Herbs & Plants: Caianus Cajan – Health And Nutritional Benefits

The pigeon pea is a perennial legume belonging to the plant family Fabaceae and their scientific name is Cajanus cajan. It was first domesticated in South Asia around 3,500 years ago and their seeds are food grains in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Pigeon peas are one of the most important food legume crops, which grow in the tropical and subtropical climates. It is a drought tolerant and warm weather crop. It is an erect, glandular-pubescent, short-lived and perennial shrub. The plant grows up to 1-2 m high with tetrarch taproots. The erect and ribbed stem is 15 cm in diameter. Leaves are trifoliate, alternate in dark green colour above and silvery underneath.

The plant yields yellow to red flowers, which are 1.2cm — 1.7cm in diameter, which turns into fruit as seedpods. The pods are linear-oblong, green or red, 2-13cm long and 0.5-1.7cm wide. Each pod contains about nine seeds, which is sub-globose ellipsoid or squarish in shape having 5 mm as a diameter. The seeds are white, cream, brown, and purplish to black in colour.

In Uganda, the plant is commonly grown in the northern districts and is locally known as “Lapena” by the Acholi tribe. Eating Pigeon peas comes with one of the greatest health and nutritional benefits that nature can give to human beings. In terms of medicinal benefits, pigeon peas can thank their diverse blend of protein, minerals, vitamin, organic compounds, dietary fibre, antioxidants and other unique components, all of which impact human health in different ways.

Cajanusc cajan contains mineral Potassium which is the key mineral in vasodilatation (widening) of the blood vessels and hence reduces blood pressure. Therefore, regular consumption of this food crop can help prevent cardiovascular diseases caused due to hypertension. Pigeon peas are loaded with high protein content which is required for the growth and development of the body. It is essential for the formation of cells, tissues, muscles and bones and also very important in the healing process and cell regeneration in the body.

Pigeon peas contain low amount of calories, cholesterol and saturated fats, which makes it healthy. The presence of dietary fibre keeps one full for a long period of time, increase metabolism rate and reduces the possibilities of weight gain and the nutrients found in pigeon peas are often converted into the usable energy and not in any way stored as a fats in the body.

Many communities eat raw young fresh fruits of pigeon peas. This accordingly is very important since when cooked some nutrients are lost. The uncooked peas enhance the immune system and vitamin C in it promotes the white blood cells production hence promoting overall wellness as well as strong immunity.
Traditionally in Peru, the leaves are prepared in an infusion for anemia, hepatitis, diabetes, urinary infections, and yellow fever. The flowers are prepared in an infusion for dysentery, and menstrual disorders; and the seeds are infused to use as a diuretic.

In Brazilian herbal medicine, the leaves are infused for coughs, fevers and ulcers. The seeds are prepared in a tea for inflammation and blood disorders and the flowers are prepared into a tea for upper respiratory infections and pain. In Argentina the leaves are used for genital and other skin irritations and the flowers are used for bronchitis, coughs, and pneumonia.

In some communities in the roots are as an alexeritic, anthelminthic, expectorant, sedative, and vulnerary. Leaves are also used for toothache, mouthwash, sore gums, child-delivery, and dysentery.

– Richard Komakech

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