Clitoria ternatea L.

Last updated: 6 Jun 2016

Scientific Name

Clitoria ternatea L.


Clitoria albiflora Mattei, Clitoria bracteata Poir., Clitoria coelestris Siebert & Voss, Clitoria parviflora Raf., Clitoria philippensis Perr., Clitoria pilosula Benth., Clitoria ternatensium Crantz, Lathyrus spectabilis Forssk., Ternatea ternatea (L.) Kuntze, Ternatea vulgaris Kunth, Ternatea vulgaris Kuntze [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Bunga biru, kacang telang [2]
English Butterfly pea, K(C)ordofan pea, blue pea, Asian pigeon-wings [2]
China Die dou [3]
India Adavichikkudu, ajita, ancanala, andrikarni, aparajit, aparaku, aparjit, aral, ashphota, bhadra, bhovera, blok-khiw, canju puspam, darakhte-bikhehayat, dhintina, dintana, gantina, garani, gardabhi, garni, gavadini, gavakshi, gilarnika, girikarnika, godhadi, gokaran, kaakkanam, kajili, kajina, kaka-valli [3]
Indonesia Bunga biru (Malay); kembang telang (Javanese, Sundanese) [2]
Thailand Anchan [2]
Laos 'Ang s'an dam, bang s'an dam [2]
Philippines Kolokanting (Tagalog); giting princesa (Bikol); balog-balog (Visaya) x
Cambodia Rum'choan [2]
Vietnam Dâu biê'c [2].

Geographical Distributions

Clitoria ternatea is pantropical (20ON -24OS). Its true origin is obscured by extensive cultivation or naturalisation in the humid lowland tropics of Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas. It is widespread throughout Southeast Asia. [2]

Botanical Description

C. ternatea is a member of the Leguminosae family. It is a perennial, climbing, scrambling or trailing herb with a strong woody rootstock. The stems do not root at the nodes, slender, measure 0.5-3 m long, mostly hairy or becoming hairless and sometimes suberect at the base. [2]

The leaves are pinnate with 5 or 7 elliptical leaflets, oblong, oblong-lance-shaped, or almost round, measuring 1-7 cm x 0.3-4 cm, acute, rounded or emarginate at the apex, acute to rounded at the base, becoming hairless above and adpressed hairy beneath. The petiole is 1-3 cm long and rachis 1-6 cm long. Petiolules are 1-3 mm long, with persistent stipules, lance-shaped, measure (2-)4-10 mm long and veined. [2]

The flowers are axillary, solitary or paired. The peduncle is 3-10 mm long while pedicel is 6-9 mm long and twisted 180O so that the standard is held lowermost. The bracteoles are ovate or round, measuring 4-17 mm x 2.5-15 mm and veined. The sepal is hairy, veined, with tube 8-12 mm long. The lobes are oblong-lance-shaped or triangular, measuring 7-10 mm x 2.5-3 mm, acute or acuminate while the upper pair is joined for less than one third of their length, standard oblong-obovate, measuring 25-50 mm x 15-35 mm, white or greenish-white and often blue-margined or entirely blue, while the basal central area is often yellow or greenish, very finely hairy and the margins are sometimes finely ciliate. [2]

There are 8-10 seeds which are ellipsoid, oblong or oblong-kidney-shaped, sometimes truncate at one end, measuring 4.5-7 mm x 3-4 mm, 2-2.5 mm, olive, pale brown or deep reddish-brown with dark mottling, or almost black and minutely pitted. The pod is linear-oblong, flattened, measuring 6-12.5 cm x 7-12 mm, margined, apiculate, hairless or with a mixture of sparse adpressed long hairs and very short hairs. [2]


C. ternatea is essentially a plant of the humid and subhumid tropical lowlands, but it has a reputation for drought tolerance in the seasonally dry tropics (500-900 mm rainfall) and it has survived moderate frost damage in the subtropics (26°8). It occurs in grassland, open woodland, bush, riverine vegetation, and disturbed places throughout its natural range. C. ternatea grows best in full sun. Its annual rainfall requirements for survival may be as low as 400 mm, but it requires about 1500 mm (or supplementary irrigation) for best production. Its altitudinal range is 0-1600 (-1800) m and annual mean temperature range is 19-28°C. It has wide soil adaptation (pH 5.5-8.9), but prefers fertile friable soils and grows poorly on infertile sandy soils if not fertilised. It is one of the few herbaceous legumes well-adapted to heavy clay soils in the subhumid to semi-arid tropics and the only one with potential to grow in irrigated pasture mixtures on these soils. It will not tolerate flooding or water-logging. In the seasonally dry tropics and in cool regions, growth is limited by lack of moisture or low temperatures. The leaves are shed in response to these stresses and top growth may be killed by frost or fire. However, recovery during the following growing season is usually good, provided grazing is not heavy and continuous.

Chemical Constituent

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

Plant Part Used

Leaf, root, seed, flower [12]

Traditional Use

C. ternatea is used as a brain tonic to promote memory and intelligence. [13] The plant extract is used in a rejuvenating recipe to treat neurological disorders and is considered to be wholesome for the intellect. [14] Tribes use the root to induce abortion and to reduce abdominal swellings, sore throats and mucous disorders. [15] The juice of the root is mixed with cold milk and is drunk to remove phlegm and for chronic bronchitis. [16]

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. [17] The plant is considered useful for eye infections, skin diseases, urinary troubles, ulcers and has antidotal properties. [13]

Preclinical Data


Nootropic activity

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. [17]

Anxiolytic acitivity

C. ternatea exhibited weak anxiolytic activity by increasing occupancy of rats in the open arm of elevated plus maze by 160% and in the lit box of the light/dark exploration test by 157%. [17]

Antidepressant activity

C. ternatea exhibited 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. [17]

Memory enhancing activity

Oral intubation of rats for 30 days with the aqueous root extract (100 mg/kg) led to improved learning and memory. [14] 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. [14] Alcoholic root extracts (300 and 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. [18][19] Relationships of these effects with inhibition of acetyl cholinesterase activity were not established, cortical acetyl cholinesterase activity was actually found to be increased. [19] There was also an increase in the functional growth of the neurons of the amygdala. [14]

Antipyretic activity

The methanol root extract (200-400 mg/kg) given orally reduced normal body temperature and yeast-induced pyrexia in rats in a dose-dependent manner. The effect extended up to 5 hours after the drug administration. The antipyretic effect of the extract was comparable to that of an oral dose of paracetamol (150 mg/kg). [15][16]

Analgesic activity

Rat paw edema induced by carrageenan 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 at oral doses of 200 and 400 mg/kg in mice in the acetic acid-induced writhing response test. [15]

Antimicrobial activity

The seed extract contain antifungal proteins which were similar to plant defensins previously characterized from radish seeds and gamma thionins from Poaceae seeds. [20] 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.


C. ternatea was shown to be non-toxic and non-bloating to livestock. [13] C. ternatea did not produce sedation or behavioral toxicity. [17] In the acute toxicity test for determination of LD50, the extract was found to be safe in animals even at a dose of 3.2 g/kg. [16]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

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. [21] 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. [21]


No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing



Figure 1: Line drawing of C. ternatea [2]


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Clitoria ternatea L.[homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2010 Jul 14; cited 2016 Jun 6] Available from:
  2. Staples IB. Clitoria ternatea L. In: Mannetje L't, Jones RM, editors. Plant resources of South-East Asia No. 4: Forages. Wageningen, Netherlands: Pudoc Scientific Publisher, 1992; p. 94-97.
  3. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms and etymology. Volume II C-D. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 1025.
  4. Kogawa K, Kazuma K, Kato N. Biosynthesis of malonylated flavonoid glycosides on the basis of malonyltransferase activity in the petals of Clitoria ternatea. J Plant Physiol. 2006;2(6):374-379.
  5. Terahara N, Oda M, Matsui 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. Eight new anthocyanins, ternatins C1-C5 and D3 and preternatins A3 and C4 from young Clitoria ternatea flowers. J Nat Prod. 1998;61(11):1361-1367.
  7. Terahara N, Saito N, Honda T. 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(6)1133-1139.
  9. Laurena AC, Revilleza Ma JR, Mendoza EMT. Polyphenols, phytate, cyanogenic glycosides and trypsin inhibitor activity of several Phillipine indigenous food legumes. J Food Comp Anal. 1994;7(3):194-202.
  10. Kelemu S, Cardona C, Segura G. Antimicrobial and insecticidal protein isolated from seeds of Clitoria ternatea, a tropical forage legume. Plant Biochem Physiol. 2004;42(11):867-873.
  11. Chin CO. Direct analysis of plant minerals and comparison of extraction processes using ICP-AES. Food Chemi. 1992;45(2):145-149.
  12. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 1. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR, 2002; p. 203.
  13. Gomez SM, Kalamani A. Butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea): A nutritive multipurpose forage legume for the tropics – an overview. Pak J Nutr. 2003;2(6):374-379.
  14. Rai KS, Murthy KD, Karanth KS, Nalini K, Rao MS, Srinivasan KK. Clitoria ternatea root extract enhances acetylcholine content in rat hippocampus. Fitoterapia. 2002;73(7-8):685-689.
  15. Parimaladevi B, Boominathan R, Mandal SC. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic properties of Clitoria ternatea root. Fitoterapia. 2003;74(4):345-349.
  16. Parimaladevi B, Boominathan R, Mandal SC. Evaluation of antipyretic potential of Clitoria ternatea L extract in rats. Phytomedicine. 2004;11(4):323-326.
  17. Jain NN, Ohal CC, Shroff. Clitoria ternatea and the CNS. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;75(3):529-536.
  18. Taranalli AD, Cheeramkuzhy TC. Influence of Clitoria ternatea extracts on memory and central cholinergic activity in rats. Pharm Biol (Formerly International Journal of Pharmacognosy). 2000;38(1):51-56.
  19. Howes MR, Houghton PJ. Plants used in Chinese and Indian traditional medicine for improvement of memory and cognitive function. Phytother Res. 2003;17(1):1-18.
  20. Osborn RW, De Samblanx GW, Thevisses K, et al. Isolation and chracterisation of plant defensins from seeds of Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Hippocastanaceae and Saxifragaceae. FEBS Lett. 1995;368(2):257-262.
  21. Ramesh PR, Kumar KS, Rajagopal MR, Balachandran P, Warrier PK. Managing morphine-induced constipation. A controlled comparison of an Ayurvedic formulation and senna. J Pain Symptom Manage. 1998;16(4):240-244.