Hyacinth bean (scientific name Lablab purpureus) is a climbing plant species that belongs to the family Fabaceae. These plants produce seeds (also called beans) which are edible. Aside from their seeds, the pods, leaves, roots and flowers of hyacinth bean plant are consumed. The seeds or beans are also used for therapeutic purposes.
Hyacinth bean is cultivated extensively as a food crop in many tropical countries like India, Indonesia and some regions of Africa. These climbing plants are popular among the people as screens on a trellis or fence or any ornate structure that has been particularly designed for supporting climbing plants. In some regions of Africa hyacinth beans are deemed to be a traditional food owing to its high nutritional content and several health benefits. At the same time, they help to provide food security and promote development in the rural communities. This plant species grows and thrives well when cultivated in compost soil that is well-drained and are exposed to full sunlight.
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Hyacinth bean plants grow annually and the vines of these plants produce purple flowers and purple seed pods. These plants can grow up to a height of anything between 1 metre and 5 meters. Hyacinth bean produces purple-green leaves whose shape may be either oval or triangular. The flowers of this plant are bean-shaped and they grow above the thick foliage.
It is interesting to note that the entire hyacinth bean plant is edible, especially its flowers, leaves and pods. However, it is advisable that you should never try to eat the raw beans owing to their toxicity. While you are boiling the pods, it is essential to change the water no less than once to ensure safety. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that these seeds need to be boiled for a prolonged period if they have been dried. In fact, the dried seeds of hyacinth beans contain high levels of cyanogenic glucosides, which is a very harmful chemical compound.
People across the globe use the hyacinth beans extensively for culinary purposes. The mature seeds of hyacinth beans are usually fermented and pressed to give them a cake-like shape for consumption. Alternatively, in many regions of Asia, they are processed to make tofu. Some people consume the flowers of this plant - both raw and steamed. The young tender leaves of this plant are used in salads or consumed raw. On the other hand, leaves that are more mature are cooked in the same manner as you cook spinach. This plant has large tuberous roots and they are full of starch. This makes the roots ideal for boiling as well as baking.
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Hyacinth bean is best propagated from its seeds. These plants need enough support to climb. You can enhance the growth of hyacinth bean by watering them regularly and providing them with enough fertilizers. However, these plants cannot be transplanted as their root system is not conducive for it. Hyacinth bean blooms profusely, especially during summer.
It is very natural for the hyacinth bean plants to get entangled, as this is a common occurrence among all vines. Trying to separate the plants from one another may result in tearing of the vines or damage the foliage. From time to time, you can prune the inner stems of the plants with a view to provide them with more sunlight and air. Moreover, pruning the inner stems regularly may also promote flowering.
The flowers of hyacinth bean are extremely fragrant. As a result, they attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. These insects not only draw nectar from the flowers, but also help in pollination. However, predator insects can cause damages to these plants.
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The hyacinth bean encloses a variety of nutrients, including vitamins, lipids and several essential minerals. As a result consuming the seeds or other parts of this plant helps to improve our general health. To be precise, hyacinth bean possesses tonic, appetite suppressant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, aphrodisiac, galactagogue, anti-spasmodic and aphrodisiac properties. Consumption of hyacinth beans, therefore, helps to prevent a variety of health problems.
The pathways in our brain, such as dopamine and galactose, require copper in order to maintain our focus, mood and outlook. Hyacinth bean is rich in copper content and, hence, it helps the brain pathways to perform their functions efficiently. When there is a deficiency of copper in our body, it results in poor mood, fatigue, trouble in concentrating as well as poor metabolic activity. Copper is also associated with making use of ascorbate oxidase, tyrosinase, vitamin C and superoxide dismutase. The antioxidants present in hyacinth bean helps to prevent any harm caused by the detrimental free radicals. At the same time, they inhibit the natural aging process, neuro-degenerative ailments and even cancer.
Vitamin B is essential for acetylcholine production. Acetylcholine is a type of neurotransmitter that sends messages from the nerves to our muscles. The functioning as well as the health of our heart depends on the messages transmitted by acetylcholine. When energy is utilized properly, it aids in transmitting signals between the nerves and muscles. Several studies have shown that vitamin B1 aids in neutralizing heart disease since this vitamin is responsible for maintaining the healthy ventricular function. At the same time, it treats conditions like heart failure.
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Hyacinth bean also contains adequate amounts of the essential mineral zinc, which possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Therefore, consuming hyacinth bean aids in combating oxidative stress and, at the same time, it lessens the chances of developing various diseases. Zinc also helps in healthy cell division, besides preventing cell mutation. In addition, this essential mineral prevents growth of tumours. Findings of a number of studies have shown that intake of adequate amounts of zinc helps to decrease oxidative stress and infections. It also helps to protect us from various symptoms. Zinc also possesses the ability to enhance the efficacy of our immune system.
Trace minerals like manganese, zinc and selenium are of great benefit to people suffering from lung disorders such as the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is worth mentioning here that oxidative stress is mainly responsible for problems related to the respiratory tract, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Manganese possesses the ability to lessen oxidative stress and, at the same time, this mineral possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
Hyacinth beans are loaded with dietary fiber, which has a vital role in the digestive process. Insoluble fiber makes up the bulk of stool and also ensures that we pass the waste produced in the body very often. Fiber is also useful in preventing constipation, bloating and indigestion. On the other hand, soluble fiber promotes digestion as it takes up water from viscous substances that are fermented in the digestive tract by the beneficial gut bacteria.
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When we consume fewer nutrients our body is deprived of valuable substances that are beneficial for our health. However, when there is sufficient amount of magnesium in our body, it aids in promoting sleep, bring down the cortisol levels as well as elevated concentration of melatonin, which are all associated with stress. Findings of one study showed that taking magnesium supplements helps to decrease the symptoms related to insomnia, enhance sleep time, improves sleep efficiency and also sleep onset. At the same time, magnesium also lowers cortisol levels. All these benefits can be obtained if you eat hyacinth beans on a regular basis.
Hyacinth beans also contain significant amounts of iron, which is essential for transporting oxygen to the cells. Iron also aids our body to take up nutrients from ingested foods and digest proteins present in foods. When one suffers from deficiency of iron, we become sluggish, have problems in being active and also suffer from exhaustion. Deficiency of iron in the body is manifested by low concentration, mood change and problems in muscle co-ordination.
Hyacinth bean also contains vitamin D and valuable minerals like phosphorus and calcium, which are all necessary for sustaining the health of our bones. This is achieved by supporting the mineral density in our jaws and bones, protecting tooth enamel and holding the teeth in place. Moreover, vitamins and these minerals also aid in curing tooth decay. Children especially need foods that are loaded with phosphorus and calcium as these minerals help in the formation of their tooth structure. Together with phosphorus, vitamin D is necessary to maintain a healthy balance of calcium in our body and also increase the absorption of calcium from the ingested foods to form strong and healthy tooth. Vitamin D helps to reduce inflammation in the gums, which is associated with periodontal gum disease. All these are ample proof of the fact that consuming hyacinth beans is highly beneficial for our bones and teeth.
When we consume protein foods we actually intake amino acids that are necessary to maintain the balance of hormones, treat anxiety and regulate our mood. Proteins also help in the functioning of neurotransmitters, while harmonizing hormones like dopamine and serotonin, which are necessary to keep us calm. Proteins also help to balance glucose in the body and prevent mood change, irritability as well as cravings that are related to fluctuations in the levels of blood sugar.
Last but not the least important - hyacinth beans enclose sufficient amounts of potassium, which helps to alleviate muscle cramps and enhances muscle strength. When there is a deficiency of potassium in our body, we suffer from muscle cramps. Potassium works to calm the muscles by helping to maintain the right equilibrium of various fluids in our body. When we suffer from potassium deficiency, we suffer from general pains, muscle cramps and muscle spasms. This mineral also helps to metabolize carbs and proteins - the two nutrients on which our muscles depend for energy as well as repair.