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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Butterfly Pea.

Blue Butterfly Pea(C.ternatea)

Belonging to the family Fabaceae (Papilionaceae), Clitoria is a genus of flowering plants that are insect pollinated, pre-dominantly by small bees. The flower has a typical vexillary aestivation and is one of the commonest garden plants in many homes of India. Commonly known as Butterfly Pea to the gardeners all over the world, C. ternatea was featured as Plant of the Week August 20-27, 1999. The peculiar name may be because it belongs to the Pea family and it attracts butterfly for pollination. Even though its origins are unknown, it is probably native to Asia according to Hortus.

In fact, these plants are native to tropical and temperate areas of the Old and New World including Southeast Asia, where the flowers are often used as a food dye. Blooming time is all year long with solitary flowers that are bright deep blue in color and light yellow markings, size ranging to 2 inches long by 1½ inches wide. Commonly spotted in gardens is the blue butterfly pea, Clitoria ternatea, but its recessive colored counterpart is white butterfly pea, Clitoria ternatea alba.

White Butterfly Pea(Clitoria ternatea alba)

Being an all-round-the-year (perennial) plant, Clitoria is basically a vine and is forb/herb by habit. Propagation is aided by seeds as well as cuttings. Being grown in garden doesn’t just mean that butterfly pea is show-plant. Rather it is associated with lot of medicinal properties and is being used as a constant ayurvedic medicine from ancient times. Its roots are used in the ayurveda system of Indian medicine.

Pods of Clitoria ternatea

In animal tests, the methanolic extract of Clitoria roots demonstrated nootropic*, anxiolytic (a tranquilizer used to relieve anxiety and reduce tension and irritability), antidepressant, anticonvulsant (a drug used to treat or prevent convulsions as in epilepsy) and antistress activity. The active constituent(s) include tannins, resins, Starch, Taraxerol & Taraxerone. Clitoria ternatea root extracts are capable of curing whooping cough if taken orally. The extract from the white-flowered plant can cure goiter.

The myth associated with this plant is its Goddess Kali’s Favorite and is offered to her.

* Nootropics, popularly referred to as "smart drugs", "smart nutrients", "cognitive enhancers" and "brain enhancers", are a class of drugs that improve impaired human cognitive abilities (the functions and capacities of the brain).The term covers a broad range of substances including drugs, nutrients and herbs that have purported cognitive enhancing effects.
The word nootropic was coined in 1964 by the Romanian Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea, derived from the Greek words noos, or "mind," and tropein meaning "to bend/turn". Typically, nootropics are alleged to work by altering the availability of the brain's supply of neurochemicals (neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones), by improving the brain's oxygen supply, or by stimulating nerve growth. However the efficacy of alleged nootropic substances in most cases has not been conclusively determined. This is complicated by the difficulty of defining and quantifying cognition and intelligence.


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