Pandan (Pandanus) is an aromatic plant prized for its sweet floral fragrance and versatility. Its spiky leaves grow in fan-shaped bunches and thrive in tropical climates. Certain varieties also bear fruits that look somewhat like red-orange pinecones.
Pandan is used widely in South and Southeast Asian cuisines, though Western interest in the plant is growing due to its purported health benefits and culinary properties.
Pandan, also known as screwpine, is a tropical plant prized mostly for its long, blade-like leaves. It’s a popular ingredient in many Sri Lankan, Thai, and other South Asian dishes.
You can find pandan locally or in specialty markets worldwide. Its leaves are sold either frozen or fresh and measure about 12–20 inches (30–51 cm) depending on the variety.
Over 600 species exist, though not all leaves are edible — it depends on the subtype. All can be used in extracts or infusions or steamed into rice dishes for aroma.
Certain species, such as those that grow in India (Pandan odoratissimus) and the Philippines (Pandan tectorius), produce edible fruits that look like large, red-orange pinecones.
Pandan products and uses
Pandan fruit and leaves have a broad range of culinary uses. The leaves are often boiled, juiced, or used to wrap and flavor meats, while the fruit can be eaten raw or made into marmalade. Pandan fruit is also boiled and ground into an edible, highly nutritious paste that’s a staple food in a few parts of the world.
Pandan leaves are commonly pulverized to produce an emerald-green extract. The more mature the leaf, the darker the hue and the deeper the flavor. Furthermore, pandan leaf powder is used to flavor both savory and sweet dishes. Its taste is described as grassy vanilla with a hint of coconut.
What’s more, pandan has long been utilized in Ayurvedic medicine to treat constipation, boils, and cold- or flu-like symptoms.
Pandan is a tropical plant prized for its fragrant, pointy leaves. Some varieties produce edible, pinecone-shaped fruits. The leaves have long been used in non-Western medicine and are sold whole or as an extract or powder.
Potential health benefits of pandan
While there isn’t much scientific research on pandan’s health benefits, its leaves, fruit, flowers, roots, and oil have long been used in non-Western traditional medicine.
May reduce arthritis pain
Arthritis affects millions of people worldwide and is characterized by joint pain or stiffness. In Ayurvedic medicine, coconut oil infused with pandan leaves is applied topically to relieve arthritis aches. Its effects are thought to stem from the oil found in its leaves, which may have anti-inflammatory effects.
May help manage blood sugar
Pandan may help manage your blood sugar levels. One study gave 30 healthy adults hot tea made from Pandanus amaryllifolius leaves following a standard oral (75-gram) blood sugar test. Those who drank the tea recovered better from the blood sugar test than those who drank hot water.
May boost oral health
Chewing on pandan leaves may freshen your breath due to their pleasant aroma. Some non-Western medicinal practices also use this technique to stop bleeding gums. However, this effect needs to be studied more formally.
Pandan has not been thoroughly studied, so many of its health benefits are anecdotal. Its traditional applications include joint pain relief and blood sugar management.
Pandan is a versatile plant with a variety of culinary and medicinal applications across South and Southeast Asia. It may help lower your blood sugar and relieve arthritis pain, though more research is needed.
Its fruit and fragrant, pointy leaves are widely eaten and used in numerous dishes, lending a distinctive color and vanilla-like floral notes.
If it isn’t commonly grown or sold fresh in your area, look for powder, extract, or frozen pandan leaves.
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