Sesbania Grandiflora is one of the best sources of Vitamin A, Calcium, and Phosphorus when it comes to green leafy vegetables. It finds its mention in Ayurvedic texts as a dietary measure to boost bone health and immunity.
Sesbania Grandiflora is known by several local names such as Agathi, Agati, Agastya, Agasti, Heta, Hatiya, Basma, and Basna in Indian local languages. It is also called as vegetable humming bird, Flamingo Bill, Katuday, Katurai, So Dua, and Paloma in different parts of the world. Agathi Keerai refers to the green leaves of Agathi plant.
Sesbania Grandiflora is a small loosely branching legume belonging to family Fabaceae. Agathi grows in hot humid regions, including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Philippines. It is also cultivated in Mexico, South west USA and Africa.
Almost all parts of the Sesbania Grandiflora are used for traditional medical use such as dysentry, thrombosis, diarrhea, microbial infections, and inflammatory diseases. Young flowers, pods, leaves, and seeds of Sesbania Grandiflora are edible and used in several cuisines for their nutritional value.
Sesbania Grandiflora Varieties
Flowers and leaves are the most common used parts of Sesbania Grandiflora. There are four varieties according to the colour of flower:
- Sita: white colored flower strain
- Peeta: yellow colored flower strain
- Neela: blue colored flower strain
- Lohita: red colored flower strain
Red and white groups are used as vegetables, while blue and yellow are used in the medicine. Red group is more nutritious than white due to higher phenolics content. However, white flowers are preferred to red ones as they are less bitter than the red ones.
Sesbania Grandiflora Nutrition
Sesbania Grandiflora flowers and leaves are a rich source of Proteins, Minerals, Vitamins, and Antioxidants. The active compounds present in Agathi Keerai act at the cellular level and boost the functioning of immune system.
Sesbania flowers are rich source of Vitamin A, Folate, Thiamin, Niacin, and Vitamin C. Flowers also provide significant amounts of Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Selenium.
As per the book Nutritive Value of Indian foods, 100g of Sesbania Grandiflora leaves contain:
- 8g protein with essential amino acids (as histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, arginine and methionine)
- 1 g fats
- 80 mg Phosphorus, 4 mg Iron, and a whooping 1130 mg of Calcium
- 2g fibre out of 12 g of carbohydrates
- 73 g of moisture
- 93 Kcal of energy
- The seeds of Sesbania grandiflora contain leucocyanidin and cyanidin, which are potent chemoprotective agents.
- Also, the seeds contain Saponins and Sesbanimide, which support rejuvenation and have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
- The flowers of Agathi plant are rich in oleanolic acid, its methyl ester, and kaemferol-3-rutinoside.
- The bark contains tannins, resins, and gum, which is used for edible purposes to replace Arabic gum.
- The leaves contain alkaloids, saponins, tanins, glycosides, sterols, quercetin, myricetin, and kaempferol.
- The leaves have high polysaccharide and mucilage content, which supports the gut health by feeding the gut bacteria as prebiotics.
Sesbania Grandiflora in Ayurveda
- Sesbania Grandiflora leaves are used to treat migraine, fever, sinusitis, and respiratory disorders in Ayurveda. The leaves have anthelmintic, diuretic, and laxative effect on the body.
- Oil of Agathi seed has anthelmintic effect.
- Flowers of Sesbania Grandiflora are used in the treatment of headache, night blindness, and catarrhs.
- Roots of red flower variety used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, and scabies.
- Bark of the tree is used to treat diarrhea, malaria, smallpox, and gonorrhea.
Following properties are attributed to Sesbania in Ayurveda:
- Rasa or Taste – Bitter and Astringent
- Virya or Potency – Cooling
- Properties – Drying and Light
- Dosha – Aggravates Pitta Dosha, pacifies aggravated Vata Dosha, and removes excess Kapha Dosha.
Antioxidant and Immune-modulatory effects
- It protects cell membrane lipid from lipid peroxidation by free radicals.
- It also has scavenging effect against free hydroxyl radicles and prevents DNA damage. This effect increases in high protein concentration.
- During studies, an extract of Agathi Keerai restored levels of zinc, magnesium, and selenium in the blood plasma. It also decreased harmful compounds as lactate dehydrogenase, serum cardiac superoxide dismutase, glutathione reductase, glutathione S transferase, and glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase.
- Agathi also showed immune-modulatory effect against hypersensitivity.
The antioxidant and antimicrobial effects of Agathi are due the presence of cysteine and cystin, which have free radicle scavenging activity. This group also facilitates antioxidant activity of glutathione.
- Agathi leaves has antifungal effect against yeast Candida albicans and Aspergillus niger.
- The leaves and flowers have antimicrobial effect against the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Pseudomonas aerginosa, and Klebsiella pneumonia.
- The extract of the roots has antituberculosis effect against Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
- Agathi flowers have antiviral effect against herpes simplex I and II, Vaccinia, vesicular stomatitis, cox sackie.
- The seeds have anthelmintic and healing effect against Pheritima pasthuma and Indian earthworm.
- Agathi leaves and flowers repaired damaged islet cells of pancreas, when used frequently in diet or when taken as extracts.
- It decreases elevated cholesterol and triglycerides.
- The leaves decrease elevated blood glucose level and the concentration of glycosylated hemoglobin.
- It also improves the levels of blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine.
- It prevents and helps to manage colon cancer conditions.
- The leaves and flowers prevent lipid peroxidation and also inhibit the growth of malignant cells.
- Agathi flowers have apoptosis effect against human lung cancer cell lines.
Other Health Benefits
- Agathi flowers and leaves possess wound healing, anti-ulcer, and anti-inflammatory properties for their high concentration of antioxidant vitamins and minerals.
- Agathi Keerai prevents calcium oxalates urinary stone formation.
- The leaves, seeds, and flowers of Agathi protect liver from the damages of constant chemicals exposure such as that of Calcium tetrachloride.
- Sesbania Leaves are used as antidote for tobacco and cigaratte smoking related respiratory problems.
Mode of Consumption
The flowers and leaves of Agathi plant are bitter and astringent in taste. The leaves are crunchy and fibrous in texture and also carry slight aroma along with the taste. Usually for cooking, calyx and stamen is removed from the flowers, as they may add bitterness to the preparations.
Too much Agathi may cause stomach pain, so it is advisable to be cooked with garlic. Usually coconut milk or grated coconut is added to Agathi Keerai or flowers to counter the bitterness in taste.
- Unopened white flowers are commonly used as a vegetable and consumed after steaming, stir-frying, deep-frying, or added to soups.
- The raw flowers are eaten in salads or stir-fried.
- Young leaves are usually finely chopped and then cooked by stir-frying or steaming. Here is an Agathi stir-fry recipe, cooked in Indian style.
- In some Indian recipes, young leaves are sautéed with oil, mustard seed, onion, garlic, black gram, moong beans, asafoetida, green chili, turmeric, and salt.
- The dried Agathi Keerai can be consumed as tea and as a potion against health disorders related to worms, tumors, and for viral infections.
- Young pods are added to soups and vegetable curries.