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asishimbi - Canavalia gladiata DC., Censiformis sensu Baker

asishimbi :

Canavalia gladiata Sword beans (Canavalia gladiata) have been used as grain legumes and medicinal plants in China for thousands of years. Canavalia gladiata, usually called sword bean, is a domesticated plant species in the legume (Fabaceae). The legume is a used as a vegetable in interiors of central and south central India, though not commercially farmed.

Taxonomical Classification

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Streptophyta
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Canavalia
Species: Canavalia gladiata

Allied species:

Canavalia gladiata (Jacq.) DC. (syn. Canavalia ensiformis sensu auct.; Canavalia ensiformis "sensu Baker, p.p."; Canavalia foureiri G.Don; Canavalia gladiolata J.D.Sauer; Canavalia incurva (Thunb.) DC.; Canavalia incurva Thouars; Canavalia loureirii G.Don; Canavalia machaeroides (DC.) Steud.; Canavalia maxima Thouars; Dolichos gladiatus Jacq.; Dolichos incurvus Thunb.; Malocchia gladiata (Jacq.) Savi);


Sanskrit: महासिम्बी Mahasimbi, Asisimbi
English: sword bean, broad bean, Patagonian bean
Hindi: Khadsampal, बड़ी सेम Badi sem
Urdu: : مکهن سيم makkhan sem
Telugu: chamma kaya ,Tammi kaya
Bengali: Makhan shim
Marathi: अबई abai
Tamil: valavaraik-kay or valavaran-gai , Segapputampattai
Malayalam: Valpayar, Valaringha
Kannada: Tumbekonti, Sembi
Arabic: Fûl hindî
Spanish: Haba de burro, Poroto sable, Carabanz.
Assamese: kamtal urahi
Japanese: Nata mame, Nata mame, なたまめ Nata mame, 鉈豆 Nata mame
Chinese: Dao dou, Dao dou
French: Haricot sabre, Pois sabre, Pois sabre de la Jamaïque, Pois de lInde, Dolique sabre
German: Schwertbohne
Sinhalese: awara


The red and black sword beans were found to have antioxidant capacity compared to the white sword bean, and this was attributed to their red and black bean coats, which possessed extremely high phenolic content. 


In Tamil it is called valavaraik-kay or valavaran-gai which means, the vegetable that looks like a sword. 


Synonyms in Ayurveda: asishimbi, mahashimbi

kan-uh-VAY-lee-uh -- Latinized form of the Malabar vernacular kanavali
glad-ee-AY-tuh -- sword-like

Rasa: Kashaya Madhura
Guna: Guru Snigdha
Veerya: Sheetha
Vipaka: Maduram
Karma: Kaphahara Pittahara

 The fruits are eaten as a vegetable in Africa and Asia.


There are two types of sword bean. White seeded varieties are bushy in nature whereas red seeded varieties are trailed over pandals.

Pole type varieties are to be planted at a spacing of 4 x 3 m whereas bush type varieties are to be planted at 60 x 60 cm. May-June and September-October are the usual sowing time and the seed rate followed is one or two seeds per pit. This can also be grown as border crop, intercrop and a shade crop.

SBS 1 is a variety of Sword bean grown in Tamil Nadu.


From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel


Sword bean matures in 110 - 120 days. Tender pods are ready for harvest from 75 days after sowing. As a pure crop it gives an average grain yield of 1356 kg/ha and green pod yield of 7500 kg/ha.


total free phenolics, tannins, Concanavalin A (Con A) lectin, L-Canavanine (a non-protein amino acid), phytic acid, oligosaccharides, protease inhibitors and α-amylase inhibitors.

Parts used for medicinal purpose

Fruit, ,


The mature seeds contain toxic alkaloids. These can be destroyed by thoroughly boiling the seeds twice in salt water[


  Urease is extracted from the seed; Alternative sources of urease are various bacteria (e.g. Klebsiella aerogenes), fungi (e.g. Coccidioides immitis) and higher plants (e.g. soya bean).


Canavalia gladiata and canavalia ensiformis are very close species. Though they have always been distinguished in Floras, genetical assessment failed to show differences between the two species (Bosch, 2004)
The seeds of this species are red, with a hilum that extends nearly the whole length of the seed (white in Canavalia ensiformis, with a hilum that extends to less than half the length of the seed); the pod shape is more curved in this species; flower size and colour differ - pink or white in this species, purple in Canavalia ensiformis.

Commercial value:

It  has many desirable agronomic features such as high biomass production, resistance to drought, pest and diseases, high fertility index and high seed productivity on fertile land, which enable them to grow well under tropical condition.


Sword is a perennail legume mainly cultivated as an annual (Ekanayake et al., 2000)/ Sword bean has a vigorous climbing or trailing habit and can be up to 10 m long. Some cultivarrs may also be semi-erect. Sword bean root system is deep. Its stems are woody . The leaves are alternate, large, trifoliolate. Sword bean leaflets are oval-shaped,  7.5–20 cm long × 5–14 cm broad, shortly pubescent on both faces. The inflorescence is a large axillary raceme (7 to 12 cm long) bearing several flowers. The flowers are papillonaceous, inverted, white to pink in colour. The fruits are long (20-40 (-60) cm, straight, rough-surfaced and slightly compressed dehiscent pods containing 8 to 16 seeds. The seed are 2-3.5 cm -1.5-2 cm, oblong-ellipsoid in shape, very variable in colour. They range from red, red-brown to white or black. The hilum is as long as the seed, dark brown in colour (Bosch, 2004; Duke, 1981)

Geographical distribution:

India (N):  Andhra Pradesh ; Arunachal Pradesh; Assam ; Bihar ; Dadra-Nagar-Haveli ; Delhi ; Goa ; Gujarat; Haryana ; Himachal Pradesh ; Jammu-Kashmir ; Karnataka; Kerala ; Madhaya Pradesh ; Maharashtra ; Manipur ; Meghalaya Mizoram ; Nagaland ; Orissa ; Pondicherry ; Punjab ; Rajasthan; Sikkim ; Tamil Nadu; Tripura ; Uttar Pradesh ; West Bengal; Andaman Is (I); Nicobar Is (N) as per ILDIS;


Not known in the wild
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Plant conservation:

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

General Use:

Sword bean is usually grown as a fodder, green manure or as a cover crop. The young pods and beans are extensively used as vegetables in tropical Asia (Purseglove, 1974).

Therapeutic Uses:

Urease is extracted from the seed; it is used in clinical laboratories for the in-vitro determination of urea in human blood.
In Korea it is used in the treatment of vomiting, abdominal dropsy, kidney-related lumbago, asthma, obesity, stomach-ache, dysentery, coughs, headache, intercostal neuralgia, epilepsy, schizophrenia, inflammatory diseases and swellings. A soap is marketed there which is based on extracts of sword bean; it is used for the treatment of athlete’s foot and acne.
In Japan it is effective in treating ozena, haemorrhoids, pyorrhoea, otitis media, boils and cancers, all kinds of inflammatory diseases and atopic dermatitis


(Researches found out that the sword beans have antioxidant properties.)

Clinical trials:

1. Vadivel, V., Janardhanan, K. & Vijayakumari, K., 1998. Diversity in sword bean (Canavalia gladiata (Jacq.) DC.) collected from Tamil Nadu, India. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 45(1): 63–68.


1. Ekanayake, S., Jansz, E.R. & Nair, B.M., 2000. Literature review of an underutilized legume: Canavalia gladiata L. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 55(4): 305–321.
2. Ekanayake, S., Jansz, E.R. & Nair, B.M., 2000. Nutritional evaluation of protein and starch of mature Canavalia gladiata seeds. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 51: 289–294.

Toxicity studies:

The mature seeds contain toxic alkaloids. 

Use in other system of medicine:

In Madagascar the young green fruits and immature seeds of sword bean are used as a cooked vegetable. Sword bean is eaten in Tanzania, where the Swahili expression ‘eating sword bean’ means ‘being happy’. Use of the fruits and immature seeds is also reported from Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, China, Korea and Japan. Sword bean is further planted as a forage and cover crop. The ripe seeds can be eaten after cooking, but only after removing the seed-coat and several changes of water. The seed is used as feed for cattle and chicken, but if eaten in considerable quantity dry seeds may cause poisoning. Sword bean is grown as an ornamental climber on fences and houses.

Photos of asishimbi - ,

Canavalia gladiata

KEY WORDS: asishimbi Canavalia gladiata DC., Censiformis sensu Baker

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