Butterfly Pea Flower, or Clitoria ternatea by its scientific name, is a plant most commonly grown in South East Asia. Traditional ancient communities have used this plant for centuries as a tea for its strong antioxidants and health benefits, as well as topically for its beautifying and healing properties.
Traditionally, the Butterfly Pea flower is said to be ruled by the planet Venus and connected to the element of water, which gives it the attributes of love, emotion, serenity, and protection. In India, this flower is named after Hindu goddess, Aparajita, meaning one who cannot be conquered or defeated. It is is commonly offered during Puja rituals, which are daily rituals of ceremonial worship, that usually includes a brief offering to a god. In Thailand, this drink is called Anchan tea. Thai folklore tells us that a woman named Isra was taken on an adventure by a half woman half bird creature, called a kinnari. The kinnari showed her these flowers and instructed her to grow them and use them for healing. It is also common to use the Butterfly Pea flower in Thai and Malaysian cuisine to bring the blue color to dishes like desserts and sticky rice. This flower is rich in history and myth, but has gained worldwide popularity mainly for its color changing properties.
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This plant is special for a number of reasons, but a big aspect of its recent popularity comes from its transformative nature. When steeped in boiling water, the Butterfly Pea flower has a strong blue color, which in itself is unique compared to other teas. The magic comes when lemon, or another form of acidity, is added and turns the tea from blue to a bright violet. The lemon changes the pH level of the tea, leading to the change in color. This unique quality has led to Butterfly Pea becoming quite popular around the world, and even becoming a staple for expert mixologists and chefs who use it to shock patrons with naturally color changing cocktails or brightly colored foods.
This flower is beautiful and full of endless creative possibilities when making use of its unique qualities. On top of that, it is steeped in health benefits, symbolism, and history. Let's talk about why we all should be drinking Butterfly Pea tea!
1. Antioxidant and Anti Inflammatory
Butterfly Pea flowers are extremely rich in antioxidant compounds, called ternatins. As well as being the reason for the bright color, ternatins have also been shown to alleviate inflammation and prevent cancer cell growth. It is also rich in other healing antioxidants, including kaempferol, known for fighting cancer-cells, p-coumarin acid, know for being anti inflammatory, anti microbial, and antiviral, and Delphinidin-3,5-glucoside, known to boost immune function and fight cancer cells. The presence of these antioxidants leads to many health benefits.(1)
2. Brain Boost
Butterfly Pea flower is most commonly known in the Indian Ayurvedic medicinal system as a brain herb, used for centuries to enhance memory, treat anxiety, depression, ADHD, stress, and Alzheimer's, as well as just offer a general brain boost. These effects happen because of the active compound acetylcholine, which is memory enhancing and essential for brain health. Studies show that drinking this flower tea reduces the symptoms of stress-induced ulcers and offers helpful relief in symptoms of many disorders related to brain function. (2)
3. Improve Eyesight
On top of being a treatment for the brain, Butterfly Pea tea has benefits for our eyes too! The flower contains the antioxidant anthocyanin, which has been shown to increase blood flow to the eyes. This helps in 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. (3)
4. Reproductive Health
Through studying this plant's physical attributes, the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, concluded that it is compatible with women’s health since its appearance is similar to that of a female clitoris, hence the name Clitoria Ternatea. Evidence aligns with his assumption as Butterfly Pea tea has been shown as a helpful treatment for problems with menstruation or vaginal discharge, as well as aiding in normal sperm production, and even acting as a potent aphrodisiac. In Indian villages, it is common for pregnant women to wear the roots of Aparajita, or Butterfly Pea, on their arms or waist to help them deliver their babies safely. (4)
5. Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
Butterfly Pea flower has also been shown to be excellent at stabilizing blood sugar levels through its ability to inhibit glucose intake. Reports show this flower being able to protect against cell damage and diabetes. For example, a study showing 15 men drinking this flower showed increased antioxidant levels and reduced blood sugar and insulin levels. The same conclusion was found when this study was done on rats, comparing the levels to that of a control group.
6. Beautify Skin
Butterfly Pea flower is commonly used as a tea or food, but can also have incredible benefits when used topically. According to studies, it has been shown to increase skin hydration by 70% only an hour after application. This is because the flower contains the antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonoids, which stimulate the natural production of collagen and elastin. It also has anti-glycation properties, which are known to slow down aging of the skin. Because of these properties, Butterfly Pea flower is anti-inflammatory and is helpful in treating skin irritation, redness, itching, and allergies (5).
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7. Strengthen Hair
As well as being amazing for our skin, Butterfly Pea flowers are also super beneficial to hair health! The flower contains a potent bioflavonoid called anthocyanin, that increases blood flow to the scalp. This increased blood flow leads to the strengthening of hair follicles, hair growth, and naturally darkens hair, reducing the growth of grey hair. (6)
8. Aid in Digestion
Butterfly Pea tea is also used for treating the digestive system. Its anti-inflammatory properties soothe stomach muscles, alleviating nausea and indigestion. It has anthelmintic properties which help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. It also stimulates the flow of bile from the liver, therefore acting as a mild laxative. Like many teas that have a diuretic nature, Butterfly Pea tea can also aid in weight loss by relieving the body’s digestive system from unnecessary waste and replacing it with antioxidants. (7)
9. Respiratory Health
This flower is a common treatment for respiratory illnesses. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it has been shown to reduce the irritation of the lungs and other respiratory organs. It also helps in draining excess fluid build up, making it an excellent treatment for colds and coughs. A study from 2018 concluded that, due to these properties, Butterfly Pea tea can be considered a reliable therapeutic alternative in treating asthma and allergies. (8)
10. Fighting Diseases
Along with all of these other benefits, Butterfly Pea is one of, if not the only, species of plant to produce the specific peptides called cyclotides (9). Although medical studies of the effects of the cyclotides in this flower are still preliminary, evidence shows them being toxic to cancer cells, as well as exhibiting properties that fight against HIV, various forms of cancer, and other harmful diseases. On top of the powerful cyclotides, the flower is also anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and stimulates blood flow throughout the body, which can help to relieve the symptoms experienced when suffering from a harmful disease. (10)
Transformation is a huge quality of this flower. Viewing the plant as a metaphor can help us understand the true power that it holds. Butterflies have long been a symbol of the soul and growth from within. The physical change that the tea experiences when adding acidity can act as a metaphor to the change that happens deep within our souls.This esoteric quality of Butterfly Pea tea makes it the perfect choice for ritual practices. We like to do a transformative healing meditation with this tea. To do this, start by setting an intention. Continue by pouring boiling water over your tea and watch intentionally as the water begins to take on the deep blue color. Sit with this cup and think about the things in your life or about yourself that you may want to change. Take a moment to offer gratitude for the place that these things served in your life, and what you learned from them. Then squeeze some lemon into your tea and watch the color change. While watching the tea turn from blue to purple, imagine that the drink is a representation of your spiritual state, and as the tea changes colors you are also changing into the person that you desire to be. You can also add some honey to add that extra sweetness to your life. Then drink, enjoy, and welcome in transformation.
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Butterfly Pea flower is unique in its physical qualities, rich in history and tradition, and hugely beneficial to our health. Making it the perfect drink to enjoy with any one at any time! Whether you are using this flower to aid in fighting disease, to beautify your body, or to make special cocktails for date night, it is sure to bring a sense of positivity into your life!
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