Clitoria ternatea, common names including butterfly-pea, blue-pea, and cordofan-pea, is a plant species belonging to the Fabaceae family. This plant is native to tropical equatorial Asia, but has been introduced to Africa, Australia and America.
All parts of the plant are used in medicine in different countries, and the flowers or the blue variety are dipped in batter and fried in Burma. They are edible and would make good garnishes for salads, as do nasturtium flowers and lavender. In Thailand a syrupy sherbet drink is made from the blue flowers, and a tea or tisane which is a rich blue colour. You make the tisane by pouring boiling water over the petals and leaving them to infuse for 15 minutes before straining and drinking, flavoured with honey if necessary. In the Malaccan islands the flowers and seeds are used to make a blue dye. The seeds (there are between 8 and 11 per pod) contain tannins.
In Ayurveda in the Indian subcontinent the whole plant is used to treat a number of illnesses, and the ones with white flowers are used to treat specific illnesses with the blue flowered plants being used to treat others.Â The roots and seeds have purgative qualities and are used as a mild laxative. The cliotides found in the plant may have antimicrobial properties against E.coli in particular, and may also be able to kill cancer cells. However as yet there is insufficient evidence to state that these findings are true at the present time.
For centuries in the subcontinent the plant has been used as a memory enhancer, to lessen stress and anxiety, as an antidepressant, anticonvulsant and as a sedative as it has tranquillizing effects. The whole of the top of the plant is smoked to relieve respiratory diseases such as asthma.
The flowers and seeds contain oil which is heated and used to massage inflammation from arthritis and rheumatism, and to treat piles. A decoction of the whole plant is also used to wash piles and the leaf juice is given in the form of nasal drops for headaches. The oil is also used to clean wounds and to stop infection.
Internally the infusion of the whole plant is used for its tranquillizing effects, and the decoction is a diuretic and used as a gargle for sore throats. The infusion or tisane may be administered to cure constipation, indigestion, coughs and colds, and as a blood purifier. The juice from the petals mixed with an equal amount of honey is given for liver and skin problems, while when the juice is mixed with expressed juice from the ginger root, it controls excess sweating and acts as a coolant, but has to be taken morning and night for a week to be really effective. Fresh petals boiled in water and made into sherbets and syrups are said to improve the quality of sperm and to banish fatigue and give the whole body vigour and vitality.