Arrowroot – proven health benefits, uses


The scientific name of the Arrowroot is Maranta arundinacea Linn. It is also known as Maranta, Obedience  plant and Araro.

Other names include

CHINESE: Zhu yu.
DANISH: Salepmaranta.
DUTCH: Pijlwortel, Salepwortel.
FRENCH: Arrowroot des Antilles, Dictame (Antilles), Herbe aux flèches, Maranta arundinacée.
GERMAN: Pfeilwurz.
HINDI: Tikhor, Tikkor.
JAPANESE: Kuzuukon, Maranta.
MALAY: Garut, Ubi bemban, Ubi garut, Yaitu garut (Indonesia).
PORTUGUESE: Agutiguepa, Araruta-comum, Araruta-especial, Araruta- palmeira, Aru-aru.
RUSSIAN: Maranta trostnikovaia, Maranty trostnikovoi.
SANSKRIT: Tavaksiri, Tugaksiri.
SPANISH: Ararú, Araruta, Caña flecha, Chuchute tamalera, Guape, Guate, Jamachipeke, Jamaichepeque, Juájuá, Juá-juá, Maranta, Rizoma de maranta, Sagú, Sagú de San Vicente, Saguero, Silú, Sucu, Sulú, Shimipampana, Tacea, Tamalera, Tubérculo de maranta, Yerén, Yuquilla.
TAMIL: Aruruttukkilangu, Kukai niru.

Although “Arrowroot” refers to any plant of the genus Maranta, its popular use is to describe the digestible starch from the rhizomes of the Maranta arundinacea. There is evidence to show arrowroot cultivation 7,000 years ago.

The word may derive from  a corruption of the Aru-root of the Aruac Indians of South America,  Aru-aru. referring to the native Caribbean Arawak people’s “meal of meals” for which the plant is a dietary staple, and Arrowroot’s use for treating poison arrow wounds.

Year-old roots are used; and when good, contain 23% starch. After washing and clearing of paper-like scales, It is beat to a pulp through a wheel rasp. The milky fluid is passed through a coarse cloth or sieve; the resultant pure low-protein mucilaginous starch settles as an insoluble powder that is sun-dried or processed dried power to become the arrow-root of packaged or canned commerce.

Araru is an erect, smooth, dichotomously branched herbaceous perennial plant 1 – 2 meters high, growing from fleshy, fusiform rootstock. Stems are slender. Leaf blades are lanceolate, attenuate-acuminate, 10 to 20 centimeters long, thin petioled, green and rounded at the base. Inflorescence is terminal, lax, divaricate, and few-flowered. Flowers are white, about 2 centimeters long.


– Widely distributed in the world in cultivation for its starch-storing rhizomes.
– Native of tropical America.
– Now pantropic.


– The tuber consists of 27% starch, 63% water, 1.56% albumin, 4.10% sugar, gum, etc., 0.26% fiber and 1.23% ash.

– Plant yields starch (27.17%), fiber, fat, albumen, sugar, gum, ash, and water (62.96%).

– Rhizome skin yields a bitter and resinous substance, removed in peeling in the preparation of arrowroot starch.

– Phytochemical screening of various extracts of rhizomes yielded flavonoids, alkaloids, tannins, glycosides, steroids, phenols, cardiac glycosides, saponins, carbohydrates, and proteins. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis of phytoconstituent rich ethanolic extract of rhizome yielded 49 compounds. (12)

Medicinal Properties of Arrowroot

– The starch is white, odorless, tasteless.

– Starch is considered nutrient, demulcent and emollient.

– Considered stomachic, anti-inflammatory, demulcent, sedative and digestive.

– Studies have suggested antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, antioxidant properties.

Parts utilized

Roots, rhizomes.

Culinary / Nutrition

– Rhizomes are edible, produce the arrowroot starch.

– Highly digestible.

– Used as thickener in making puddings, baked goods, and sauces.

– Boiled and roasted or ground and made into pastries.

– In remote barrios, starch also used for starching clothes.

– Valuable as an easily digested and nutritive and nourishing diet for the convalescing.

– Well suited for infants in the weaning from breast milk.

– A chief ingredient in infant cookies.

Recipe Preparation: Decoction from 2-3 tablespoonfuls of root powder in one liter of water, seasoned with honey, lemon or any variety of fruit juices to taste.

Folkloric traditional medicine uses and remedies

– In the West Indies, roots used for poulticing poisoned and other wounds.

– Mashed roots as plaster applied to areas of insect stings and spider bites.

– Applied to the skin to soothe painful, irritated and inflamed mucous membranes.

– Roots also poulticed for poisoned arrow wounds.

– Starch used as soothing application for various skin problems: erysipelas, sunburn, wasp stings, dermatitis, and gangrene. In the Caribbean, pounded leaves used as teething aid. In Trinidad, used as anti-inflammatory skin poultice. (Duke 1985;Honychurch 1991)

– The fresh juice is used as antidote for vegetable poisons.

– Used to soothe the stomach and as a remedy for diarrhea, probably from its high starch content.

Other uses

– In remote Philippine barrios, starch also used for starching clothes.

– Ancient Mayans and other Central American tribes used it as antidote for poison-tipped arrows.

New uses

– Study suggests beneficial effect in the treatment of diarrhea associated with irritable bowel disease (IBS).

– An ingredient in many natural deodorants.

Scientific proven health benefits and uses of arrowroot

Enterokinase Inhibition:

A study of 22 tubers and 9 pulses screened for inhibitors of enterokinase activity showed Maranta arundinacea as one of 12 tubers with inhibitory activity. M arundinacea also exhibited endogenous esterase activity towards benzoyl arginine ethyl ester. Any factor in food capable of suppressing enterokinase activity would lead to digestive disturbance comparable to enterokinase deficiency.


Study on the effect of boiled and cooled supernatant of arrowroot and water on children during acute diarrhea showed a decrease in cholera toxin-induced net water secretion or reversal to net absorption.

Antimicrobial on Foodborne Pathogens:

Study showed the water extract of Arrowroot tea at 10% greatly inhibited the microbial growth of gram-positive and gram-negative pathogens tested.


Study evaluated an ethanolic extract for antioxidant activity. Results showed high antiradical activity against DPPH, ABTS, hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide radicals. The antioxidant activity was comparable to BTH.


Study evaluated the immunostimulatory effects of arrowroot extracts in vitro using animal culture techniques and in vivo using BALB/c mice. Results showed the arrowroot tuber extracts stimulated IgM and immunoglobulin production in vitro, and in vivo increased serum IgG, IgA, and IgM levels in mice.

Potential Source of Ethanol: Study evaluated Uraro (Arrowroot) for its potential as source of ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Three different treatments of rhizomes and water were used. The percentage purity of the alcohol in all treatments based on 56% purity.

Effect on Survival of Probiotic Bacteria in Yoghurt:

Study evaluated the effect of arrowroot carbohydrates on survival of lactobacilli in bio-yoghurts. Results suggest arrowroot carbohydrates can be used to enhance the Latobacilli population in bio-yoghurt during refrigerated storage.

Antimicrobial / Arrowroot:

Study evaluated the antimicrobial effect of a water extract of M. arundinacea tea on foodborne pathogens in liquid medium. Cocktail of four pathogenic bacteria (E. coli, S. enteritidis, L. monocytogenes and S. aureus) was inoculated o into arrowroot tea solutions. Results showed 0.63% of Arrowroot tea was effective in inhibiting all pathogens to minimum detection limit.

Biomass as Feed, Fuel and Fiber Source:

A 1984 study evaluated arrowroot biomass and processing residues as feed, fuel and fiber resource. Biomass and residues yielded 10.8-21.1% crude protein; 11.1-30.2 crude fiver; 3.8-17.0% ash; with an invitro dry matter digestibility of 38.5-60.3%. Study identified the fuel alcohol production potential from yeast-supplemented aerial biomass. Coarse residue showed qualities suited to tear-resistant specialty grade papers. Besides utilization of by-products as food,fuel, and fiber resource, it can also help reduce environmental pollution resulting from direct discharge of unused by-products.

Antidiarrheal / Cytotoxicity / Leaves:

Study investigated the antidiarrheal and cytotoxic activities of a methanolic extract of M. arundinacea leaves in rats and brine shrimp, respectively. Results showed an antidiarrheal effect with significant reduction of castor oil-induced intestinal volume and intestinal transit comparable to standard drug loperamide. The extract also showed potent effect against brine shrimp with an LD50 of 420 µg/mL.

Phenolic, Flavonoid and Flavanol Content / Rhizomes:

Study determined the total phenol, flavonoid, and flavonol content of an ethanolic extract of rhizomes of M. arundinacea. An ethanolic extract showed a TPC of 390 ± 11 mg GAE/100g, TFC of 290 ± 7 mg QE/100g and a total flavonol content of 150 ± 9 mg QE/100 g. (19)

– Wild-crafted.
– Cultivated for arrowroot starch.
– Starch and flour ,  powder products in the market.

Read about other interesting fruits

Acai berry        Ambarella         Avocado           Bael       Banana      Bilberry      Cocunut   

 Cantaloupe        Cashew apple      Dragon Fruit    Durian      Fig      Jack fruit   Jamun      

 Kiwi       Mango        Mangosteen       Miracle fruit         Pomelo      Papaya       Passion fruit

Phalsa      Pineapple           Plum       Pomegranate        Prickly pear           Quince       

Rambutan           Roselle          Santol          Sapota       Sea buckthorn       Sour Orange     

Soursop           Sweet Lime         Star gooseberry         Star Apple          Strawberry     

Surinam Cherry          Sweet lime              Tamarind               Tomato           Tree tomato     

 Wampi       Watermelon         Wood apple

Read about herbs and spices

Allspice          Alfalfa       Ashwagandha        Bay leaf              Black cohosh           

Black onion seeds       Black pepper        Celery          Chives         Chamomile        Clove

Coriander       Curry leaf         Cumin        Eucalyptus        Fennel            Fenugreek

Garlic      Ginger         Gotu Kola        Hibiscus         Holy basil     Jasmine      Kava Kava

Licorice       Lotus      Majoram          Marigold     Mugwort      Mustard seeds        Neem

Nutmeg       Oregano      Peppermint       Red  clover          Rose         Rosemary           Sage

Sensitive plant     St.John’s wort        Tarragon           Thyme           Triphala powder

 Turmeric       Wheat grass      Wild amarnath