Gandule, a healer and traditional food staple for many.

Updated: Nov 28, 2018

Milagros, an 88 year old elder from Isabela, Puerto Rico, fed Sakis (our chef and herbalist) and I with her famous Arroz Con Gandules (otherwise known as rice and pigeon peas). After our fantastic meal, Milagros proudly asked us if we would like to check out the gandule plant she used to pick our gandules.

“YES!” we replied.

Gandules, cajanus cajan, also known as gandul, guandu, pigeon pea and Congo pea, is a pretty little bush with yellow flowers and green pods which hold the gandules (1).


The gandule, originally from India, was traded and planted for three thousand years in Asia and Africa (1). Currently, India grows 90% of the world's gandules for commerce (5).


Due to the horrors of colonialism, Indigenous Puerto Ricans (Taino’s) were forced onto a heavily starch-based and entrails diet to survive.

The gandule quickly became a staple because of its high nutrient density. The mighty gandule plant boasts high levels of proteins, amino acids like methionine, lysine and tryptophan (6). Believe it or not, there is even a preliminary report on the cure of nutritional anemia with gandules (3).

World Wide Use


If you are a Haro, part of the tribal community of Bangladesh, gandule leaf tea will be your energy boost drink. (4)


If you are in Trinidad and Tobago and happen to get food poisoning or constipation, the leaves of the gandule will supposedly be your savior. (4)


If you are from Tamil Nadu, India and forget your toothbrush, the leaf, seeds and young stems are a great replacement and potentially have the added side effect of aiding gingivitis and stomatitis. (4)


In eastern Rajasthan (Northern India), if you are a bit drunk, fresh juice/boiled leaves given orally might dampen the effect of intoxication. (4)


Maria Benedetti, in her interviews with elders in Puerto Rico, learned that if you boil the stems and leaves of the gandule bush and drink two cups of the tea daily for two weeks, you may find some help in arthritis and rheumatism (2).


Some more traditional uses are using the leaves and seeds as a poultice over the breast to induce lactation. (4)


According to one of the elders Maria Benedetti interviewed, you should drink gandule tea frequently. (2) The Haro, part of the tribal community of Bangladesh, also use gandule leaf tea for the treatment of diabetes. (4)


Chinese folk medicine uses pigeon pea leaves to kill parasites and as a painkiller (4). It is also used for genital itching (2).



Enjoy gandules’ antioxidant properties through its 2’-2’ methyl cajanone, 2’-hydroxy genistein, isoflavones, cajanin, cahanones. (4)


Gandule roots are rich in genistein, genistin, hexadecanoic acid, α amyrin and β-sitosterol, all showing potential anti-cancer properties. (4)


The presence of cajanuslactone, a coumarin imparts some antibacterial activity. (4)


Gandule extract was shown to reduce fasting blood sugar of alloxan diabetic rats (essentially rats whose insulin-producing cells were destroyed) a hypoglycemic effect that lasted 4-6 hrs. (4)


Swiss albino mice with liver damage induced by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) were found to have less damage to their livers when gandule extract was given to them (4). This protective effect was demonstrated


1)Riquezas Verdes: Selección De Plantas, Especies Aromáticas, Árboles Medicinales Y Sus Usos En Puerto Rico Evelyn Avilés - Createspace Independent Publishing - 2013

2)Earth and Spirit: Medicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico-María Benedetti - Botanicultura - 2013

3) A Preliminary Report on the Cure Of Nutritional Anemia By One Of the Legumes 1 D. Cook-Trinita Rivera - The American Journal Of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene - 1933:

4)Pal, Dilipkumar et al. “Biological activities and medicinal properties of Cajanus cajan (L) Millsp” Journal of advanced pharmaceutical technology & research vol. 2,4 (2011): 207-14.

The Gandule plant in Milagros's garden

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