Herb: Soya Bean

Latin name: Glycine max

Synonyms: Glycine hispida, Phaseolus max, Soja max

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Soya Bean:

The fermented seed is weakly diaphoretic and stomachic. It is used in the treatment of colds, fevers and headaches, insomnia, irritability and a stuffy sensation in the chest. The bruised leaves are applied to snakebite. The flowers are used in the treatment of blindness and opacity of the cornea. The ashes of the stems are applied to granular haemorrhoids or fungus growths on the anus. The immature seedpods are chewed to a pulp and applied to corneal and smallpox ulcers. The seed is antidote. It is considered to be specific for the healthy functioning of bowels, heart, kidney, liver and stomach. The seed sprouts are constructive, laxative and resolvent. They show an oestrogen-like activity in the body and are also antispasmodic.The sprous are used in the treatment of oedema, dysuria, chest fullness, decreased perspiration, the initial stages of flu and arthralgia. A decoction of the bark or root is astringent. Soybean diets are valued for treating acidosis. Since soybean oil has a high proportion of unsaturated fatty acid, it is recommended, like safflower, poppy seed, etc. to combat hypercholesteremia. Commercial grades of natural lecithin, which are often derived from soybean, are reported to contain a potent vasopressor. Medicinally lecithin is indicated as a lipotropic agent. Soybean is listed as a major starting material for stigmasterol, once known as an antistiffness factor. Sitosterol, also a soy by-product, has been used to replace diosgenin in some antihypertensive drugs.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Lowland thickets, C. and S. Japan.

Edible parts of Soya Bean:

Mature seed - cooked. The seeds furnish one of the world's most important sources of oil and protein, they can be eaten as they are in soups, stews etc, though they are also very commonly used in the preparation of various meat substitutes. The dried seed can be ground into a flour and added to cereal flours or used for making noodles etc. The Japanese make a powder from the roasted and ground seed, it is called "Kinako" and has a nutty flavour and fragrance - it is used in many popular confections. The sprouted seed is eaten raw or added to cooked dishes. The toasted seeds can be eaten as a peanut-like snack. The seed is also made into numerous fermented foods such as miso and tempeh and is also used to make soya milk, a valuable protein supplement in infant feeding which also provides curds and cheese. The seed contains 20% oil and 30 - 45% protein. All seeds on a soybean plant mature at essentially the same time. Maturity of the seed is accompanied by a rapid dropping of the leaves and drying of the stems. Average yield of beans is about 1700 kg/ha. High-yielding cvs, adapted to the locality and grown under proper culture and favourable conditions will yield more than twice the average yield. The immature seed is cooked and used like peas or eaten raw in salads. The strongly roasted and ground seeds are used as a coffee substitute. The young seedpods are cooked and used like French beans. An edible semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed. It is cooked or can be used as a dressing in salads etc and for manufacture of margarine and shortening. Young leaves - raw or cooked.

Other uses of the herb:

The seed contains up to 20% of an edible semi-drying oil. It is non-drying according to another report. This oil has a very wide range of applications and is commonly used in the chemical industry. The oil is used industrially in the manufacture of paints, linoleum, oilcloth, printing inks, soap, insecticides, and disinfectants. Lecithin phospholipids, obtained as a by-product of the oil industry, are used as a wetting and stabilizing agent in food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, leather, paint, plastic, soap, and detergent industries. Both the meal and the soy bean protein are used in the manufacture of synthetic fibre, adhesives, textile sizing, waterproofing, fire-fighting foam and many other uses. The plant is sometimes grown as a green manure. The straw can be used to make paper, stiffer than that made from wheat straw. The plant is an excellent source of biomass. The oil from the seeds can be used as a diesel fuel whilst the stems can be burnt as a fuel.

Propagation of Soya Bean:

Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in early spring in a greenhouse. The seed should germinate within two weeks at a temperature between 12 - 16C. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Seed can also be pre-soaked for 12 hours in warm water and then sown in situ in late spring, though this will not yield well unless the summer is very hot.

Cultivation of the herb:

Lowland thickets, C. and S. Japan.

Known hazards of Glycine max:

The raw mature seed is toxic and must be thoroughly cooked before being eaten. The sprouted raw seed is sometimes eaten and is considered to be a wholesome food.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.