Arrowroot is a gluten free starch obtained from the rhizomes of several tropical plants, traditionally Maranta arundinacea, but also from Zamia integrifolia and tapioca from cassava (Manihot esculenta).
Maranta arundinacea is a herbaceous perennial, native to western Brazil and Guyana, presently cultivated throughout the Southeast Asia, West Indies, Australia and South Africa.
It was very popular in the Victorian era and Napoleon apparently said the reason for the British love of Maranta arundinacea was to support the commerce of their colonies.
In cookery, it is used as a thickener in soups, sauces, biscuits, jellies, puddings and desserts. When boiled in water, it yields a odorless, transparent, pleasant-tasting jelly. Its fine texture allows cooking at lower temperatures and for shorter periods than other starches. Some recipes for vegan omelets use flour, starch or xanthan gum to give the batter structure and help the omelet hold together.
Further, the powder is commonly used in lotions and moisturizers as it has great moisture-absorbing qualities. It softens the skin and is used to help heal rashes and wounds. It is even used in some regions to draw out the poison when one is bitten by a spider or a scorpion.
Health benefits of arrowroot powder
Digestion – it aids digestion and regulates the bowel movement. Its high starch content acts as a mild laxative for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. IBS affects about twice as many women than men and is most usual found in people younger than 45 years of age. IBS symptoms include gas, pain, cramping or bloating, and constipation.
Diarrhea – this powder is also used as an effective remedy for diarrhea and a lot of other gastrointestinal ailments. It can relieve nausea and replace important nutrients that are lost due to diarrhea and vomiting. A 2000 study determined the efficacy of the powder to reduce constipation and diarrhea. Not only does it greatly reduce occurrences of diarrhea and minimizes abdominal pain, but is very effective in reducing daytime bowel frequency by the end of the treatment period. This change is maintained up to one month after ending treatment. (1)
Boosts immune system – the extracts of arrowroot powder also exhibit cytotoxic activities that help in building immunity. This signifies that the powder extract boosts the production of cells within the immune system. Another reason might be that the plant might contain resistant starch acting as dietary fibers that could stimulate the immune system. A 2012 study revealed that the tuber extracts have immunostimulatory effects in vitro, as well as in vivo. (2)
Benefits for pregnant women – the powder is a good source of folic acid. A 100-gram serving provides about 84 percent of the daily recommended dietary requirement of folic acid. Folic acid is also essential for the repair, production and functioning of DNA, our genetic map and a basic building block of cells. CDC reports that women who take the recommended daily dose of folate starting at least one month before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy reduce their baby’s risk of neural tube defects by 50% to 70%.
Baby food – it has been used as an infant formula, a substitute for breast milk, or to help the baby adjust after weaning. A jelly made from the powder is generally preferred by recently weaned infants to infant cereal or other farinaceous foods. Compared to other starches, the root is considered to be the easiest to digest and is gluten free. For its use in infant formula, boil approximately one tablespoon of powder in a pint of water. The resultant jelly can be seasoned in any way desired. If you are considering using this powder for an infant formula, consult the child’s pediatrician first and monitor closely for allergic reactions.
Weight loss – this root is extremely low in calories (just 65 calories per serving) and fat free. That means you can easily substitute it for more caloric flours and thickeners to save on calories and more easily lose weight. It’s also very filling, thanks to its very high fiber content. Study after study shows that not only do high fiber foods help lower your risk of heart attack, cancer and high blood pressure, but it also keeps you full and helps you cut calories you consume every day. If you’d like to increase your dietary fiber intake, either in an effort to manage your weight or improve overall health, I strongly recommend targeting at least 25 grams from whole food sources.
Side effects of arrowroot powder
It is considered safe for consumption in food amounts. In medicinal amounts, when applied topically and taken internally, the herb is considered safe. In optimum amount, Maranta arundinacea is considered safe for use during breastfeeding and pregnancy. The plant might interact with anti-diarrheal drugs and laxative medications.