Clitoria Ternatea - Health Benefits of Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Tea
What is Blue Butterfly Pea (Clitoria Ternatea)?
Are you suffering from low energy or brainpower? Feeling stressed? Anxiety? Can’t sleep? Can’t conceive? Constipated? Poor eyesight? Losing your hair or greying prematurely? Is your skin losing collagen?
Butterfly Pea is known to help.
Also known as Asian Pigeon Wings, Blue Bell Vine, Blue Pea, Cordofan Pea and Darwin pea, ‘Butterfly Pea’ (Clitoria ternatea) is an amazing brain boosting herb native to tropical equatorial Asia.
A traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, Clitoria Ternatea has been consumed for centuries as a memory enhancer, brain booster, anti-stress and calmative agent.
Known for their luminous indigo color, the blue flowers have traditionally been used as a vegetable in cooking, to color deserts, or to make a strikingly vibrant colored blue tea.
Butterfly Pea is jam-packed full of health-promoting antioxidants, flavonoids, and peptides and has shown considerable promise in animal studies as a natural remedy for a range of health complaints.
Many beauty products have also been derived from Butterfly Pea because of the impact the flavanoid, quercetin has on skin and hair health.
So let's first take a look at the reputed health benefits of Butterfly Pea, before looking at the available evidence.
Health Properties of Butterfly Pea
Butterfly Pea has been ascribed many health benefits in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, many of which have been supported by contemporary clinical research.
In studies to date, the herb has been shown to affect many parts of the body in positive ways:
- The Brain – The tea can improve your memory, relax your mind and make you feel less stressed.
- The Stomach and Digestion – The herbal tea can prevent or ease nausea, indigestion, and constipation. It can also help your liver work better.
- The Blood – It can help stop bleeding and purify your blood.
- The Lungs – It can help you breathe easier by loosening the mucus in your chest. This can help with colds, coughs, and asthma.
- The Bladder – The flower may help make you pee more easily and regularly.
- The Reproductive System: It can support healthy sperm production.
- The Skin – Pre-mature aging is a frequent skin problem. Flavonoids present in Butterfly Pea have been found to increase skin elasticity by helping the body produce more collagen.
Butterfly Pea for Hair Health
In ancient Thai medicine, the herb has been used for centuries to treat male pattern baldness and premature greying of the hair. A key ingredient in Butterly Pea is Anthocyanin, which appears to increase blood flow in the scalp and sustain and fortify hair follicles.
Studies have found that Butterfly Pea can increase the number of hair-growing cells in hair roots, and also speed up the hair growth process in mice.
However, it cannot create more hair roots or extend the hair growth period. It has a similar effect as minoxidil, a popular hair growth product.13,14
Butterfly Pea for Skin Health
Many of the antioxidants, flavonoids, and other natural substances found in Butterfly Pea flowers are good for your skin.
The anthocyanins found in Butterfly Pea can soothe your skin, reduce redness, and protect it from losing collagen and its firmness.
Also, because of its ability to moisturize the skin and increase the production of collagen, it can smooth out wrinkles and fine lines and make the skin more elastic, giving you a fresh and young look.
Butterfly Pea can also kill bacteria that cause acne when used on the skin, making it clear and smooth, as well as help heal wounds faster.11,12
Benefits for the Brain
Clitoria has shown a positive impact on the brain in animal studies.
Some studies have given rats water extracts of the plant for a month and found that their memory improved.1,2
The main way that Butterfly Pea may improve memory is by increasing a chemical called acetylcholine in the brain. This chemical helps the brain cells communicate with each other. One study found that giving rats water extract from the herb increased acetylcholine levels in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is important for memory. This effect was stronger in older rats than in younger ones.2,3
This is important because we produce less acetylcholine as we get older.
Another study found that the root extract helped mice remember better after they were exposed to electric shocks that impaired their memory. This suggests that it may protect the brain from damage and stress. 2
Butterfly Pea for Anxiety
The herb may help improve mood and lower anxiety. In one study, rats that drank the tea had less stress-related ulcers than those that did not. This effect was seen with a high dose of 400 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.4
This dose may also help the body cope with stress in general, as it seems to have adaptogenic properties.
However, more studies are needed to confirm how Butterfly Pea affects stress in humans.
Butterfly Pea for Diabetes
The herb may also help lower blood sugar levels.
A study showed that it was able to block the enzymes that break down sugars in the gut and pancreas, and found that it worked well in combination with other plants to reduce sugar absorption.5
This suggests that Butterfly Pea could be part of a healthy diet for people with diabetes or at risk of diabetes.
Some early research also shows that it can also prevent liver damage by blocking glucose from entering the liver.
Butterfly Pea for Heart Health
Butterfly Pea may help lower blood fats. In one experiment, researchers gave rats with high blood fats a dose of Butterfly Pea extract (500mg/kg) and compared it with two drugs that lower blood fats: atorvastatin (50mg/kg) and Gemfibrozil (50mg/kg). They found that Butterfly Pea extract was as effective as the drugs in lowering both triglycerides and total cholesterol. They also found that Butterfly Pea extract worked by increasing the activity of an enzyme that breaks down triglycerides (LPL). 6
The researchers tested both the seeds and the roots of the herb. They found that both could lower triglycerides, but only the roots could lower total cholesterol. This suggests that the plant may have different compounds that affect blood fats in different ways.
The researchers also combined Butterfly Pea with another plant called Vigna mungo (from the same family) and found that this mixture had even stronger effects on lowering blood fats.
Butterfly Pea for High Blood Pressure
People have traditionally used the herb as a natural way to help urinate more frequently. While animal studies have shown this to be the case10, it has not been studied in humans yet.
Urinating more frequently can help lower blood pressure by reducing the amount of excess water and salts in the blood.
This can also help lose weight quickly, but this effect is usually only temporary.
Butterfly Pea for Fever
The herb may help lower fever by widening the blood vessels near the skin, which allows more blood to flow and cool down.
In one experiment, researchers tested how it affected the body temperature of rats. They gave the rats different doses of an extract and measured their temperature before and after.
They found that the extract lowered the temperature of both normal and feverish rats. The higher the dose, the stronger the effect, which lasted for up to 5 hours.
The researchers compared the extract with paracetamol, a common medicine for fever. They found that the extract was similar to paracetamol (150 mg/kg) in lowering fever.7
Butterfly Pea for Asthma and Inflammation
The plant may also help people with asthma. In one experiment, researchers gave mice with asthma an ethanol extract and measured their symptoms.
They found that the extract reduced the inflammation and mucus in the lungs.
They also compared the extract with a medicine for asthma (Dexamethasone 50 mg/kg). They found that the extract was as good as the medicine in lowering the number of white blood cells and Eosinophils, which are involved in allergic reactions.8
Safety, Toxicity, and Side Effects of Butterfly Pea
Studies for oral toxicity of doses up to 3 grams per kilogram of body weight did not show toxicity in Butterfly Pea.9
That being said, some people may still experience side effects like nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea, especially if they consume too much butterfly pea extract or if they have a sensitivity or an allergy to the plant.
So it may be safer to consume the herb in tea form, as the amount is more moderate.
In addition, if you have any medical conditions or take any medications, you should consult your doctor before consuming butterfly pea flowers in order to avoid any possible adverse interactions.
Butterfly Pea as a Food
In Southeast Asia, Butterfly Pea is used as a natural food coloring. In traditional Thai cooking, the flowers are squeezed for their blue extract, which is then mixed with coconut milk and other base ingredients to naturally color Thai desserts blue and purple. ‘Nam dok anchan’ is a syrupy and refreshing indigo-blue drink commonly consumed in Thailand made with the flowers, honey, and sugar syrup.
In Burmese and Thai cuisines, the flowers are also dipped in batter and fried. Butterfly pea flower tea is made from the flowers and dried lemongrass. The tea changes color depending on what is added to the liquid, with lemon juice turning it purple.
In Malay cooking, an aqueous extract is used to color glutinous rice for ‘kuih ketan’ and in ‘nyonya chang’.
In Kelantan, east Malaysia, locals add a few buds of this flower in a pot while cooking white rice to add a bluish tint to the rice known as ‘nasi kerabu’.
How to Prepare Butterfly Pea Tea?
Aside from its numerous health properties, a cup of rich blue Butterfly Pea tea every day can help reduce fatigue and bring about a sense of serenity and calm.
To make tea from Butterfly Pea flowers:
Simply steep 5-10 flowers, fresh or dried, in a cup of hot water, let sit 15 minutes.
When there is no color left in the petal, strain the liquid and discard the flowers. You will be left with an amazing vibrant blue broth.
Butterfly pea flower tea commonly contains dried lemongrass, which can be added during steeping to improve flavor.
The tea can also be consumed with some drops of lime juice to create a sweet 'n' sour flavor and turn the bright blue tea into a deeper purple color.
Tip: Mix the tea with fuchsia roselle hibiscus and the tea will turn a bright red color.
- Rai KS, et al. Clitoria ternatea (Linn) root extract treatment during growth spurt period enhances learning and memory in rats. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. (2001)
- Taranalli AD, Cheeramkuzhy TC. Influence of clitoria ternatea extracts on memory and central cholinergic activity in rats. PharmBiol. (2000)
- Rai KS, et al. Clitoria ternatea root extract enhances acetylcholine content in rat hippocampus. Fitoterapia. (2002)
- Jain NN, et al. Clitoria ternatea and the CNS. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. (2003)
- Adisakwattana S, et al. In vitro inhibitory effects of plant-based foods and their combinations on intestinal glucosidase and pancreatic-amylase. BMC Complement Altern Med. (2012)
- Solanki YB, Jain SM. Antihyperlipidemic activity of Clitoria ternatea and Vigna mungo in rats. Pharm Biol. (2010)
- Evaluation of antipyretic potential of Clitoria ternatea. L. Boominathana, Subhash C.Mandala
- Taur DJ, Patil RY. Evaluation of antiasthmatic activity of Clitoria ternatea L. roots. J Ethnopharmacol. (2011)
- Taranalli AD, Cheeramkuzhy TC. Influence of clitoria ternatea extracts on memory and central cholinergic activity in rats. Pharm Biol. (2000)
- Piala JJ, Madisso H, Rubin B. Diuretic activity of roots of Clitoria ternatea L. in dogs. Experientia. (1962)
- Bujak, Tomasz et al. Flower Extracts as Multifunctional Dyes in the Cosmetics Industry.. Molecules 27 (2022)
- Priprem, Aroonsri et al. Topical Niosome Gel Containing an Anthocyanin Complex: a Potential Oral Wound Healing in Rats.. AAPS PharmSciTech 19 (2018): 1681-1692.
- Chaksupa, Narongchai et al. Effects of alcoholic extract from Clitoria ternatea flowers on the proliferation of human dermal papilla cells and hair growth in C57BL/6Mlac mice.Pharmaceutical Sciences Asia (2022)
- Choochuen, Natchaporn and Ampa Jimtaisong.Physical stability and subjective efficacy study of liposome loaded with Clitoria ternatea (butterfly pea) flower extract and Eugenia caryophyllus (clove) oil. Pharmaceutical Sciences Asia (2022)