Herb: Hyacinth Bean

Latin name: Lablab purpureus

Synonyms: Dolichos lablab, Lablab niger, Lablab vulgaris

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Hyacinth Bean:

The plant (though the exact part used is not stipulated) is anticholesterolemic, antidote (to most forms of poison), antivinous, carminative, hypoglycaemic. Prolongs co-agulation time. It is used in the treatment of cholera, vomiting, diarrhoea, leucorrhoea, gonorrhoea, alcoholic intoxication and globefish poisoning. The flowers are antivinous, alexiteric and carminative. The stem is used in the treatment of cholera. The juice from the pods is used to treat inflamed ears and throats. The seeds are anthelmintic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, astringent, digestive, febrifuge and stomachic.

Description of the plant:

Perennial Climber

2 m
(6 1/2 foot)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild situation.

Edible parts of Hyacinth Bean:

The mature seed is edible as long as it is thoroughly cooked. It has a mild flavour, is rich in protein and can be used as a staple food. The seed can also be prepared as "tofu" or be fermented into "tempeh" in the same way that soya beans are used in Japan. The seed can also be sprouted and eaten raw, when it is comparable to mung bean sprouts. A nutritional analysis is available. The tender young seedpods and immature seeds can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be used as a green vegetable like French beans. They are also used as a curry vegetable. The immature seedpod contains 3.2% protein, 0.8% fat, 5.4% carbohydrate, 0.81% ash. It is rich in vitamin B1. Leaves - they must be cooked. They can also be dried for later use. The leaves are used as a greens just like spinach. They contain up to 28% protein (dry weight?). Flowers - raw or cooked in soups and stews. Root - large and starchy.

Other uses of the herb:

Plants are fairly fast growing and the bacteria on the roots enrich the soil with nitrogen. This makes them a good green manure crop, though they are only really suitable for climates warmer than Britain.

Propagation of Hyacinth Bean:

Seed - pre-soak for 2 hours in warm water and sow in early spring in a greenhouse in a fairly rich soil. Either sow 2 seeds to a pot and thin to the strongest plant, or sow in a tray and prick out into individual pots when the plants are large enough to handle. Grow on fast and plant out after the last expected frosts. The seed germinates in 2 - 4 weeks at 25C.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild situation.

Known hazards of Lablab purpureus:

The raw seed is poisonous.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.