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Modern use – Grieve states that when bruised and boiled with garlic, beans can cure otherwise intransigent coughs. Duke says they can be used for acne, bladder problems, burns, diabetes, diarrhoea, diuresis, dysentery, eczema, hiccups, itch, rheumatism, sciatica and tenesmus.
Traditional uses – The plant has been grown since ancient times. As nunas, they were reputed to be known 11.000 years ago. They have been found in tombs in Peru dated c800B.C. Their primary purpose was and is as a protein provision in diet. An exception to this was the Ancient Egyptians who, because of the seed’s resemblance to the male testicle, forbade its use as food.
The culinary uses of beans cover an enormous range, and in some cultures is the primary source of protein.
Culpeper says “-they move the belly, provoke urine, enlarge the breast that is straitened with shortness of breath, engender sperm, and incite to venery.” Appropriately, he goes on,” They belong to Dame Venus.”
“A Dram of the powder taken in white wine, prevents the stone, or will cleanse the kidneys of gravel or stoppage.”
Skinner, however, believed they “begat insanity and led to nightmares.”
The Papago bit the plant and held it between the teeth for toothache. The Havusapai, the Cocopa, and Sia cultivated them extensively as foodstuff. The Koshirai made them into a flour for ceremonial purposes.
North Americans often used them as trade goods
Botanical Uses– Primarily as a source of protein, especially in vegetarian diets where high protein content is necessary.
In some parts of the tropics, leaves are used as a pot-herb. In Java, young leaves are eaten as a salad. After the beans are harvested, the straw is used as fodder.