An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


Soybean - Glycine max (Glycine soja) - family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae) (Mimosaceae) (Pea Family) (Pulse Family) (Mimosa Family).

This bushy hairy annual plant grows to about six feet high. It has three-part leaves with oval-shaped leaflets and produces small pea-like flowers that range in color from white to purple. These flowers are followed by flat pods which contain the edible beans (seeds). It has been cultivated in Asia for at least five thousand years. Its edible beans are widely used as a food source in Asia and in North America. It is the source of soybean oil, which is widely used in the manufacturing of margarine. The beans are also used in a sprouted form. The beans are fermented into a sort of paste called Miso. It is also fermented into a bean curd, which is called Tofu. Soybeans are used in the manufacture of soy sauce, a traditional flavoring for rice, noodle and meat dishes. Soybeans are a source of Soya Lecithin, which is used as a nutritional supplement and may be of some value in gall bladder problems and minimizing gall stone attacks. Lecithin is also used as a modern American folk remedy for acne, alcoholism, liver problems, memory loss and multiple sclerosis. The German Commission E has approved lecithin as a remedy for elevated cholesterol levels. Modern American folk use of soybeans for general cardiovascular health and for the prevention of heart problems and cancer. Soybeans are also the source of soy isoflavones, which are compounds that are used in Japanese (Kampo) medical treatment of certain cancers. These isoflavones include daidzein and genistein. Genistein in particular, acts as a mimic of the hormone estrogen. Modern European and American folk use of these soy isoflavones as remedies for relief of pre-menstrual syndrome symptoms, diabetic retinopathy, prostate problems, psoriasis, some symptoms of menopause and for immune system support. Traditional Asian folk use of Soybeans as a circulatory stimulant, for fevers, for insomnia and as a treatment for food poisoning. Soybeans may have value for diabetics, as their high fiber content may help slow down the absorption of sugars, and thus may contribute to a lower blood glucose levels. Note: do not use soy isoflavones if pregnant or nursing. Note: possible side effects of consuming lecithin include diarrhea, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Note: it has been reported that an excess of Soybean in the diet may lead to such symptoms as blurred vision, exhaustion and insomnia [Sevrens]. Native to eastern Asia. Cultivated as a food crop in North America. Many cultivars exist.


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Web page last updated on 22 May 2003.