Native to South-East Asia and India is the butterfly blue pea, a beautiful cerulean floral creation, which has been an important ingredient of traditional medicine in this part of the world since the era of ancient civilizations. For a flower, to have endured through several centuries is indeed credible and what is more noteworthy is the fact that its importance remains undiminished and unaffected by the passage of time. There could only one explanation for this continued sustenance – the natural presence of curative and therapeutic attributes that easily transit into lukewarm water like its color and can be consumed as such.
Amongst the several exotic beverages that are prepared with the butterfly blue pea flowers, one of the simplest as also the most appealing is organic blue tea. In the phrase ‘organic blue tea’, while the word ‘blue’ owes its presence to the color that is typical of the flower, the word ‘organic’ refers to the completely natural state of the flowers.
So why should you have a variety of tea which has been prepared by seeping butterfly blue pea flowers in boiling water and hence is blue and organic? Following are some of the reasons that explain the benefits of both:
Anything that is labeled as organic is indicative of the product being sans chemical-based pesticides and fertilizers. Such an output is a derivative of local soil and climatic conditions and farming techniques are a combination of age-old practices as also the latest developments. When you sip a cup of organic blue tea, it implies the consumption of a beverage prepared from butterfly blue pea flowers that have been grown under natural conditions without the use of external growth enhancing factors. Thus, not only are you protecting your body from toxic substances but are also doing your bit towards the betterment of environment.
And all of this simply by opting for a cup of blue tea!!!
Petals in a flower are usually meant for beautification but in case of butterfly blue pea, they have a greater role to play. Composed of eleven varieties of flavonol glycosides and a high concentration of anthocyanin, this part of the flower is definitely much more than what meets the eye. The best part is that much of this goodness, meaning the deep blue tinge as also the components dissolve readily in boiling water, thus implying that the resultant beverage is a power-pack of health benefits.
Making organic blue chai a part of your lifestyle will impact your health in many ways which are –
- Improving your eyesight, particularly nocturnal vision and inhibiting the growth of cataract
- Flushing out free radicals from the body and as a result, slowing down the aging process by maintaining elasticity of cells
- Preventing wrinkle formation by improving dermal health
- Protecting the body against harmful carcinogens through effective detoxification
- Resulting in a healthier and thicker mane
- Solving fertility issues in women
After a grueling day, all you need is a cup of caffeine-free herbal tisane named organic blue chai to wash away the stress, soothe your frayed nerves and feel rejuvenated in mind and body.
The antioxidant proanthocyanidin improves the flow of blood through the capillaries of the eyes. This helps the eyes adjust more quickly to changes in light and improve the sharpness of vision. It has also been shown to be effective in stopping the progression of cataracts, helping to treat damage to the retina, as well as improving night vision.
Bluechai also helps to improve cell health by stopping the harmful effects of free radicals that can wear down cellular tissues. As a result, the risk of cancer and other diseases can be reduced. Premature wrinkles and other signs of skin aging are also reduced when proanthocyanidins are present because they are able to increase the collagen and elasticity of the skin cells.
Anthocyanin is a water-soluble pigment that may appear red, blue, or purple in fruits and vegetables. It is also considered as a secondary metabolite that acts as a powerful antioxidant which is stronger than vitamin E. Anthocyanin is richly found in butterfly pea flower, and of course in our BlueChai Tea. When anthocyanin is consumed, it helps detoxification free radicals that damage our cells to prevent the risk of cancer, aging and keeps our skin healthy. It also stimulates the circulation of blood in small blood vessels, such as terminal blood vessels which enable stronger vision mechanism resulted from better blood circulation.
For centuries Asian women have used the juices of Bluechai, a dark purple flower, to promote dark, lustrous, thick hair. It was also rubbed into babies’ eyebrows to make the brows grow thick and long. The flower is rich in Bioflavinoid, an ingredient in modern-day hair products that stimulate hair growth.
These solitary, deep blue flowers steep to produce a tea that is beautifully vivid blue. A climbing vine, butterfly pea flowers contain the powerful antioxidant blue proanthocyanidin. The same flavonoid found in blueberries and raspberries, proanthocyanidin has a stellar reputation as an antioxidant that quenches free radicals and potentiates other antioxidants: they have much higher antioxidant powers than vitamins C and E, which are known as two of the top antioxidants.
In Malay cooking, an aqueous extract is used to color glutinous rice for kuih ketan (also known as pulut tai tai in Peranakan/Nyonya cooking) and in nonya chang. All over Asia, a syrupy blue drink is made from Bluechai or the flowers are used as food, often they are dipped in batter and fried.
Uses of Bluechai (Blue Butterfly Pea) in Traditional Medicine
In spite of tremendous medical advancements made by mankind over several eras, traditional medicine still retains its charm and what could be a better proof of this than the numerous instances when traditional ingredients and methods are preferred over modern science? A part of this ancient legacy is blue butterfly pea flower, a cerulean floral creation that grows by the roadside, which appears to be deceptively ordinary and yet is laden with a multitude of healing properties.
Legend has it that thousands of years ago, there lived a woman named Isra and one night she was woken up by a Thai mythological creature named Kinnari, purported to be a mix of human and bird in equal proportion. In Thai, the word ‘Isra’ translates into the nocturnal journey and true to her name, the lady flew through the night with Kinnari till they reached the Himapan Forest. Kinnari descended along a path, picked a plant bearing blue flowers growing by its edge and handed it to Isra, instructing her to plant it in her garden so that it could heal all those who came into its close contact.
Whether this is how the butterfly blue pea flower truly came to be known to civilization remains unclear but what stood to be truly validated was the mythological creature’s claim pertaining to its healing properties. Indeed, the butterfly blue pea flower has been held in high regard by several ancient cultures and much of the renown is courtesy of its natural ability to cure diverse ailments.
One of the earliest uses that butterfly blue pea flower was put to by the ancient Thai pertained to its ability to strengthen and nourish hair, thus improving quality and thickness. Gradually people began to discover the therapeutic value of different parts of this plant, namely flowers, seeds, leaves, and roots and it soon acquired the reputation of a natural healer. Many of its uses, like infusing its blue petals in lukewarm water to prepare the rehydrating Anchan Tea, preparing edible blue dye for coloring food, treating eye infections and boosting inherent immunity, have been in vogue in Thailand since centuries and are as much a part of a contemporary generation.
Therapeutic capabilities of the butterfly blue pea flower were revered by ancient sages in India too and this explains its extensive application in Ayurveda. Some of the earliest uses of this plant pertained to the improvement of memory, sedative, tranquilizer – especially against snake bites, an antidepressant. Presence of cliotides led to the plant being an effective anti-carcinogen while methanol concentrate in its roots helped combat whooping cough.
Laden with anthocyanins, antioxidants, and proteins, this plant has been a popular natural choice for restoring the fertility of the soil and is even used as fodder for cattle for the sake of improving their health.
So next time you come across this bright blue flower growing by the roadside, do make it a point to appreciate it for the numerous cures that it has provided mankind with. Amongst the various hand-me-downs’ from past generations, blue butterfly pea is one of the few creations which have sustained without undergoing any major changes.
Origin & History
Because the butterfly blue pea is ethnic to South East Asian countries, there is a legend attributed to it in each of these countries. While it is colloquially referred to as ‘Asian pigeonwings’, it enjoys a fair share of local names in each of the countries and sometimes even multiple names within the same country, like India.
So if you are in Malaysia, the beautiful blue flowers that girls and women adorn their hair with is known as ‘bunga telang’. Moving over to Thailand, if you exclaim with amazement at the rice having been tinged with blue or the dessert bearing a distinct blue touch, people around will inform you that it is a natural color obtained from ‘anchan’ petals. Vietnamese refer to this floral creation as ‘dau biec’ and the Chinese refer to it as ‘die dou’. ‘Aparajita’ names by which this blue flower is commonly known as in India but in certain regions, it is referred to as ‘Shankupushpam’ and even ‘Sankhu Poolu’. Scientifically it is the ‘Clitoria Ternatea’, a name that it has earned owing to its shape and so obvious is the reference that it has been universally accepted without any argument.
The scientific explanation as regards the evolution of this flower notwithstanding, it is the legend pertaining to its origin which is not just fascinating but as mesmerizing as the flower itself. The story goes back a thousand years when much of East Asia was covered with Himapan forests which were believed to be home to a variety of mythical creatures. An idea of the types of creatures who inhabited the Himapan Forests could be gained by observing the statues that adorn the ancient temples of this region. Mystical in appearance, each is believed to be a hybrid of two or more animals owing to the forest area being positioned between heaven and earth, thus acting as a gateway on both sides. This was the reason as to why many inhabitants of the Himapan Forests had an ethereal quality but were equally sensitive to pain and suffering that is characteristic of earthly creatures.
Among these was a creature named Kinnari, a hybrid of a swan and a woman. Owing to her half-bird nature, Kinnari could fly across the skies and it was during one of her nocturnal flights that she observed a woman trying to sleep through deep distress. ‘Isra’ was her name and native to the land, it turned out that she was suffering from multiple ailments, all of which were not just having an adverse impact on her daily life but were also interfering with her sleep. Kinnari decided to help Isra by indicating her to follow and they both embarked on a flight that spanned mountains, lakes, temples, and several settlements before coming to an end at the edge of the famed Himapan Forest.
Kinnari led Isra along the path wherein several natural aromas graced their nostrils and they kept walking till Kinnari halted in front of a bush bearing blue flowers. It was a flower that Isra had never seen before and hence it appeared exotic and alien to her. But Kinnari not only seemed familiar with it but was also well aware of its numerous curative powers. She plucked a part of the plant and, handing it to Isra, instructed her to carry it back to her village. She specifically told Isra to sow the plant next to a fence so that it would get adequate support for climbing up and spreading in all directions.
Isra did as she was told and soon had a full-fledged creeper in her garden which bore plenty of flowers every day. Enticing that their blue color was, over a period of time Isra realized their potential as natural medicines and began using them for her hair. It was serendipity that she brewed tea from them and having distributed it among her neighbors, she even experimented by squeezing a few drops of lime and watching it transform into a vivid purple.
Himapan Forests might have disappeared from the face of the Earth a long time ago but one of their species, namely the butterfly blue pea, continued to thrive with the result that even today it is revered as a miracle and as something auspicious.
From a wooden base which may measure up to 5 meters, the partially erect stems scramble up any firm structure that may be within their reach and quickly spread in all possible directions. Bearing elliptical leaves which vary between 3 and 5 cm in length, they root from their tips and this explains their lateral as also vertical growth. While each clump bears about 5 to 7 leaves, the flowers bloom either in pairs or by themselves. Fruit of this plant is a flat pod and every time a pod bursts, it disseminates at least 10 seeds into its surroundings, thus ensuring the continuation of the species.