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WTF is... Butterfly Pea Flower?!

So we're all adults here, right? Right. Which means we can talk about or mention adult subjects, right? Right. So take a second and search under Google Images for Butterfly Pea Flower. Or click on the link, and let us do the heavy lifting for you. Either way, when I tell you that it's scientific name is Clitoria ternatea, you now understand why right? Right.

Once you see it, you can't UNsee it, am I right?

Photo by Tamanna Rumee on

Its ::ahem:: unique appearance aside, the butterfly pea flower is native to Asia, where it is used in regional dishes. You'll be forgiven for assuming that this brilliantly blue flower is added for its taste. In its home, the butterfly pea flower is primarily utilized as a natural food dye that turns anything it touches into a vibrant blue! (1) It's currently making a splash in the modern food industry, being used to brew blue chai, blue wine, and even blue gin!

The uses of the butterfly pea flower aren't restricted to delectable delights- It has a long use in Ayurveda as a mental panacea (2), uses which have partially been supported by studies on the flower's nootropic effects in 2000 (5) and 2001 (6). Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has also utilized it as a female libido enhancer, primarily due to its overall appearance. (3) Before all the ladies out there start eyeing this little flower with renewed interest, there seems to be very little data to support that particular use.

Butterfly pea flower makes for a truly BLUE-tiful (if bland) cup of tea!

Botanical blue color and titillating appearance aside, modern science has uncovered a host of beneficial constituents hiding with the butterfly pea flower, including:

Anthocyanin - Anthocyanin is the main phytochemical that makes this flower so great and can be found in the bright blue color it imparts. (4) It is also a potent antioxidant, which helps to soothe, revitalize and rejuvenate skin. A study from 2018 specifically evaluated the topical benefits of the anthocyanins in butterfly pea flowers and found that it helped to even skin tone and improve skin hydration consistently over the course of the study. (4) That's what we like to hear, am I right? Anthocyanins are extremely pH sensitive, and adding even a drop of acid can change the color to neon pink! (2) This is a fun little science experiment to do with the kids: How many colors can you create with drops of vinegar and pinches of baking soda?

Flavanols - The flowers are loaded with an impressive array of flavonols, including quercetin. Quercetin helps to soothe redness, itching, and irritation, in addition to supporting healthy hydration levels. (7, 8)

Alkaloids - Most people are more familiar with alkaloids in terms of caffeine and cocaine, but not all members of this chemical group are so assertive! The alkaloids in the butterfly pea flower help to calm irritation, repair environmental damage and minimize oxidative stress on the skin. (9, 10)

At Cinag's Alchemic we make our own butterfly pea flower extract in-house and use it in the Lapis Lazuli Booster Ampoule! The butterfly pea extract, along with lilac and wild violet flower, create an antioxidant-rich serum for skin with a captivating blue color! You can also find it in a selection of Archangel skin potions, paired up with indigo, for some deep soothing and nourishing for compromised skin types!

Be sure to check back later this week for a fun little introduction to our favorite anti-oxidant- ANTHOCYANIN!

TALK LIKE AN HERBALIST (Vocabulary You Should Know to Be an Herbal Savant)

Understanding skincare terminology can help you make informed decisions about the ingredients in your skincare products. Stay tuned for some pop quizzes on Instagram next week!

  1. Alkaloids- natural compounds found in plants that can have medicinal or stimulating effects. Think caffeine in coffee or nicotine in tobacco!

  2. Anthocyanin- natural pigments that give bright colors to fruits, vegetables, and flowers. They come in shades of red, purple, and blue and have antioxidant properties that are good for your health.

  3. Ayurveda- a traditional Indian system of medicine that emphasizes the importance of balance between mind, body, and spirit for optimal health and wellness. It uses natural remedies and lifestyle practices to promote healing.

  4. Flavonols- a group of natural compounds that can be found in various fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. They are known for their antioxidant properties and have been linked to various health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and improving heart health. Think of them as the superheroes of the plant world!

  5. Nootropic- a substance or compound that can enhance cognitive function, like memory, focus, or creativity. They are often called "brain boosters".

  6. Oxidative Stress- when there's an imbalance between the production of free radicals (unstable molecules) and the body's ability to neutralize them. It can lead to damage to cells and tissues, which can cause health problems.

  7. Phytochemical- natural compounds found in plants that can have health benefits for humans. They're like plant superpowers!

  8. Quercetin- a natural plant pigment found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. It's known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

REFERENCES (in case you thought we just made this sh!t up)

  1. Wikipedia contributors. (2022, June 5). Clitoria ternatea. Wikipedia.

  2. Vuong, T. T., & Hongsprabhas, P. (2021). Influences of pH on binding mechanisms of anthocyanins from butterfly pea flower (Clitoria ternatea) with whey powder and whey protein isolate. Cogent Food & Agriculture, 7(1).

  3. Fantz, P. R. (1991). Ethnobotany of Clitoria (Leguminosae). Economic Botany, 45(4), 511–520.

  4. Chen, L., Chen, I., Chen, P., & Huang, P. (2018). Application of Butterfly Pea Flower Extract in Mask Development. Scientia Pharmaceutica, 86(4), 53.

  5. Taranalli, A., & Cheeramkuzhy, T. (2000). Influence of Clitoria Ternatea Extracts on Memory and Central Cholinergic Activity in Rats. Pharmaceutical Biology, 38(1), 51–56.

  6. Rai KS, Murthy KD, Karanth KS, Rao MS. Clitoria ternatea (Linn) root extract treatment during growth spurt period enhances learning and memory in rats. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2001 Jul;45(3):305-13. PMID: 11881569.

  7. Saito N., Abe K., Honda T., Timberlake C. F., Bridle P. (1985). Acylated delphinidin glucosides and flavonols from Clitoria ternatea. Phytochemistry 24 1583–1586.

  8. Maramaldi, G., Togni, S., Pagin, I., Giacomelli, L., Cattaneo, R., Burastero, S., & Eggenhoffner, R. (2016). Soothing and anti-itch effect of quercetin phytosome in human subjects: a single-blind study. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 55.

  9. GS, C., V, K., S, G., A, K., N, G., & L, K. (2018). PHYTOCHEMICAL AND PHARMACOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF CLITORIA TERNATEA- A REVIEW. Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, 3–9.

  10. Stępniowska, A., Cieplińska, P., Fac, W., & Górska, J. (2021). Selected Alkaloids Used in the Cosmetics Industry. Journal of cosmetic science, 72(2), 229–245.

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We've been blue in the best sort of ways this week, from an (excessive) dissertation post on the history, chemistry, and metaphysics of lapis lazuli, to an introduction to our favorite blue botanical

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