Family • Fabaceae / Leguminosae - Vigna unguiculata (Linn.) Walp. - COWPEA

Scientific names

Vigna unguiculata (Linn.) Walp.
Phaseolus unguiculatus (L.) Piper
Dolichos unguiculata (L.)

Common names

Paayap (Tag.)
Sitaw-turo (Tag.)
Cowpea (Engl.)
Blackeyed pea (Engl.)
Field pea (Engl.)
Yardlong bean (Engl.)

Other vernacular names

MALAGASY: Lozy, Mahalaindolo, Voahimba, Voanemba, Voatsirokonangatra.
PORTUGUESE: Feijão de Corda (Brazil).
RUSSIAN: Vigna konoplevidnaia.
SINHALESE: Li me, Me karal, Mil me, Wanduru me.
SPANISH: Caupí (Latin America), Cumandá Bolivia, Paraguay), Chiclayo (Peru), Frijol (Venezuela), Frijol camba (Bolivia), Frijol castilla (Peru), Frijol de costa (Central America), Frijol de vaca, Frijol de vara (Nicaragua), Tumbe (Ecuador).

Paayap is an leguminous herbaceous annual with twining stems. Upright stems are hollow and hairless, about 1 centimeter wide. Leaves are trifoliate, 2.5 to 12.5 centimeters long. Two lateral leaves are asymmetrical. Central leaflet is hastate, symmetrical, smooth, with the lateral surfaces irregular. Flowers are in axillary racemes on stalks 15 to 30 centimeters long. Pods are pendulous, smooth, 10 to 22 centimeters long with a thick decurved beak and 10- to 15-seeded. Seeds are 4 to 8 millimeters long, 3 to 4 millimeters wide, variable in size and color.


– Cultivated.
– Native to East Asia.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1)  Studies on the Chemical Constituents of the Seeds of Vigna unguiculata (Linn.) / Thesis / Mushtaq Noorwala

(2) Structurally dissimilar proteins with antiviral and antifungal potency from cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) seeds./ Ye XY, Wang HX, Ng TB. / Life Sci. 2000 Nov 17;67(26):3199-207 /

(3) Effects of cowpea (Vigna Unguiculata) feeding on the pancreatic exocrine secretion of pigs / Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition / Volume 82 Issue 2-3, Pages 57 – 65

(4) Medicinal plants of the world: chemical constituents, traditional and modern / Ivan A. Ross

(5) Comparative Germination Studies of Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata Linn. Walp) and Soy bean (Glycine max Linn. Merr) on Whole and Water Saturated Fractions of Hydrocarbon (Hexane) / *Ogbemudia, F. O., Denise, E. M., Ogie-Odia E.A. and Omonhinmin, A. C. / Annals of Biological Research, 2010, 1 (4) : 34-40


(7) Antisickling potential of the ethanol seed extracts of Vigna unguiculata and Vigna subterranean / Egba I. Simeone, Emmanuel N. Tufon*, Ogugua N. Victor and Ndohnui N. Noel / International Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology ISSN: 2169-3048 Vol. 1 (9), pp. 226-229, December, 2012.

(8) Vigna unguiculata modulates cholesterol induced cardiac markers, genotoxicity and gene expressions profile in an experimental rabbit model / P. A. Janeesh and Annie Abraham* / Food & Function Issue 4, 2013

(9) Sorting Vigna names / /Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1995 – 2020 / A Work in Progress. School of Agriculture and Food Systems. Faculty of Land & Food Resources. The University of Melbourne. Australia.

• Study on chemical constituents isolated one new saponin, vignalin, the aglycone part of which belongs to the oleanane series of triterpenoids identified as soyasapogenol B. Besides saponin, cycloartenol, stigmasterol and oleanolic acid acetate and sitosterol ß-D-glycoside were isolated for the first time.
• Study of dried edible seeds of V. unguiculata were: moisture, 6.20-8.92%; protein, 20.5-31.7%; fat 1.14-3.03%; fiver 1.70-4.5%; carbohydrate 56-65.7%, with varying amounts of cyanide, tannin, total oxalate and phytate.

• Study suggest antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory properties.

Parts utilized 
Roots, leaves, seeds.

Culinary / Nutrition
– Young leaves, pods and pea are edible.
Consumed as vegetable
– Gabi-Paayap Instant Baby Food: A nutritious baby food from a blend of gabi powder, roasted paayap grits processed by extrusion cooking, with a 100-gram pack providing 394 kcal and 19.4 g protein. source
– Kamote-Paayap Weaning / Baby Food: A rootcrop-legume combo of dried kamote cubes and paayap girts containing 376 kcal and 12.5 g of protein per 100 g.
– Rice-Paayap Sesame Powder: A blend of 3/4 cup of roasted rice flour and two tablespoons each of roasted paayap flour and roasted sesame flour, provides 424 Kcal and 14 grams protein per 100 grams.source
– In Nigeria, roots are eaten and scorched seeds are occasionally used as coffee substitute. Nigeria is reputed to be the highest producer of cowpea in the world.

– No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
– In Africa, the seeds of V. unguiculata are cook with T. sericea as a soup against schistosomiasis.
In other folkloric medicinal systems, various parts of the cowpea plants (roots, leaves, and seeds) are used for a variety of medical ailments including dysmenorrhea, epilepsy, headaches, constipation, chest pains and bilharzia.
– In Nigerian folk medicine used to inhibit sickling and management of sickle cell disease and other manifestations.

– Forage: Can be used as forage, hay, and silage. As silage, mixed with sorghum, maize, or molasses.

• Report on Flatulence and Abdominal Discomfort on Ingestion: 1989 report on abdominal discomfort associated with ingestion of cowpea and the decreased incidence of side effects with pressure cooking and dehulling.
• Antifungal / Antiviral: Study presents evidence of multiple proteins with antifungal and antiviral potency in cowpea seeds. The two proteins, designated alpha-antifungal and beta-antifungal, were capable of inhibiting HIV reverse transcriptase and one glycohydrolases associated with HIV infection. The proteins also retarded the mycelial growth of a variety of fungi, with the alpha-protein more potent in most cases.
• Protein Source/ Anti-Nutrient Factors : Study suggests cowpea as a valuable protein source with the predicted protein deficit in Southern Africa. Unlike other legumes, VU contain antinutritional factors (ANF) as trypsin inhibitors, tannins and phytates.
• Anti-Inflammatory: Study on the anti – inflammatory activity of Vigna unguiculata seed extract..
• Anti-Bleeding: Rats on boiled white rice diet developed symptoms of severe vitamin K deficiency and the addition of autoclaved beans of V. unguiculata in the diet prevented the bleeding syndrome.
• Antifungal / Antibacterial: Results have indicated antifungal and some antibacterial activity by cowpea leaf extracts.
• Lipids / Constituents: Dried edible seeds of V unguiculata and P vulgaris grown in Northern Nigeria were studied for its chemical constituents. Iodine values were higher in vigna. Overall, potassium was the most abundant element in the seeds.16 amino acids were identified. Study highlights the safety and high nutritive values of the studied varieties.
• Seed Oil Constituents: Study of seed oil constituents from 4 cultivars showed the oil content range from 2.71-2.96% with triglycerides the highest amount. Among sterols, stigmasterol was highest, followed by ß-sitosterol and campesterol. Among tocopherols, α-tocopherol was highest, and ß-tocopherol the lowest.
• Antioxidant / Antimicrobial: Callus culture of V. unguiculata showed to be a potential source of flavonoids and phenolics, and an antimicrobial agent.
• Antisickling Potential / Seeds: Study evaluated the anti-sickling potential of ethanol seed extracts of Vigna unguiculata and V. subterranean. Results showed both extracts showed antisickling effect suggesting potential benefit in the management of sickle cell disease.
• Cardioprotective: Study evaluated the cardioprotective effect of VU in cholesterol fed rabbits. Results showed a cardioprotective nature in preventing cardioprotective diseases. The effect was attributed to the presence of antioxidants and antihyperlipidemic properties of the flavonoid fraction of leaves.