Benefits of butterfly pea tea and how to prepare it

Blue tea is a South Asian herbal infusion known as blue pea or butterfly pea tea. Besides being a natural colorant for foods, fabrics, and even hair care products, blue tea is frequently consumed for its medicinal properties. For example, it is claimed to improve brain and heart health and to have anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties.

Below is the list of blue tea benefits, drawbacks and how to prepare it.

Butterfly pea tea

This South Asian herbal infusion is created from the dried petals of butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea L.), a plant known for its brilliant blue color. This infusion is often flavored with ginger, lemongrass, cinnamon or mint. Depending on the pH or acidity level of the tea, it may turn purple, green, or red after steeping. You can add tonic water, lime or lemon to make it more interesting.

Butterfly pea flowers come in different colors, from white to bright blue. The unique blue tint comes from anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds found in many purple and blue fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins are also responsible for the reputed medicinal benefits of tea.

Plus, butterfly pea flowers can be used to make so much more than natural tincture and tea. You can also use the flowers to make cocktails, blue lattes, cookies and cakes. They are also frequently used as ornamental flowers around the world.

(Credit: Pixabay)

Benefits of Drinking Butterfly Pea Tea

Blue tea has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat various illnesses. Here are some of the best known and proven benefits of drinking butterfly pea tea.

Rich in antioxidants

Antioxidants are good chemicals that scavenge free radical molecules. Excessive levels of free radicals in the body can cause oxidative stress, accelerating the onset of certain diseases.

As stated earlier, butterfly pea flowers are rich in anthocyanins, especially delphinidin. Anthocyanins are a type of antioxidant. They are found in flowers, fruits and edible vegetables and can help prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Delphinidin may also protect against lipid peroxidation, destroy cell membranes, accelerate aging, and produce carcinogenic malondialdehyde (MDA).

Additionally, a small trial of 16 overweight or obese men found that ingesting butterfly pea flower extract after a high-fat meal helped keep glutathione peroxidase (Gpx) levels elevated. Gpx is an antioxidant enzyme reducing lipid peroxidation.

Improves heart health

Drinking blue tea can improve your heart by lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol. Additionally, animal experiments have shown butterfly pea flower extract to have vasorelaxation effects, which means it helps dilate blood vessels to increase blood flow. Plus, it has antithrombotic properties, which means it can prevent blood clots, a risk factor for stroke.

According to the aforementioned small study of 16 overweight or obese men, consuming butterfly pea extract after a high-fat meal also reduced the creation of fat cells and the accumulation of triglycerides. This suggests that the extract may reduce abnormally high blood lipid concentrations after a meal, a risk factor for heart disease. Additionally, researchers hypothesize that the antioxidants in the flower suppress pancreatic lipase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down dietary lipids.

blue tea
(Credit: Getty Images)

May contain anti-diabetic properties

The anthocyanins in blue tea can help with blood sugar management. According to some studies, the antioxidants in butterfly pea extract may block carbohydrate-digesting enzymes such as intestinal sucrase, intestinal alpha-glucosidase, and pancreatic alpha-amylase. By blocking these enzymes, the extract slows the digestion and absorption of sugars. As a result, insulin and blood sugar levels are decreased.

Reduced blood insulin levels are linked to a lower risk of blood vessel dysfunction, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and obesity. However, when it comes to the anti-diabetic benefits of blue tea, human research has yielded mixed results.

A study in 15 healthy adults found that consuming sucrose (table sugar) with 1 or 2 grams of butterfly pea extract caused lower insulin and blood sugar levels 30 minutes later , indicating improved blood sugar management almost instantly after a meal. In contrast, after a high-fat breakfast supplemented with the same amount of butterfly pea extract, the small trial of 16 overweight or obese men found no significant difference in blood sugar levels.

It should also be noted that human research has used floral extracts rather than tea. The tea is much more diluted than the extract; therefore, it is unlikely to produce the same noticeable effects.

Additional benefits

Drinking blue tea may also have the following benefits:

  • Antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Certain antioxidants present in the flower may offer antibacterial properties against Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus mutans and antifungal properties against conidia of Penicillium expansum.
  • Improvements in brain health. Animal studies indicate that butterfly pea extract improves memory and prevents further memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease, although no studies confirm these effects in humans.
  • Caffeine-free substitute. Blue tea is caffeine-free because it’s made from butterfly pea flowers rather than the Camellia sinensis plant – which is the caffeine source in black tea.
  • Natural food coloring. The vibrant blue hue of butterfly pea flowers is a popular alternative to artificial blue food colorings, which have become increasingly unpopular due to health concerns.
Blue butterfly pea tea flower
(Credit: Pixabay)

Although there is a lot of promising research on the health benefits of blue tea, most of it focuses on the extracts and antioxidants rather than the brewed tea. Additionally, there is a noticeable dearth of human studies, as most studies are based on animal and test-tube findings. As a result, more human studies are needed to better understand the health benefits of drinking this tea.

Potential side effects

Drinking blue tea has no known adverse effects. However, some anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming large amounts can cause nausea, stomach upset, and diarrhea.

Preparation of blue tea

It’s easy to make blue tea at home and you can drink it hot or cold. You will need these ingredients to brew a cup of blue tea:

  • 1 tea bag, 1 teaspoon dried butterfly pea flowers or 3-5 butterfly pea flowers.
  • 1 cup (240ml) boiling water
  • Juice of half a lemon or lime (optional)
  • Honey, sugar or other sweetener of choice (optional)

Mix butterfly pea flowers or tea bag with boiling water in a cup. Let sit for 5 minutes or until the water has turned a vibrant blue color. If desired, sweeten with a little honey or sugar to taste. I prefer it with ginger and no added sugar.

Lime or lemon juice can also be added. Apart from adding a pungent flavor to the tea, it also lowers the pH (acidity) level, changing the hue from blue to purple. To enjoy a delicious glass of blue tea on a hot summer day, chill the tea, pour it into a short or tall glass and cover it with crushed ice.

Takeaway meals

Butterfly pea flowers are steeped in hot water to make blue tea, a herbal infusion native to South Asia. The tea’s brilliant blue hue and medicinal properties are due to its high concentration of anthocyanins. These include improved brain and heart health and anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties. So, opt for blue tea the next time you want a cup of hot or iced tea.

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