cure eye ailments and the flowers to cure eye infections like conjunctivitis, or “pink eye.”
But that’s just the beginning. Bunga telang is a medicinal mainstay in Balinese culture. I was amazed when Lelir told me about all the different ways the Balinese use it. So I decided to do some research of my own.
And what I found only added to my amazement. I included the butterfly pea in my book Healing Herbs of Bali, but the truth is I could have written an entire book just on this one plant!
Why is the butterfly pea effective?
Butterfly pea is one of the few plants that has cyclotides in it. These are peptides that have antitumor properties and cause cancer cell death because they can penetrate the cancer cell membrane.
A recent study in China found butterfly pea to be very effective against certain lung cancer cell lines.1 Other studies have shown that a powder made from the ground-up leaves of the butterfly pea can enhance memory and brain power. 2
A team of researchers in India found that butterfly pea increases the levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.3 Acetylcholine is important for communication in your brain. And it’s one of the brain chemicals that decreases the most as you age.
How does the butterfly pea improve your thinking?
The less of it you have, the slower the messages will travel in your brain. They might even break down and stop traveling altogether.
Low acetylcholine levels can cause loss of memory and coordination as you get older. Butterfly pea improves your thinking and balance naturally because it reverses this process.
Effects of butterfly pea
Here are just a few of the other healing properties of the butterfly pea plant:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Pain relieving
It’s like a full-stop natural drugstore in one gorgeous little plant.
Growing the butterfly pea
Butterfly pea can grow year-round in the warmer parts of the U.S., like where I live in South Florida. But because it’s such a fast grower, many people in colder climates plant it as an annual in the warm summer months. It makes a nice, quick covering for a lattice, trellis or chain-link fence.
If you grow butterfly pea in your garden, you can dry the flowers yourself and store them for future use. You can also order dried butterfly pea flowers online.
How to use butterfly pea flower
There are so many ways to get the healing power of the butterfly pea plant. You can add the petals to a salad or brew a beautiful blue tea. Here’s how I do it:
How to make butterfly pea flower tea
- Steep about a dozen butterfly pea flowers in hot water until the flowers turn pale. About 10 minutes. The water will turn a bright blue.
- Strain the liquid and discard the flowers.
- Add honey to taste.
It’s great served warm, but I like it best over ice.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Sen Z, Zhan X, Jing J, Yi Z, Wanqi Z. “Chemosensitizing activities of cyclotides from Clitoria ternatea in paclitaxel-resistant lung cancer cells.” Oncol Lett. 2013;5(2):641-644.
2. Jain N, Ohal C, Shroff S, Bhutada R, Somani R, Kasture V, Kasture S. “Clitoria ternatea and the CNS.” Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;75(3):529-36.
3. Rai K, Murthy K, Karanth K, Nalini K, Rao M, Srinivasan K. “Clitoria ternatea root extract enhances acetylcholine content in rat hippocampus.” Fitoterapia. 2002;73(7-8):685-9.