Archive | April 29, 2011

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Fava Beans (Vicia faba)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Fava Beans (Vicia faba)

By Hwaa Irfan

Fava Beans are an ancient food that is commonly eaten for breakfast in China, Ethiopia, the Middle East, and North Africa, is a food for the soil, and increasingly in industrialized countries is used as a feed for horses, and poultry.  Known as Ful medames in the Middle East, and North Africa, Fava beans are an ancient food that was eaten by the Pharaoahs. Today, it is stewed with onions and spices to add a rich flavor to any meal, and even as a part of a take-away.

Fava Beans, Broad Beans, Windsor Beans, Bell Beans, or Field Beans, is a member of the family of the plant kingdom, Fabaceae. Native to North Africa, and Southwest Asia Fava Beans have become naturalized elsewhere.

Vicia faba is an annual herbaceous plant with thick tap roots that form secondary roots. It can grow as high as 6 feet. from which thin hollow upright stems appears unlike most legumes, which have tendrils that would attached itself to something stable in order to remain secure. Bearing beautifully delicate clusters the small white-purple flowers appear out of the axils of the leaves to be pollinated by bees. From the flowers up to 4 bean pods will grow holding up to 12 broad flat beans/seeds. Fava beans grow well if they are planted in the winter, requiring a cold season, loamy soil (though tolerant of a wide variety of soil types), and require moderate amount of water.

Unfortunately, because the Fava bean can transfer up 150 pounds of nitrogen from the air to the soil, eyes are on the fava as biomass for biofuel, and other products of biotechnology. Cultivated in the U.S., it would make a good food alternative for those who cannot afford meat or milk, and for those who are fearful of the genetically modified/cloned meat. In the city of Kashan, Iran they are known for their high quality Fava beans. The main cultivating countries are Central and East Asia, China (produces 60% of the global supply), Ethiopia, Europe, Latin and North America, and the Nile Valley

Chemical Properties

  • Arginine
  • Cystine
  • Genistein
  • Haemagglutinins/lectins (destroyed when cooked)
  • Legumin
  • Levadopa
  • Methionine
  • Raffinose *
  • Stachyose*
  • Threonine
  • Verbascose*

Levadopa has been explored as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease, as it is a precursor to dopamine, a chemical used in the brain to facilitate both motor and cognitive function. When absorbed by the blood, levadopa converts into dopamine.

* These are oligosaccharides that can lead to a form of anemia by eating undercooked/raw beans. Or from inhaling pollen from the Fava bean. They convert to methane in the stomach causing discomfort and abdominal pains.  The condition is known as Favism and occurs mostly in those who lack the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), which is an inherited condition. This condition mainly occurs in males of Mediterranean, African, and S.E. Asian descent. This condition also has its benefits, which as a defence against malaria. The process of soaking the beans (changing the water several times before cooking) reduces the level of oligosaccharides, which is reduced further by adding fenugreek, cumin, and coriander for example.

A research team at University of Alabama at Birmingham identified the anticancerous properties of the bioactive isoflavone Genistein. Genistein prevents the progress of cancers of the brain, breast, cervix, colon and the prostrate by preventing cell growth, DNA mutation, angiogenesis (the ability to grow blood vessels), and prevents cell death of normal cells.

Nutritional Content

  • b-carotene
  • Choline
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Lysine
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Riboflavin
  • Thiamine
  • Trytophan
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Zinc


Fava beans make a good substitute for meat, and skimmed milk. The large beans are used as vegetables, and in India, are roasted and eaten like peanuts, and the straw from the plant is a cash crop in Egypt, and Sudan, and used to make bricks and as fuel in parts of Ethiopia, and Sudan.

In China, and Colombia, Fava beans are fried, which splits the skin, then the beans are salted/spiced and and make a  savoury , which in Peru is known as habas saladas. In the Sichuan cuisine of China, Fava beans are mixed with soybeans, and chilli pepper to make a fermented sauce known as doubanjiang.

In balance He gave us everything we needed, but as for what we want!


“Fava Beans.”

Meeran, S. Et al. “Epigenetic Targets of Bioactive Dietary Components for Cancer Prevention and Therapy.”

Muehlbauer, F.J. and Tullu, A. “Vicia faba L.”


Allah’s Medicine Chest: Lemons

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Garlic

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Oranges

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Almonds

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Shea Butter

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Strawberries (Fragaria vesca)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Dates (Phoenix dactylifera)

<a title=”Allah’s Medicine Chest:
 (Cucurbita Pepo)” href=”../2010/09/14/allah%e2%80%99s-medicine-chest-pumpkin-cucurbita-pepo/”>Allah’s Medicine Chest: Pumpkin (Cucurbita Pepo)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Figs (Ficus Carica)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Pomegranate (Punica Granatum)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Acai Berries (Euterpe oleracea)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Beetroot (Beta vulgaris)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Tomatoes

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)