Herb: French Bean

Latin name: Phaseolus vulgaris

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of French Bean:

The green pods are mildly diuretic and contain a substance that reduces the blood sugar level. The dried mature pod is used according to another report. It is used in the treatment of diabetes. The seed is diuretic, hypoglycaemic and hypotensive. Ground into a flour, it is used externally in the treatment of ulcers. The seed is also used in the treatment of cancer of the blood. When bruised and boiled with garlic they have cured intractable coughs. The root is dangerously narcotic. A homeopathic remedy is made from the entire fresh herb. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis, plus disorders of the urinary tract.

Description of the plant:


2 m
(6 1/2 foot)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild situation.

Edible parts of French Bean:

Immature seedpods - raw or cooked. The green pods are commonly used as a vegetable, they have a mild flavour and should only be cooked for a short time. When growing the plant for its seedpods, be sure to pick them whilst they are still small and tender. This will ensure the continued production of more pods by the plant. Flowering is reduced once the seeds begin to form inside the pods. The immature seeds are boiled or steamed and used as a vegetable. The mature seeds are dried and stored for future use. They must be thoroughly cooked before being eaten and are best soaked in water for about 12 hours prior to this. They can be boiled, baked, pureed, ground into a powder or fermented into "tempeh" etc. The powdered seed makes a protein-enriching additive to flour, it can also be used in soups etc. The seed can also be sprouted and used in salads or cooked. The roasted seeds have been used as a coffee substitute. Young leaves - raw or cooked as a potherb. The very young laves are sometimes eaten as a salad, the older leaves are cooked.

Other uses of the herb:

A brown dye is obtained from red kidney beans. The plant contains phaseolin, which has fungicidal activity. Water from the cooked beans is very effective in reviving woollen fabrics. The plant residue remaining after harvesting the dried beans is a source of biomass.

Propagation of French Bean:

Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and sow in mid spring in a greenhouse. Germination should take place within 10 days. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts. The seed can also be sown in situ in late spring though it may not ripen its seed in a cool summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild situation.

Known hazards of Phaseolus vulgaris:

Large quantities of the raw mature seed are poisonous. Children eating just a few seeds have shown mild forms of poisoning with nausea and diarrhoea, though complete recovery took place in 12 - 24 hours. The toxins play a role in protecting the plant from insect predation.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.