Fio Fio (Pigeon peas) – Cajanus cajan | 14 Interesting Medicinal Uses

Pigeon peas popularly known as Fio fio in Nigeria are a leguminous plant grown for its edible seeds. Achicha a food popular in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria is one of the common ways Pigeon pea is used as food.



Fio Fio (Pigeon peas) - Cajanus cajan | 14 Interesting Medicinal Uses

However, Pigeon peas have other uses aside from being consumed as food. The use of this plant as herbal medicine is widely practiced in Africa, China, and India. Some of the herbal uses of this plant include; In Bangladesh, the leaves are used for the treatment of Diabetes.


The Chinese use the leaf extract of this plant to arrest bleeding, as an analgesic and anthelmintic. While the Benin villages of West Africa drink the decoction of this plant for the treatment of ulcers and to detoxify poisons from a snake bite. The filtrate is also used to treat eye infections by people of Probe.

Ciklavit, an indigenous nutritional supplement produced by Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals, Nigeria for the management of sickle cell anemia is from this wonderful plant.

Meanwhile, there are other outstanding interesting uses of this plant. However, it is important to describe some Pharmacognostic properties of this plant first. Read more to see the advantages of consuming fio fio.


Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan (L.) Huth) is a drought-resistant, erect, woody shrub about 4cm to 6cm tall. It grows in tropical and subtropical parts of the world because of its ability to resist drought and arid environments. As a result, Pigeon peas are considered to be of utmost importance for food security in regions where rainfall is unreliable and droughts are prone to occur.


The fruit of Cajanus cajan is a flat, straight, pubescent pod, 5-9 cm long x 12-13 mm wide. In addition, it contains 2-9 seeds that are brown, red, white, or black, small, and sometimes hard-coated.

Common names

  • Pigeon peas (English)
  • No-eye pea
  • Red gram
  • Fio fio or Mgbumgbu in Igbo
  • Waken-masar or Waken-turawa in Hausa
  • Otili or Otinli in Yoruba.
  • Ch√≠charo in Latin America
  • Toor Dal or Rahar daal in India

Botanical name

Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.



Scientific classification

  • Kingdom¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Plantae
  • Division¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Magnoliophyta
  • Class¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Magnoliopsida
  • Order¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Fabales
  • Family¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Fabaceae
  • Genus¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Cajanus
  • Species¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Cajanus¬†cajan¬†(L.) Millsp.

Chemical Constituents

Quercetin, Pinostrobin, Apigenin, Luteolin, Cajaninstilbene acid, Isorhamnetin, Cajanol, Cajanin, Cajanuslactone, Stigmasterol, Juliflorine, Cajanone, Phytoalexin, Hordenine, Betulinic acid, Longistylin A and Longistylin C.

Medicinal uses of Fio Fio

The Chemical constituents above and other bioactive compounds from Pigeon peas have proven to have diverse Pharmacologic and Biological activities. Therefore, It is important to recommend Cajanus cajan as a plant to be evaluated properly as a source of new drugs in the Pharmaceutical Industries just as Neimeth Pharmaceuticals have done.

Improves digestion

The standard and Tobago people of South America use this plant to treat constipation and other gastrointestinal ailments.

Thus, this activity of fio fio is attributed to its possession of high fiber content just like other whole grains. This high fiber content of this plant gives it an edge in the improvement of digestion, especially during constipation.

Antidote to poison

The Benin people of West Africa use the root triturate as an antidote for the treatment of poisons and snake bites. However, there is no research to back up the folklore use of this plant by these people.

Strengthens the heart

The major leading cause of Angina, Hypertension, Ischemia, and stroke is the presence of bad cholesterol in the blood (LDL). This bad Cholesterol adheres to the walls of blood vessels and makes them narrower. Consequently, there is reduced blood flow to the heart and other body cells like the brain.

This is the major cause of so many diseases that affects the elderly population like Diabetes, Heart attack, Stroke, Hypertension, Angina e.t.c.

Therefore, the consumption of the plants and their use as a functional food will be an advantage for Cardiovascular health.

Management of Anemia

The Department of Pediatrics Hematology and Blood Transfusion, College of Medicine of the University of Lagos (CMUL) evaluated the extract of Pigeon pea in Sickle Cell Anemia (SCA). It was found that this extract was able to reduce the painful crisis of anemia and adverse effect by 33.3 percent in 6 months.

This is the rationale behind the use of Ciklavit – a natural supplement for the management of Anemia in West Africa.

Another interesting study has shown that leaves of three plants РCajanus cajan (pigeon pea), leaves of Zanthoxylum zanthoxyloides (after root), and leaves of Carica papaya (papaya)  can be used as an alternative in the management of Anemia. They were compared with hydroxyurea and the result shows there is hope for sickle cell with these three plants.

Treatment of Malaria

In so many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the leaf of this plant is an effective agent in the treatment of malaria. The antimalarial effect of this plant is attributed to the presence of a chemical constituent known as Cajachalcone.

In addition, this constituent was able to inhibit the growth of a multi-resistant strain of P. falciparum.  Therefore, a proof that this plant is a good source of an antimalarial drug.

Hepatitis and its management

Hepatitis simply means the inflammation of the liver due to viral infection or the effect of harmful substances on the liver. The extracts of this plant have been proven to be a very good choice in protecting the liver against harmful substances.

The mechanism of action is due to the scavenging of the free Reactive Oxygen Species ( ROS) that causes the aging and death of cells in the body.

Helps in weight loss

Problem with weight gain is indiscriminate eating between meals and lack of conversion of calories to body fuel for metabolism. However, the Pigeon peas have moderate calories with more fibers that can keep you full throughout the day.

Another contributing effect on weight loss is its ability to reduce cholesterol and body fats.

Treatment of Diabetes

Garo Tribe of Bangladesh has been using the leaf of Cajanus cajan (fio fio) for the control of excess sugar. This is supported by the research on the effect of Ethanolic extract of Cajanus cajan on Hyperglycemic rats. Nevertheless, It was found that at concentrations between 400mg/kg and 800mg/kg, the extract has a very good sugar control.

Lowers body Cholesterol

An increase in Cholesterol, Triglyceride, and Bad Lipoprotein (LDL) has a myriad of negative effects on health. It is the leading cause of Diabetes, Hypertension, and other health-related issues.

The proof that Pigeon pea helps to reduce this cholesterol is a big relief and an improvement in the management of these diseases.

As an antimicrobial agent

The stem of this plant is used in West Africa as a chewing stick and mouthwash for oral hygiene. The idea is that the mouth wash helps to clear oral bacteria and fungal infections.

Infectionsaging antimicrobial property of this plant extract was investigated using Six pathogens including Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi, and Klebsiella pneumonia. The plant was able to prevent the infection by these microorganisms.

Antioxidant properties

Pigeon pea is a rich source of Vitamins C and Vitamins E which are effective antioxidants. Antioxidants act by scavenging the free radicals in the body. These free radicals cause aging and the death of cells.

Pigeon pea can contribute positively to the world of cosmetics. As an example, it can help the skin, hair, and other body cells to recover from damage easily.

Helps to reduce anxiety and depression

Pinostrobin; one of the chemical constituents of this plant has activity in the brain. Pinostrobin works by suppressing the depolarizing effects of the sodium channel by inhibiting the voltage-gated sodium channels of the mammalian brain.

The Pharmacological action of the plant is similar to the drugs commonly used as Antidepressants which are used in the treatment of Anxiety disorders and depression.

Pinostrobin also has a neuroprotective effect by suppressing the formation of DNA fragmentation in Pheochromocytoma cells.

Treatment of cancer

Cajal from the root of Cajanus cajan was effectively in use to induce the death of breast cancerous cells. Though, there is further research to check the activities of Cajanol in other research works as a proven anti-cancer agent.

However, the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology isolated a fraction of Pigeon pea similar to female hormone and suggests that this fraction can be used in medicinal and functional food fields to treat and prevent gynecological cancers and menopausal symptoms.

Improves growth and development

The Pigeon pea has a high density of protein contents. Meanwhile, protein is the building block of so many cells. This makes Pigeon pea the right food option for growth and development.

In Conclusion, So many tribes have used this plant as a remedy for the treatment of so many diseases in Africa, India, and China. This plant when used as food will benefit individuals of all ages. Pigeon peas help strengthen the heart, reduces cholesterol and sugar level, and therefore is beneficial for the elderly. Also, the high protein content will help for the growth and development of children while the antioxidant activities from the vitamins present will help nourish the body.


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