Can Butterfly Pea Flowers Be Eaten Raw?

Medically Reviewed on 1/18/2022
Can Butterfly Pea Flowers Be Eaten Raw
Butterfly pea flowers can be eaten raw, as well as brewed into an herbal tea. Aside from being beautiful, butterfly pea flowers also have several health benefits

Butterfly pea flowers can be eaten raw, as well as brewed into an herbal tea. 

Aside from being beautiful, butterfly pea flowers also have several health benefits.

What are butterfly pea flowers?

Butterfly pea flower, scientifically called Clitoria ternatea, is an ornamental plant native to Asia, Southern and Eastern Africa, and Madagascar.

The deep blue to purple color of these flowers is due to an anthocyanin called delphinidin. Anthocyanins are known for their antioxidant properties and are commonly used in traditional medicines and Ayurvedic preparations.

Butterfly pea flowers also contain other antioxidants such as kaempferol, p-Coumaric acid, and ternatins.

What are butterfly pea flowers used for?

Butterfly pea flowers tend to change color when the acidity of pea flower tea changes. As such, they are a favorite among bartenders and used for specialty cocktails. Other uses include:

  • Cosmetics, such as hair mists, toners, shampoos, and face masks
  • Natural dye for foods, drinks, and textiles
  • Herbal tea 
  • Traditional medicines as a diuretic and antiparasitic
  • Pesticides or insecticides

Is butterfly pea flower FDA-approved?

The FDA has approved butterfly pea flower as the first plant-derived natural blue color additive. These flowers are heat-stable and used in a wide range of foods and beverages:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Sports drinks
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Fruit juices
  • Coffee creamers
  • Frozen dairy desserts
  • Coated nuts
  • Chewing gum
  • Candy

Before, spirulina was the only natural color additive approved for blue shades. However, due to heat stability issues, butterfly pea flowers are used more often.

Do butterfly pea flowers have potential health benefits?

Because butterfly pea flowers are rich in antioxidants, they may have potential health benefits such as:

  • Protects the brain cells
  • Stabilizes blood sugar levels
  • May promote weight loss
  • Supports skin and hair health

However, more studies are needed to support the claimed benefits of the butterfly pea flower.

How to prepare butterfly pea flower tea

  • Add 1 teaspoon of dried flowers to 1 cup of hot water
  • Let steep for 10-15 minutes
  • Strain and drink hot or serve over ice
  • To enhance the flavor, you can add lemon juice, lime juice, or honey


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Medically Reviewed on 1/18/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Vidana Gamage GC, Lim YY, Choo WS. Anthocyanins From Clitoria ternatea Flower: Biosynthesis, Extraction, Stability, Antioxidant Activity, and Applications. Front Plant Sci. 2021 Dec 17;12:792303.

Campbell SM, Pearson B, Marble C. Butterfly pea (clitoria ternatea) flower extract (bpfe) and its use as a ph-dependent natural colorant. University of Florida.

Oguis GK, Gilding EK, Jackson MA, Craik DJ. Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea), a Cyclotide-Bearing Plant With Applications in Agriculture and Medicine. Front Plant Sci. 2019;10:645.