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  • Phaseolus vulgaris L.
  • Pea family

Common Names

herbsCommon bean
herbsDou fu-tofu (bean curd)
herbsGreen bean
herbsKidney bean
herbsNavy bean
herbsPinto bean
herbsSnap bean
herbsString bean
herbsWax bean

Parts Usually Used

Beans and pods

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

The Kidney bean is an annual, twining plant; the leaves are alternate, each leaf consisting of 3 broad-ovate to rhombic-ovate, entire, pointed leaflets. The white, yellow or purplish flowers grow in sparse, axillary clusters. The fruit is a green or yellow pod; the color of the seeds, or beans, depends on the variety. Diverse as they are, all the beans named above are varieties of the kidney bean. The dry beans are picked when mature, the others at various stages of maturity.

Where Found

Probably originated in South America and is still the predominant bean cultivated in the Americas.

Medicinal Properties


Legends, Myths and Stories

Phaseolus vulgaris (kidney bean) is indigenous to the Americas, being unknown to the rest of the world before Columbus. This species includes the common green bean as well as wax beans, and various dried beans such as red kidney, pinto, and navy. These beans were extensively cultivated and used as trade goods by Native American tribes from Canada to South America, with each tribe having its own names and folklore for the beans.

Before the discovery of the New World, Europeans did have other bean species with various traditions associated with them. On 3 days of the year, the Roman head of the household went through a ritual ceremony of spitting beans out of his mouth to rid his home of evil spirits. This custom carried over to the Middle Ages, where spitting a mouthful of beans in a witch's face was considered to negate her powers. Perhaps beans were thought to be a potent deterrent against evil because as a seed they have stored within them the positive life force of all living and growing things.

Since 200 BC, tofu (bean curd) has been cooked into a soup to treat colds; the Chinese version of chicken soup. Tofu can be stored up to 5 days in the refrigerator. To preserve freshness, immerse tofu in water and change the water daily. It is both low in calories and highly nutritious: 6 oz. portion is a mere 100 calories and contains about 6% protein.

It is claimed, if the green pods are chewed in ones mouth and applied to any place bitten by a horse, it will help.


Bean pods are effective in lowing blood sugar levels and can be used (with the concurrence of a doctor) for mild cases of diabetes. A bean pod diet for this purpose would mean eating 9-16 lb. of pods per week (they can be cooked like vegetables). The pods are most effective before the beans are ripe, and fresh pods are more effective than dried. Dried pods are particularly to be used in conjunction or rotation with other efficacious herbs, such as bilberry, milfoil, dandelion, and juniper. These can be taken alone or mixed, as a tea. Bean pod tea is useful for dropsy, sciatica, chronic rheumatism, kidney and bladder problems, uric acid accumulations, and loss of albumin in the urine during pregnancy. Externally, promotes healing of ulcers and sores. Prolonged use of the decoction made from the beans is recommended for difficult cases of acne. Bean meal can also be applied directly to the skin for moist eczema, eruptions, and itching. Wash the skin every 2-3 hours with German chamomile tea and apply new meal.

Formulas or Dosages

Use anywhere from 2 tbsp. to 3 handfuls of dried small-cut pods with 1 qt. water. Boil for 3 hours. Take 1/2 to 3/4 qt. per day.

How Sold

Supermarket: fresh or dried

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