Search the “butterfly pea flower” hashtag on Instagram and you will find forty-four thousand images of stunning electric blue and purple cocktails, bread, noodles, ice cubes, smoothie bowls, and everything in between.
The dried blossoms used to make these jewel-toned creations come from a deep blue flowering plant called Clitoria ternatea. It is native to South East Asia and has been used for centuries in the form of tea for its medicinal properties in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. When the blue pigment is mixed with an acid such as lemon juice, it turns into a bright fuchsia color. But does the plant boast more than a striking aesthetic? In fact, research indicates that butterfly pea flower may contain numerous health benefits.
The blue petals include high levels of anthocyanin, a blue-purple bioactive that also gives many dark berries their hue. In my book Eat to Beat Disease, I discuss the ways in which anthocyanins benefit our health. The compounds are cancer-fighting antioxidants. They starve and kill cancer cells as well as eliminate cancer stem cells. Anthocyanins also contain antiangiogenic properties. The impressive bioactives have also been shown to fight the effects of aging and oxidative stress. While more research on anthocyanins is still needed, they seem to play a role in free radical damage.
I love drinking butterfly pea flowers in the form of tea because it tastes similar to green tea and is naturally caffeine-free. If you are someone who struggles to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, try swapping out your afternoon caffeinated beverage for a cup of antioxidant-rich butterfly pea flower tea. Check out my book Eat to Beat Disease for more of my recommendations on unique antioxidant-rich foods to include in your diet.