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Clitoria ternatea


Clitoria ternatensium Crantz, Lathyrus spectabilis Forsskal, Ternatea ternatea (L.) Kuntze, Ternatea vulgaris Kuntze, Ternatea vulgaris Kunth.

Vernacular Names:

English Butterfly Pea
India Shankapushpi, Shankupushpam, Aparajit (Hindi), Aparajita (Bengali), Kakkattan (Tamil)
Brazil Cunha
Philippines Sam-samping

General Information


It is a leguminous tropical herb which is widely found in Indochina, the Philippines and Madagascar [1]. Its leaves consist of three to nine oval or elliptical leaflets and its flowers can be in many shades of blue with a yellow throat or pure white with a big standard petal [2]. The plant is mainly used as forage as it is highly palatable to livestock and is well adapted to various climates [3]. The fruits pod resemble thin peas and are consumed by human [2][3].

Plant Part Used

Root, seeds, leaves.

Chemical Constituents:

Major flavonol glycosides, 3-O-(2"-O-alpha-rhamnosyl-6"-O-malonyl)-beta-glucoside, 3-O-(6"-O-alpha-rhamnosyl-6"-O-malonyl)-beta-glucoside and 3-O-(2",6"-di-O-alpha-rhamnosyl)-beta-glucoside of kaemferol, quercetin and myricetin were isolated from the petals [4][5]. The flowers also contain minor delphinidin glycosides, 3-O-b-glucoside, 3-O-(2"-O-a-rahmnosyl)-b-glucoside, 3-O-(2"-O-a-rahmnosyl-6"-O-malonyl)-b-glucoside of delphinidin [4]. Eight anthocyanins (ternatins C1,C2,C3,C4,C5 and D3, and preternatins A3 and C4) were also isolated from the flowers [5][6]. Six ternatins from the flowers were partly characterized as highly acylated dephinidin derivatives [7]. Deacylternatin was determined as delphinidin 3,3’,5’-tri-O-b-D-glucopyranoside [7]. White petals do not contain anthocyanins [8]. There are low levels of condensed tannins (0-2.48mg catechin/g) and protein precipitable polyphenols (0.16-0.77mg tannic acid/g) in the raw mature seeds [9].

The seeds contain a highly basic small protein named finotin [10].

Clitoria ternatea flowers contain little calcium (1.9mg/100g) compared to common vegetables as determined via inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy [11].

Traditional Use:

C. ternatea is used as a brain tonic to promote memory and intelligence [3]. The plant extract is used in a rejuvenating recipe to treat neurological disorders and is considered to be wholesome for the intellect [12]. Tribes use the root to induce abortion and to reduce abdominal swellings, sore throats and mucous disorders [13]. The juice of the root is mixed with cold milk and is drunk to remove phlegm and for chronic bronchitis [1].

The roots are bitter, refrigerant, laxative, diuretic, anthelmintic and tonic and are useful in dementia, hemicrania, burning sensation, leprosy, inflammation, leucoderma, bronchitis, asthma, pulmonary tuberculosis, ascites and fever while the leaves are useful in otalgia and hepatopathy and the leaves, cathartic [2]. The plant is considered useful for eye infections, skin diseases, urinary troubles, ulcers and has antidotal properties [3].

Pre-Clinical Data


Central Nervous System activity

C. ternatea showed a wide spectrum of central nervous system activities i.e. nootropic, anxiolytic, anti-stress, antidepressant and anti-convulsant [2]. C. ternatea methanolic extract showed nootropic effects (facilitation of intellectual performance, learning and memory) as it decreased the time required for rats to occupy the central platform in the elevated plus maze and increased the discrimination index in object recognition test [2]. The plant exhibited weak anxiolytic activity by increasing the occupancy of rats in the open arm of the exploratory maze and the lit box of the light/dark exploratory test, and antidepressant activity as it decreased the immobility time in the tail suspension test. The methanolic extract reduced stress-induced ulcers and decreased the convulsing actions of pentylenetetrazol and maximum electroshock. Cognitive abilities were improved without the production of sedation and behavioral toxicity [2].

Oral intubation of rats for 30 days with the aqueous root extract (100mg/kg) led to improved learning and memory [12]. In neonatal and young adult rats, this led to significant increases in acetylcholine content in the hippocampus, pointing to a neurochemical basis for the improvement in learning and memory. The memory enhancing property of the root extract was also shown by its ability to improve retention and spatial learning performance in behavioral tests [12]. Alcoholic root extracts (300 & 500 mg/kg doses orally) were more effective than the aerial parts in attenuating memory deficits in rats and this was associated with increased levels of rat brain acetylcholine and acetyl cholinesterase [14][15]. Relationships of these effects with inhibition of acetyl cholinesterase activity were not established, cortical acetyl cholinesterase activity was actually found to be increased (cited in [15]. There was also an increase in the functional growth of the neurons of the amygdala [16].

Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic activity

The methanol root extract (200-400mg/kg) given orally reduced normal body temperature and yeast-induced pyrexia in rats in a dose-dependent manner [1][13]. The antipyretic effect of the extract was comparable to that of an oral dose of paracetamol (150mg/kg) [1]. Rat paw edema induced by carrageenin and vascular permeability induced by acetic acid were inhibited by the both doses of the methanol extract. The extract also markedly reduced the number of writhing responses in the acetic acid-induced writhing response test [13]. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic activities of the plant were attributed to its flavonoid content [13].  

Other activity

The seed extract contain antifungal proteins which were similar to plant defensins previously characterized from radish seeds and gamma thionins from Poaceae seeds [17]. A highly basic small protein, finotin, was also isolated from the seeds. This protein has broad and potent inhibitory effects on the growth of important plant fungal pathogens and the common bean bacterial blight pathogen, Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. phaseoli [10]. Finotin also has insecticidal properties as it is a powerful inhibitor of two bean bruchids.

The flatulence potential of this plant is highest compared to hyacinth bean (Dolichos lablab), sabawel (Mucuna pruriens), lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus), swordbean (Canavalia gladiata), rice bean (Vigna umbellate) and jack bean (Canavalia ensiformis).


C. ternatea was shown to be non toxic and non-bloating to livestock [3]C. ternatea did not produce sedation or behavioral toxicity [2]. In the acute toxicity test for determination of LD50, the extract was found to be safe in animals even at a dose of 3.2g/kg [1].

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

A liquid Ayurvedic (herbal) preparation of 21 herbs with C. ternatea as one of the herbal ingredient was given to patients aged 15 years and older with advanced cancer who were started on oral morphine for the first time [18]. This is a centuries-old combination used in Ayurveda as a purgative in constipated patients. The study showed no statistically significant difference in the degree of laxative action between the herbal preparation and the control, conventional laxative tablet [18].

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation

Use in Certain Conditions:


No documentation

Age Limitations 

No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation


Interactions with drugs

No documentation

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



No documentation

Case Reports:

No documentation

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  1) Botanical Info


  1. View Abstract: Parimaladevi B, Boominathan R and Mandal SC. Evaluation of antipyretic potential of Clitoria ternatea L extract in rats. Phytomedicine. 2004; 11: 323-326
  2. View Abstract: Jain NN, Ohal CC, Shroff, RH, Bhutada RH, Somani RS, Kasture VS and Kasture SB. Clitoria ternatea and the CNS. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behaviour. 2003; 75: 529-536
  3. Gomez SM and Kalamani A. Butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea): A nutritive multipurpose forage legume for the tropics – an overview. Pakistan Journal of Nutrition. 2003; 2(6): 374-379
  4. Kogawa K, Kazuma K, Kato N, Noda N and Suzuki M. Biosynthesis of malonylated flavonoid glycosides on the basis of malonyltransferase activity in the petals of Clitoria ternatea. Journal of Plant Physiology. 2006 5; 2(6): 374-379
  5. Terahara N, Oda M, Matsui T, Osajima Y, Saito N, Toki K, Honda T. Five new anthocyanins, ternatins A3, B4, B3, B2, and D2, from Clitoria ternatea flowers. J Nat Prod. 1996; 59(2): 139-44
  6. Terahara N, Toki K, Saito N, Honda T, Matsui T, Osajima Y. Eight new anthocyanins, ternatins C1-C5 and D3 and preternatins A3 and C4 from young Clitoria ternatea flowers. J Nat Prod. 1998; 61(11): 1361-7
  7. Terahara N, Saito N, Honda T, Toki K and Osajima Y. Further structural elucidation of the anthocyanin deacylternatin, from Clitoria ternatea. Phytochemistry. 1990; 29(11): 3686-3687
  8. Kazuma K, Noda, N and Suzuki M. Flavonoid composition composition related to petal color in different lines of Clitoria ternatea. Phytochemistry. 2003; 64: 1133-1139
  9. Laurena AC, Revilleza Ma JR and Mendoza EMT. Polyphenols, phytate, cyanogenic glycosides and trypsin inhibitor activity of several Phillipine indigenous food legumes. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 1994; 7(3): 194-202
  10. Kelemu S, Cardona C and Segura G. Antimicrobial and insecticidal protein isolated from seeds of Clitoria ternatea, a tropical forage legume. Plant Biochemistry and Physiology. 2004; 42: 867-873
  11. Chin CO. Direct analysis of plant minerals and comparison of extraction processes using ICP-AES. Food Chemistry. 1992; 45: 145-149
  12. Rai KS, Murthy KD, Karanth KS, Nalini K, Rao MS and Srinivasan KK. Clitoria ternatea root extract enhances acetylcholine content in rat hippocampus . Fitoterapia . 2002; 73: 685-689
  13. Parimaladevi B, Boominathan R and Mandal SC. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic properties of Clitoria ternatea root. Fitoterapia. 2003; 74: 345-349
  14. Taranalli AD and Cheeramkuzhy TC. Influence of Clitoria Ternatea Extracts on Memory and Central Cholinergic Activity in Rats . Pharmaceutical Biology (Formerly International Journal of Pharmacognosy). 2000; 38(1): 51-56
  15. Howes MR and Houghton PJ. Plants used in Chinese and Indian traditional medicine for improvement of memory and cognitive function. Phytother Res. 2003; 17(1): 1-18
  16. Rai KS, Murthy KD, Rao MS and Karanth KS. Altered dendritic arborization of amygdala neurons in young adult rats orally intubated with Clitorea ternatea aqueous root extract. Phytother Res. 2005; 19(7): 592 – 598
  17. Osborn RW, De Samblanx GW, Thevisses K, Goderis I, Torrekens S, Van Leuven F, Attenborough S, Rees SB and Broekaert WF. Isolation and chracterisation of plant defensins from seeds of Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Hippocastanaceae and Saxifragaceae. FEBS Letters. 1995; 368: 257-262
  18. Ramesh PR, Kumar KS, Rajagopal MR, Balachandran P and Warrier PK. Managing Morphine-Induced Constipation. A Controlled Comparison of an Ayurvedic Formulation and Senna . Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. 1998; 16(4): 240-244

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