Fagopyrum esculentum, is known as Buckwheat in English. It derived its name, perhaps from German word, bukweten meaning goat’s wheat, as it is inferior to true Wheat or from Dutch word bockweit, meaning beech-wheat, due to its beechnut shape and wheat-like characteristics.
Buckwheat is an annual herb native to central and northern Asia and later introduced to Europe in middle ages. It is found in wild and now cultivated all over the world for its seeds. The plant has short growing period of three months. The seeds are mainly of commercial use.
Seed or fruit of the plant are three sided and smooth. They are rich in starch and fiber. Seeds are not true cereals (pseudocereal seeds) but can be used in same manner. Buckwheat groats (hulled / husked buckwheat seeds) are used to make porridge by boiling with water. Seeds are used all over world in different ways. In Japan, it is consumed as noddle, Soba. In China it is used to make vinegar. In Russia the groats and flour are used to make porridge and soup. In Europe and North America buckwheat flour is generally mixed with wheat flour to prepare pancakes, biscuits and noodles.
Buckwheat is excellent source of Rutin. It is the only known pseudo cereal to contain rutin in its seeds. From 100 grams of buckwheat seeds approximately 0.48mg to 4.97mg Rutin is obtained. Rutin is bioflavonoid and vitamin. It is used in prevention and treatment of variety of diseases including piles, hemorrhage, heart diseases, varicose veins, bruises on skin, allergy etc. Rutin is antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, β-amyloid oligomer-reducing, antimicrobial, antifungal, neuroprotective and anti-allergic. It is available in market as dietary supplement in form of tablets (Rutin 500 mg tablets).
Buckwheat seeds are ground to make a flour known as Buckwheat flour which can be used as ordinary flour to make noodles, bread, pancakes, biscuits, and cakes. In India, it is commonly known as Kuttu Ka Atta and used to make various dishes eaten during fasts such as Navratri when intake of cereals, is prohibited. The flour is used to make Poori, Pakora, and other items. In Hilly regions, the leaves are cooked as Sag.
Buckwheat can be used as healthy, nutritive alternative to other cereals. It is gluten free. Though it is not as nutritive as wheat. It contains eight essential amino acids, including lysine. The protein of buckwheat is of excellent quality. It is good source of manganese, copper, Magnesium, phosphorus and dietary fiber.
In Ayurveda, Buckwheat is known as Kutu. It considered hot in potency. It increases Pitta/bile and Vata/wind but reduces Kapha/phlegm. Its intake should be restricted in person suffering from disorders due to Vata and Pitta aggravation. Buckwheat should be included in Kapha Pacifying Diet.
Buckwheat is not a variety of wheat. It is not related to wheat but to Rhubarb, Sorrel, Dock and other plants of polygonaceae. It is a fruit seed and not a cereal. It grows on an herbaceous plant and the seeds are used as a food.
Buckwheat plant is a hardy plant. It can grow to a height of one to three feet. It has short taproot and fine lateral roots. The plant is erect with single main stem. Stem is hollow, sub-cylindrical, delicate, juicy, grooved, succulent and smooth except at the nodes. As stems are hollow and therefore are subject to breakage by high winds and hails. Stems and branches are green to red initally and turn reddish brown at maturity.
Leaves of plant are halberd shaped. They are petiolate, blades are ovate-triangular to triangular, 2-8 cm long, with acuminate tips, bases are cordate or approximately hastate. Upper leaves are smaller and sessile.
Inflorescences are terminal and auxiliary, branch in dense corymbose or paniculate cyme. Flowers are perfect but incomplete as they do not have petals. The calyx is composed of five petal-like sepals that are usually white, pink or dark pink.
Buckwheat is dimorphic, having plants bearing one of two flower types. The pin flowers have long pistils and short stamens while the thrum flowers have short pistils and long stamens.
Fruit or seed is a triangular nut, approximately 0.5 cm long with keeled edges. The colour can vary from silvery-grey to brown or black.
The main producer countries of common buckwheat are The Russian Federation, China, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. In India, it is mainly cultivated in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, North east and few areas in Tamil Nadu.
Buckwheat is a quick growing crop. It grows on the worst and poorest soils. It prefers a moist cool climate and a well-drained sand soil. It is a plant of temperate region. In Northern India, Buckwheat is usually a rainy season crop. It is sown in July and harvested in October. In Nilgiris, it is generally sown in April and harvested in August.
The botanical name of Kuttu / Buckwheat is Fagopyrum esculentum. It belongs to plant family Polygonaceae.
Polygonaceae is a family of herbs, shrubs and small trees. There are about 50 genera and 1120 species in this family mainly found in temperate regions. Polygonum bistorta (Adderwort, Patient Dock, Snakeweed), Rheum palmatum (Rhubarb, Turkey), Rumex aquaticus (Water Dock), Polygonum barbatum (Ola), Polygonum chinense, Polygonum pulchrum (Swastika, Sunnysanna) are few other important medicinal plant belonging to this family.
Polygonaceae is generally referred to as the buckwheat, rhubarb or sorrel family. In the buckwheat family, the content of oxalic acid in leaves is almost twice as great as the content in the stalk.
Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.
- Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
- Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
- Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
- Subclass: Caryophyllidae
- Order: Polygonales
- Family: Polygonaceae – Buckwheat family
- Genus: Fagopyrum Mill. – buckwheat
- Species: Fagopyrum esculentum Moench – buckwheat
- Fagopyrum saggittatum Gilib
- Fagopyrum vulgare Hill
- Fagopyrum fagopyrum (L.) Karst., nom. inval.
- Polygonum fagopyrum L.
Part(s) used: Seeds
Plant type: Herb
Origin: Native to central and northern Asia
Distribution: In India, it is grown in hilly regions of North India and the Nilgiris. It is distributed throughout the world in China, Europe, United States, Canada, and France, Russia and Poland.
Habitat: Temperate regions (temperatures in Temperate region are generally relatively moderate, rather than extremely hot or cold, and the changes between summer and winter are also usually moderate)
Main producers: China, Russian Federation, Ukraine and Kazakhstan
Flowering and fruiting: July to September-October
Vernacular names / Synonyms
- Scientific name: Fagopyrum esculentum
- Ayurvedic: Kotu
- Folk: Kutu, Phapar
- India: Doron, Kadda Godhi, Kaiyuk, Akli Indrayan, Kathu, Kotu, Kuttu, Ogal (Kumaon), Oggal, Ogla, Olgo, Phapar, Suel, Tyat
- Hindi: Kaspat
- Maharashtra: Kutu
- English: Buckwheat, Common Buckwheat
- China: Qiao mai, Chiao mai, Wu Mai, Hua Chiao
- Japan: Soba, Buckwheat noddles
- Tibetan: Rgya bra
- Russia: Grechevnaya, groats, Krupa
Composition of buckwheat (per 100 g) compared with other food grains (Source: USDA Composition of Food Agricultural Handbook No. 8.)
|Sr.No||Name of food grain||Energy Calories||Protein grams||Fat grams||Total Carbohydrate grams||Calcium (mg)||Iron (mg)||Phosphorus (mg)|
|5||Whole wheat flour||333||13.3||2.0||71.0||41||10.5||372|
Average mineral and vitamin contents of Buckwheat
Health Benefits of Buckwheat Flour or Kuttu Ka Atta
Buckwheat is a pseudocereal. It is not a cereal grain but can be used to make bread, poori, porridge and cakes. Buckwheat is fruit seed. The nutritional value of buckwheat is comparable to wheat. It contains protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber and minerals. Starch is the major component.
Dark buckwheat flour contains more hull and so it has more protein content compared to light buckwheat flour. Buckwheat flour should be stored in refrigerator and should be used within 2-3 months.
- It can be used as alternative to wheat.
- It is gluten free, the sticky protein found in wheat and other grains. It can be safely eaten by people with celiac disease.
- It contains very high quality protein containing all 8 essential amino acids.
- It contains thiamin B1 and riboflavin B2, the water soluble B complex vitamins.
- It is good source of manganese, copper, magnesium and phosphorus.
- It lowers the risk of developing diabetes.
- It helps in the management of diabetes.
- It is rich in insoluble fiber.
- It is low in glycemic index (the relative ability of a carbohydrate food to increase the level of glucose in the blood). Low glycemic index or GI implies, there is slower rise in blood sugar level on consumption of particular food. Diabetes are recommended to take lo GI foods.
- It maintains blood flow.
- It lowers the risk of developing cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- It reduces low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL).
- It is rich in flavonoids, particularly Rutin. Bioflavonoids Rutin a potent antioxidants, is a useful element to improve the elasticity of the veins and helps in varicose veins.
- It is excellent for heart health.
It rich source of magnesium, an essential mineral required as a cofactor for many enzyme systems. Magnesium performs a number of critical functions in the body, such as energy production by activating ATP, for working of enzymes that break down glucose (blood sugar), production of cholesterol, breaking of fat, supporting bone health, helping muscles contract and relax, assisting in nerve function, and keeping heart rhythm steady and strong. Magnesium plays a multifunctional role in cell metabolism. Deficiency of Magnesium leads to cardiovascular, skeletal, gastrointestinal and central nervous system disorders. Intake of 100 grams of cooked buckwheat provides approximately 21% of daily required magnesium.
It is warming and aid digestion.
Other Uses of Buckwheat Plant
Buckwheat flowers attracts Honey bee and the honey produced using nectar of its flower is dark in colour and strongly flavored.
Buckwheat leaves locally known as Phafru in hilly regions of Himalaya. They are cooked as Sag. First the leaves are washed, chopped and boiled by adding salt. After boiling it grind to make paste. mustard oil is heated in a pan. Tadaka of coriander seeds and red chilies are added to the heated oil and then paste of buckwheat leaves is added. This is cooked for few minutes and then served with Roti.
- The leaves were used for high blood pressure, chilblains, and frostbite.
- For anemia, constipation the Leaves are cooked in iron vessel and given.
- Juice of plant is used in urinary disorders.
- In headaches, leaves paste is applied.
- For gastrointestinal disorders, infusion or decoction of leaves is given.
- The dried leaves are given for constipation.
- The leaves are fried in ghee and taken in fever.
- The roots decoction of plant is used for rheumatism, lung diseases and typhoid.
- For Urinary disorders roots juice is given.
- The flowers and green leaves are used for rutin extraction for use in medicine.
Homeopathic remedy, FAGOPYRUM is made using whole plant. The aerial parts are picked after flowering and before the fruits ripen, then chopped and macerated in alcohol. It is generaly used for eczema and itching skin, possibly on the genitals, scalp, eyelids, and ears, or in the folds of the skin of infants and the elderly, Heart complaints associated with visibly pulsing arteries, either with or without concurrent skin conditions.
Buckwheat hulls are used for pillow filling.
Contraindications, Interactions, and Side Effects (Buckwheat)
- It is very heating and drying. Hence should be used with caution in people with Pitta and Vata Dosha.
- It increases Vata and Pitta.
- It is hot in potency.
- It may increase heat in body.
- It may produce harmful effects under certain conditions due to which this plant is considered poisonous.
- Buckwheat grains and leaves produce primary photosensitization in pigs, horses, cattle, goats, sheep and other animals, but not in human.
- Human can sensitized to dust from Buckwheat flour only after long exposure. asthma like condition occur.
- Photosensitization is an increase in susceptibility to ultraviolet light. There is abnormally heightened reactivity of the skin or eyes to sunlight. Sensitization of the skin to light, usually due to the action of plant may occur shortly after administration of the drug (phototoxic sensitivity), or may occur only after a latent period of from days to months (photo allergic sensitivity, or photo allergy).
Exposure to sun is necessary for toxic reaction.
The phototoxic reactions occur when a drug absorbs ultraviolet radiation from the sun and a sunburn like response occurs in a short period of time. Within hours there is a burning sensation of the exposed skin, followed by redness and swelling. Within a day or two the skin becomes heavily pigmented and begins to peel, a severe reaction can cause scarring.