Functional Food

Agathi Keerai

Sesbania grandiflora or Humming bird tree

Living in a temple town like Chennai, a common practise that I noticed was feeding cows with a special spinach variety called Agathi Keerai (Tamil) or August Tree or Humming Bird tree leaf. Soon upon enquiry, I found that it is beneficial to consume it at least twice or thrice a month.  When I cooked it at home recently,  it was a bit bitter in taste but not all that bad. However, my family definitely did not appreciate being fed animal feed!

This article is an attempt to present the functional benefits of Agathi keerai, so many of you look forward to including it in your meal plan, especially to boost your immunity.

Sesbania grandiflora, commonly known as Agathi keerai in Tamil, is called Humming bird or August tree in English. It is native to South and South East Asian countries, including India, Indonesia and Thailand. Being a part of the legume family, some species is also found in Africa and Australia (1).

All parts of the plant including flowers, leaves and roots have functional benefits. With high amount of protein, fibre, minerals such as calcium and potassium, micro nutrients such as Iron and Zinc and vitamins such as vitamin A, C and B9, it is a nutrient rich choice of animal feed (2). 

Since time immemorial, it has been used as a medicinal herb both by Ayurveda and Siddha medical practitioners. Many benefits have been stated in Ayurveda that range from curing diaarhoea, acidity, stomach ulcers, boost immunity and develop bone health (3).  One can include Agathi into their diet either as traditional Indian food preparations or incorporate it in enriched bread as a leaf powder (4).

Due to the presence of functional alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, tannin, diterpenes, triterpenoids, glycosides and phenols within the leaves, it has been studied to treat diabetes mellitus as an anti-hyperglycemic drug in the nutraceutical industry (5).

In a recent research study, the leaf extract of Agathi leaves was used successfully to encapsulate silver nano particles, as part of green nanotechnology to create novel biodegradable material that could be used in medical applications. These phytochemical encapsulated nanoparticles were effective in killing Gram positive bacteria and proved to be a better antibiotic than bare silver nanoparticles. The phytochemicals from Agathi leaves could directly or indirectly be responsible for killing the bacteria (6).

In summary I would like to conclude that Agathi Keerai is not just for cows, but an excellent functional food for humans too! A huge opportunity for food manufacturers to invest in crops such as these for domestic and international consumption either as a functional food or a neutraceutical product.


  4. Aruna M., Sumana A., Functional quality, sensorial and shelf life characteristics of Agathi (Sesbania grandiflora (L).Poir leaves enriched breads. Functional Foods in Health and Disease 2017; 7(6); 429-441.
  5. Jiraungkoorskul, K., and W. Jiraungkoorskul. “SESBANIA GRANDIFLORA: NEW NUTRACEUTICAL USE AS ANTIDIABETIC”. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vol. 7, no. 7, May 2015, pp. 26-29,
  6. Mallikarjuna K., et al. Phyto-synthesis and antibacterial studies of bio-based silver nanoparticles using Sesbania grandiflora (Avisa) leaf tea extract Indian Research Journal of Pharmacy and Science; 17(2018)1439-1448;Journal Home Page: DOI: 10.21276/irjps.2018.5.2.6

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.