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Butterfly Pea Tea (Blue Tea) Benefits, Myths, and Facts

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What you have read or heard on the butterfly pea tea (blue tea) benefits may not be right. Read on to learn more.

What you have read or heard on the butterfly pea tea (blue tea) benefits may not be right. Read on to learn more.

Butterfly Pea Flower Tea Benefits: Myths and Facts

Butterfly pea flower tea, or blue tea, is a fun color-changing health drink, but there are many misleading claims surrounding this tea. If you are thinking of adding it to your diet, examine the myths and facts first because what you have read or heard may be wrong.

Butterfly Pea Plant Facts

The butterfly pea flower is not the most potent part of the plant. Although all parts of the plants are edible and have medicinal values, not all parts of the butterfly pea plant have the same benefits[2].

Its flowers come in white, light blue, intense blue, mauve, and red colors, and each has different phytochemical properties and medicinal values. The white and the blue colors are the main varieties. However, the white-colored butterfly pea flower has more phytochemicals than the blue-colored flowers. Hence, the white variety is more potent[1].

Firstly, What Is Butterfly Pea Tea?

Butterfly pea tea, known by most people as blue tea, is a tisane or herbal infusion of fresh or dried butterfly pea flowers from the blue-colored butterfly pea plant variety. It is also called by other names, including blue flower tea, blue pea flower tea, blue butterfly pea tea, blue pea tea, butterfly pea flower tea, and Clitoria ternatea tea.

Blue Tea Color

The bright blue petals secrete the blue color when steeped in hot, warm, and even cold water and are used as a tea, food colorant, and dye for textiles such as batik.

This herbal blue tea has been consumed for centuries in Southeast Asian countries due to its antioxidant and health benefits. It is only recently that this color-changing tea has found its way into the mainstream market. The flowers and other parts of the plant are also used in Ayurvedic and traditional medical treatments.

6 Reasons Why Blue Tea Is Not So Beneficial

With all the excitement about this color-changing tea and its healing powers, let's clear the confusion on the real benefits of drinking blue butterfly pea flower tea.

1. The Flower Is Not the Most Potent

All parts of the butterfly pea plant are edible and in South and Southeast Asia, the leaves, flowers, tender pods, and tender shoots are consumed for their therapeutic properties.

In the study[2] by Ali Esmail Al-Snafi, the butterfly pea plant has the following phytochemical properties that are responsible for its pharmacological benefits: saponins, tannins, phlobatannin, carbohydrates, flavonoids, phenols, alkaloids, triterpenoids, proteins, cardiac glycosides, flavonol glycosides, anthocyanins, anthraquinones, cyclotides, Stigmast 4-ene-3,6-dione, volatile oils, peptides, and steroids.

However, not all parts of the plant have these phytochemicals. Based on the same study, the highest overall physicochemical value is recorded in the seeds. This is followed closely by the butterfly pea leaves, the flowers, stems, and lastly, its roots.

The butterfly pea seeds are therefore the most potent. The pea flowers' medicinal benefits are, however, limited to only the phytochemicals present in the flower petals.

2. Blue Flower Is Less Potent Than White Flower

Based on this study[1], the phytochemicals in butterfly pea flowers are only kaempferol, glycoside, quercetin, myricetin, and various flavanol glycosides. The macronutrients include fiber, protein, carbohydrate moisture, fat, and a high content of iron, sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. The anthocyanins are only in the blue-colored variety and not present in the white variety.

Overall, the white-colored variety has higher phytochemical values compared to the blue-colored variety. Hence, the white flower is therapeutically more active and is the preferred variety for medicinal purposes.

3. Double Petal Is Better Than Single Petal

It is also reported that the double petal of the blue butterfly pea flower has 25% more total anthocyanin contents compared to the single petal flower. So, double petal blue flowers have a higher potency and better medicinal benefits.

Unfortunately, most of the dried butterfly pea flowers available in the market are single petals. If you shop around, you might be lucky to find the double petals in dried form.

4. There Are Higher Levels of Saponins and Tannins in Blue Flower

Based on the same study, the blue variety of butterfly pea flowers has higher levels of saponins and tannins compared to white pea flowers. Although saponins and tannins have several good benefits, these phytonutrients tend to bind iron, calcium, and zinc and affect their absorption in your body. It can also cause nausea, intestinal damage, and inflammation.

Granted, this is possible only in very concentrated amounts or very large doses. It is unlikely you drink blue tea this way and also, the tannin level in blue tea is low at only 0.25%. Unlike Assam black tea, which has the highest tannin concentration ranging from 11.76 to 15.14%. Green tea's tannin level is about 2.65%.

However, if you're anemic, have an iron deficiency problem, or are just simply concerned, then limit your blue tea to a cup or two a day and drink at least one hour before or after meals. If you are sensitive to tannins, it can also constipate you.

5. Lower Ash Value and Lower Purity in Blue Flower

Based on the study by S. Khatoon et al.[1] the white-colored butterfly pea flowers variety has a higher ash value. Therefore, the white flower has higher purity and quality compared to the blue flower variety, which has a lower ash value.

6. Blue Flower Has Higher Acid Insoluble Ash

Acid-insoluble ash is higher in the blue variety. The lower value in the white-colored pea flower means that the nutrients in the white flower are easier to absorb and digest.

Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Nutrition Facts

Let us now check out the nutrition facts of blue-colored butterfly pea flowers and how they contribute to the benefits of blue tea.

Based on these studies [4][5][7][8] the phytochemicals present in the blue-colored butterfly pea flowers are anthocyanins ternatin, flavanol glycosides (kaempferol, quercetin, myricetin), flavonoids, anthocyanins, flavonol glycosides. kaempferol glycosides, quercetin glycosides, myricetin glycosides, catechin, delphinidin-3,5- diglucoside, and other antioxidants.

Macronutrient contents are protein, carbohydrate moisture, fiber, fat, and a high content of calcium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, zinc, sodium, and iron.

Blue Butterfly Pea Tea Health Benefits

Despite its 'limited' potency, butterfly pea tea or blue pea tea is still rich in antioxidants and has enough benefits to warrant a change from your regular green tea or coffee to this color-changing blue tea.

Based on several studies [1][2][8] the above phytochemicals and nutrients in blue colored butterfly pea flowers gave the following benefits of drinking blue tea:

  • Anticancer: Anthocyanins that give the blue color in butterfly pea flowers, and flavonols kaempferol and saponins present in the blue pea flower, reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer. They intensify your body's antioxidant defense against most free radicals, inhibit inflammation and promote the formation of new blood vessels. But, taraxerol, a more potent anticancer triterpenoid compound, is only produced in the butterfly pea roots and not in the flower.
  • Regulate Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar Level (Antidiabetic): Flavonols quercetin in the blue flower is linked to improved blood pressure and sugar levels, improved exercise performance, and reduced inflammation. It also has anti-allergy and anticancer properties. The saponins in the blue pea flower can also decrease blood lipids and glucose levels. Additionally, the tannin in blue tea can accelerate blood clotting and reduce blood pressure. However, as reported in this study [3], leaf extract has the best effect on diabetes as it significantly lowers blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin, and insulin levels.
  • Antioxidant Properties: Another flavonol present in the blue pea flower is myricetin and together with anthocyanin and alkaloids, they exhibit antioxidant properties and free radical-scavenging effects. These support benefits such as anticancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet aggregation, antihypertensive, anti-allergic, anti-aging/premature aging, immunomodulatory, analgesic actions relieve pain), and reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Aid Digestion: The antioxidants present in blue pea flowers can relax stomach muscles and this will aid digestion.
  • Wound Healing and Swollen Mucous Membrane: The higher level of tannin compounds in blue pea flowers can lead to faster healing of wounds and swollen mucous membrane. But this report [7], suggests the seed and root extracts have a more significant effect on wound healing property if administered orally by gavages i.e. insert into the stomach through a tube.
  • Strengthen Bone and Collagen Formation: The higher levels of silica in the blue variety help strengthen and provide flexibility to the cartilage and tendons. It is also essential in the formation of collagen. Although carbonates and phosphates are lower in the blue flower, these also help to strengthen bones and teeth.
  • Cardiovascular Health: The presence of higher flavonoids, phenolic acids for the antioxidants properties, starch, and sugar content in the white-colored Clitoria ternatea flowers have better properties to improve cardiovascular health. However, in the blue-colored flower tea, the anthocyanins may aid in the fight against oxidative stress related to heart disease.
  • Improved Cholesterol Levels: The anthocyanins that are present in the blue variety can improve cholesterol levels. However, both the butterfly pea seed and root extracts have higher potency to reduce the total serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Reproductive System (Sperm Production): Poly Acylated anthocyanins in the blue butterfly pea flower aids in sperm concentration and production.
  • Diuretic: Butterfly pea leaves have a higher level of saponins, flavonoids, and phenolic acids and these give more potent diuretic activities. The blue pea flower, however, does have similar benefits, albeit less potent. Diuretic activity promotes urination and this can lower blood pressure.
  • No Caffeine: Blue tea is caffeine-free herbal tea so it is ideal for people who are sensitive to caffeine, the elderly, and children.
  • Aids Weight Loss: Catechins present in the blue flowers help increase metabolic rate, which helps burn fat and hence, aid weight loss.

What Blue Tea Is Not Potent For

Despite what you may have read, a few of the butterfly pea tea benefits written on some blogs may actually be benefits for other parts of butterfly pea plants or for the white-colored variety. Some of these 'wrongly labeled' benefits of blue tea are:

  • Hair Loss and Growth and Greying Hair: It is the higher bioflavonoids in the white butterfly pea flower that have better potency to reduce greying hair and hair loss.
  • Improved Memory and Brain Function: The white-colored flower has higher levels of phytochemicals for cognitive function i.e., for improved memory and brain function by increasing acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter) in the brain. Blue butterfly pea flower tea is not so potent for cognitive functions. However, its anthocyanins and the higher levels of flavonols quercetin and tannin in the blue flower do have brain-protective properties. Even so, from this study[3], the roots triggered a much higher acetylcholine content and better-improved memory retention compared to both colored flowers.
  • Nerve Tonic: It is the white butterfly pea flower that acts as a nerve tonic and not the blue flower due to its phenolics- kaempferol, glycosides, quercetin, myricetin, and fatty acid content, which are linolenic acids, linoleic, palmitic, and stearic.
  • Anti-Asthmatic and Bronchitis: This study[6] confirmed the bronchodilator properties of butterfly pea root extract that gave a positive effect against bronchial asthma. The presence of flavonoids, triterpenoids, and various saponin glycosides in the blue pea roots are responsible for antiasthmatic activity.
  • Antipyretic (Brings Down Fever): Again, it is pea root extracts that help bring down a fever by expanding blood vessels and increasing blood flow. This was noted in the study by B Parimaladevi et al. and published in Phytomedicine Volume 11, Issue 4 2004, and supported by this report[7].
  • Anti-Depressant, Anticonvulsant, and Anti-Stress: The same study[7] noted the methanolic extract of butterfly pea roots is potent as an antidepressant, anticonvulsant, and anti-stress.
  • Cytotoxic Activity: Methanol extract of butterfly pea stem-bark, leaves and seeds showed significant cytotoxic activities for joint pain, swelling, and arthritis.

My Experience With Butterfly Pea Tea

One of the first things I noticed after a few days of drinking blue tea was the ease of defecating. Butterfly pea helps in digestion and the antioxidants also relax the stomach muscles. That's the reason why it is easier to defecate, which is good for people who have this problem or have hard stools.

Drinking Blue Tea at Night

Another thing I noticed is a better sleep if I drink blue tea as a 'nightcap'. The butterfly pea flower has no caffeine and its sedative quality can help you relax for better sleep.

Higher Metabolism

My body also feels warmer with a slight sweat and this could be a higher metabolism triggered by catechins in blue tea.

Cold Brew Tea (aka Cold Steep Tea)

I don't use hot water to make blue tea. I cold brew my blue tea with room-temperature water. Sure, it takes longer to cold steep the flowers, but based on research published in the Journal of Food Science and Medicine, cold steeped tea will retain important nutrients and better antioxidant characteristics, which are reduced if steeped in hot water.

Cold steeping doesn't give very dark blue tea or a concentrated brew but light blue tea. The good thing is, I can use the same blue butterfly tea flowers to make my next two brews!

Butterfly Pea Flowers in Salad

Besides making blue tea, you can also add butterfly pea flowers to your green salad. I do this often and sometimes I add the tender butterfly pea leaves shoots as well, which is known to enhance your memory and brainpower.

Fresh vs. Dried Butterfly Pea Flower

My friends always ask me if I use fresh or dried flowers for my blue tea.

As with most fresh products, fresh butterfly pea flower is better than the dried or powdered version. I have my own blue butterfly pea plant so I use the fresh flowers to brew my blue tea. Also, flowers that are picked early in the morning have the highest concentration of phytochemicals and hence give the strongest benefits.

If you don't have access to the fresh flower, use the loose dried butterfly pea flower instead. Butterfly pea teas in tea bags are usually of the lowest quality and are not recommended.

Blue Butterfly Pea Tea Side Effects

As reported in several studies [1][2] butterfly pea flowers have extremely low toxicity and hence there are no adverse side effects in drinking blue tea in moderation. Although it is safe to drink butterfly pea tea, check with your doctors if you are on medication, pregnant, or breastfeeding.

So far, I have not experienced any bad side effects after drinking blue tea.

How Often Can You Drink Blue Tea?

Blue tea has no caffeine with no adverse side effects but has lots of antioxidants. You can drink 3–4 glasses daily. I eat spicy foods every day and blue tea is good as a post-meal drink especially after eating high-fat or spicy foods as it aids digestion and burns more calories naturally.

Blue Tea: The color-changing tea

Blue Tea: The color-changing tea

FAQ on Blue Tea

What Does Butterfly Pea Tea Taste Like?

Unlike most herbal teas or tisane, blue butterfly pea tea tastes like a very weak tea. A strong brew has a very light floral aroma and a faint woody and earthy flavor. That's why some people add honey or lemon to their blue tea. When used as a colorant in foods and drinks, it does not change their flavor. Hence, the reason why it is a popular natural blue colorant for foods and drinks.

Will Blue Tea Interact With Certain Medications?

It depends. If you are on medication, check with your doctor if blue tea has any drug interaction with your medicines. Some herbal teas negatively interact with certain medications.

Blue Tea vs. Green Tea

Butterfly pea tea is a healthy drink and clinically proven to have a higher amount of antioxidants compared to green tea. It is also therapeutically healthier than green tea.

Why Brew in Ceramic Wares?

It is recommended to brew your blue tea in earthen or ceramic teapots, cups, or mugs and not to use metal material, even for spoons, to avoid loss of healing properties. Metals will interact with tannins in blue tea and affect its nutritional value.

Where to Buy Blue Butterfly Pea Tea?

This color-changing tea is very popular and easily available in several restaurants or specialty tea outlets.

If you want to brew it at home, use the fresh or dried blue butterfly pea flowers. It is harder to buy fresh flowers so get the dried version, which is sold in most retail tea outlets or from online stores like Amazon and other marketplaces. I recommend only the dried flowers and not the sachet or tea bags as they are of lower quality.

Wrapping Up the Last Drop

Nature has provided us with cheap herbal medicinal agents since time immemorial. The butterfly pea plant is one of these plants. Now that you know the myths and facts of the butterfly pea flower's benefits and its ‘limited’ potency, let blue butterfly pea tea be part of your diet.

Drink this blue tea on a daily basis to keep the blues away.

References

  1. Comparative Pharmacognostical Studies of Blue and White Flower Varieties of Clitoria ternatea: Comparing the potency of the blue and white flowers of butterfly pea plants by S. Khatoon et al. University of Lucknow, India.
  2. Pharmacological importance of Clitoria ternatea – A Review: This study highlights the phytochemical composition and pharmacological effects of the butterfly pea plant by Ali Esmail Al-Snafi, University of Thi-Qar, Iraq.
  3. Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea), a Cyclotide-Bearing Plant With Applications in Agriculture and Medicine: Frontiers in Medicine: This study reviews the potential of Clitoria ternatea (butterfly pea) in agricultural and medical applications. In its use as fodder and nitrogen-fixing crop, as food and cosmetic colorants, in traditional medicine, and as an eco-friendly insecticide by Georgianna K. Oguis et al. University of Queensland, Australia.
  4. Flavonoid composition related to petal color in different lines of Clitoria ternatea: Investigate the flavonoid levels in several colored petals of C. ternatea varieties by KoheiKazuma et al. Aomori Green BioCenter, Japan.
  5. Inhibitory effect of Clitoria ternatea flower petal extract on fructose-induced protein glycation and oxidation-dependent damages to albumin in vitro: The study investigated the antioxidant activities of Clitoria ternatea flower extract by Poramin Chayaratanasin et al. Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok and Florida International University, Miami.
  6. Antiasthmatic effect of roots of Clitoria ternatea Linn: The study evaluated the antioxidant and antiasthmatic activity of Clitoria ternatea root extracts by Neelmani Chauhan et al. T.I.T College of Pharmacy, India.
  7. Medicinal Plants and their Therapeutic Uses: A review on Clitoria ternatea(Linn.)'s chemical and pharmacological properties by Niraj Kumar Singh et al. GLA University, India.
  8. A Mini-Review on Non-Caffeinated Blue Tea: A brief review on the phytochemicals and benefits of white and blue colored butterfly pea flowers and blue tea by Simanchal Panda, Faculty of Pharmacy, Kalinga University, India.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Mazlan A

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