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Plant Information

Scientific Name: Clitoria ternatea
Alternative Names: Asian pigeon wings

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Clitoria ternatea
Clitoria ternatea


  • Perennial
  • Butterfly Pea is native to Africa (incl. South Africa) and now naturalised in many parts of the world.
  • It is a perennial vine or creeper that bears solitary, vivid deep blue flowers with light yellow markings, followed by flat seed pods.
  • The flowers were imagined to have the shape of human female genitals, hence the Latin name of the genus ‘Clitoria’, from ‘clitoris’.
  • It is adapted to a wide range of soil types from sands to heavy alkaline clay soils, pH 4.5 to 8.7.
  • Butterfly Pea is drought tolerant, needs full sun and its production will be limited by heavy frost.

Culinary Uses

  • The flower is a natural food colorant that will add colour to various foods such as rice.
  • The most distinctive characteristic of the flower is that, when added to any herbal tea or drink (cocktails), it will change the colour when the pH balances changes.
  • A deep blue tea will turn purple with the addition of lemon juice, and turning a deeper shade of purple the more lemon juice is added.
  • Butterfly Pea tea can be frozen in ice cubes and included in cocktails or punch bowls where it will causes the drink to change colour as the ice cube dissolves leading to what has been labelled as a ‘mood ring cocktail’.
  • When mixed with Roselle hibiscus leaves the tea will turn into a bright red.
  • Butterfly pea flower can be made into tea with honey, mint, cinnamon, passion fruit, and ginger.

Parts Used

  • The flowers.

Medicinal Uses. It is said that

  • Butterfly Pea flower tea is a caffeine- free herbal tea.
  • In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, it is considered to be nootropic - helpful to improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions (mental skills that help you get things done – to manage time and pay attention), memory and creativity.
  • These skills are controlled by an area of the brain called the frontal lobe.
  • It is also anti-stress, anxiolytic (inhibits anxiety), antidepressant, anticonvulsant (used in the treatment of epileptic seizures), tranquilizing and has sedative properties.
  • In traditional Chinese medicine, and consistent with the Western concept of the doctrine of signatures, Butterfly Pea is believed to affect female libido due to its similar appearance to the female reproductive organ.

Other Uses

  • Butterfly Pea is a nitrogen fixing pasture legume used for short and medium-term pastures and as green manure, cover crop and protein bank.
  • It increases soil fertility to improve yields of subsequent crops (maize, sorghum, wheat) when grown as green manure or ley pasture.
  • It can be used as a revegetation species.
  • Butterfly Pea is a popular dye plant.
The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only. This site merely recounts the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner.

Mountain Herb Estate, and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of this site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Mountain Herb Estate, its affiliates and staff
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