Ashitaba is a large herb that grows primarily in the central region of Japan. Its root, leaf, and stem are used to make medicine.
Ashitaba is used for “heartburn” (gastrointestinal re flux disease, GERD), stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gout, constipation, and hay fever. It is also used for cancer, smallpox, fluid retention, blood clots, and food poisoning. Women use it to increase the flow of breast milk.
Ashitaba is a biennial plant flowering in its second year in summer. It can grow 1.5m – 2m high and just over a meter wide. The stout stems grow in a rosette and are long with the leaves forming towards the top of the stems. They are slow growing at first but once established they grow really quickly.
It has been known as Longevity Herb as traditionally it has been used as a rejuvenating food that contributes to long life. It is also called Tomorrow’s Leaf because when harvesting one leaf from the plant, you can expect to see a new one tomorrow. The plant does rejuvenate itself quickly although I would not take a stem from one plant each day as it takes a few days for the new stem to reach a decent size.
Ashitaba is native to Hachijo-jima Island in Japan and is cultivated in the southern parts and Islands of japan. It was thought that Ashitaba was the reason for the long lives of the people of Hachijo-jima Island, something that may be based on its substantial levels of vitamin B12 and on the chalconoids that are unique to this species of angelica. During the Edo period the yellow sap was effectively used in the external treatment of smallpox, which prompted Kaibara Ekken to describe the herb in his Yamato honzō (Medicinal Herbs of Japan), under the name of ashitagusa, as ‘a powerful tonic drug.’ In folk medicine it is claimed to be diuretic, tonic, to improve digestion, and, when applied topically, to speed wound healing and prevent infection. Its nutritive qualities were said to be the reason that the internal exiles and their families had a endless supply of stamina in the face of their arduous compulsory labor.
The stems and leaves can be used in smoothies, salads and as a tea. In Japan they use the stems, leaves and taproots in regional cuisine, where they are prepared as soba, tempura, shōchū, tea, ice cream, etc.
Ashitaba has many claimed health benefits. It is high in chlorophyll and contains substantial levels of B12 along with other vitamins and minerals making it a nutritious plant. Ashitaba also contains chalcones, these are found in the yellow sap which is clearly visible when you slice the stem. Chalcones and their derivatives demonstrate wide range of biological activities that make this herb effective in treating eczema and psoriasis, also disorders of the gastrointestinal system, hepatitis, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue and a wide range of other disorders. In-vivo tests of chalcones have shown strong antibiotic activity against staphylococcus. For those of you who enjoy butterflies in the garden the common yellow swallowtail enjoy feeding on this plant.
Ashitaba prefers rich deep soil, well-drained and will grow in full sun to part shade. Regular watering will ensure plenty of leaf growth. They need at least 6 hours sunlight daily to thrive! You can fertilize with organic compost every 3 weeks.
Considered one of the elite among medicinal plants, mention of Ashitaba can be found as far back as 16th century in Ming Dynasty Chinese Medicine documents. Known in Japan as the “Longevity Herb”, for its countless healing qualities, Ashitaba is an ancient medicinal plant, but only more recently, in the 90s, have the actual benefits been researched by scientists.
The remarkable plant is endemic to a central region of Japan, Hachijō-jima, a volcanic island, though now it is artificially grown elsewhere. Legend has it that the plant contributes to the health and longevity of local residents and cattle. The name (Japanese for “Tomorrow’s Plant”) refers to its regenerational abilities. After planting a leaf at the break of day, often you’ll be able to see the sprout the next morning.
Ashitaba the superfood
In the 1990s, top researchers at Osaka University in Japan, Wuhan University in China, and Meiji College in Tokyo began diving into the health properties of the plant. What they all found were consistent indications that Ashitaba does belong on the medicine shelf and in the daily health regime. It’s possible that all of the hype has actual fact to back it up.
These days Ashitaba can be found in health stores, vitamin shelves, supplement bottles and as a traditional tea, though it’s still growing in popularity. It’s hard to say where the potential and the future of the plant will go.
To date, there isn’t a lot of American medical research to corroborate this data, but the feedback and buzz surrounding Ashitaba is convincing enough to give the delicious herbal tea daily a drink.
While we’re certainly preoccupied with the health benefits of Ashitaba, it is important to keep in mind that it also a tea with a lovely flavor. Not only should it be consumed for medicinal purposes, but it should be savored. It has been described as a flavor sibling to Green Tea, but a non-caffeinated alternative, so it can be consumed later in the day. Ashitaba can also be steeped for longer, because the flavor doesn’t grow more bitter with time. It is described as tasting fresh, nutritious and nutty.
One of the benefits of drinking Ashitaba tea is that it can be quite invigorating, so that should be kept in mind when consuming.
Our Ashitaba Plants
The Ashitaba offered by Wild Tea Qi comes from volcanic rich soil deep in the mountains where there is plentiful sunshine and clean air. It is carefully cultivated using entirely organic farming techniques. It has been called the King of Alkaline as it is known for its extremely alkalising properties. It has found a place among the world’s Super Foods because of its rich antioxidants.