What is Ashitaba?
Ashitaba’s scientific name, Angelica keiskei Koidzumi, comes from the Latin name for “angel,” most likely due to its “heavenly”, well-known health benefits that have given it such notoriety. Ashitaba’s Japanese name in English is “Tomorrow’s Leaf” referring to an interesting botanical fact. Harvesting a leaf at the break of day results often in a new sprout growing over night, being visible the following morning.The plant is incredibly vigorous and its name reflects this!
History: The oldest written record of the value of Ashitaba appears more than 2000 years ago. Of the many thousands of plants that are known, Ashitaba belongs to the elite 1% category considered to be medicinal plants. A unique, celery-like vegetable of the Angelica family, Ashitaba is found in several places in Asia and Maui, Hawaii, where the rich volcanic soil encourages plant growth. It’s name means “tomorrow’s leaf” due to it’s ability to grow very fast, exhibiting a strong energetic life force or Qi. In China, Ashitaba has a very long history of use to purify the blood; detoxify the liver; cleanse the colon; improve lung function; enhance blood circulation; harmonize the spleen and stomach; regulate blood sugar level, balance insulin, reduceshyperglycemia; improve lung function; reliev smooth muscle spasms in the arteries & bronchial tubes; reduce blood pressure; enhance blood circulation; regulate cholesterol level; reduce joint & muscular pain and to relieve muscle, joint, and nerve discomfort.
From the Ming Dynasty to the Shogun warriors, the Ashitaba plant has traveled from China to Japan where it has been a well guarded secret for hundreds of years. In a ring of islands called the Izu Islands, a plant which the residents call the “longevity herb” thrives despite the desolate and rocky environment, an environment so harsh that it used to be a place of exile where criminals and social outcasts were relegated. As punishment, the exiles were forced to withstand poor diets and hard labor, foraging their food from the rock and sand. Records indicate that despite harsh circumstances, the exiles were healthy and lived long lives. The local herbalists attribute this unusual healthfulness to the continual consumption of Ashitaba in their diet. The powerful nutrients, antioxidants, and energetic life force of the Ashitaba plant is truly amazing!
It is no wonder then that Ashitaba was once a kept secret of the elite classes in China as a source of longevity. In traditional Chinese medicine, Ashitaba is considered a strengthening yin tonic. At one point in Edo period the yellow sap of the Ashitaba plant was effectively used in the external treatment of smallpox, which prompted Kaibara Ekken to describe the herb in his Yamato honzō (大和本草) under the name of ashitagusa (鹹草) as “a powerful tonic drug”. Of the many thousands of known plants, Ashitaba belongs to the elite category called “medicinal plants.” In China, Ashitaba has had a long history of use to purify the blood, detoxify the liver, cleanse the colon, improve lung function, enhance blood circulation, improve nerve dysfunction, and relieve muscle and joint pain. It has a wide range of known, health-promoting benefits. It provides immune system stimulation, promotes healthy function of the stomach and intestines, demonstrates specific anti-viral and anti-bacterial activity and reduces inflammation.
Ashitaba is a remarkable plant exhibiting the benefits of both land and marine plants. It is a superfood treasure, containing eleven vitamins, thirteen minerals, chlorophyll, amino acids, enzymes, carotene, germanium, saponins, proteins, plant fibers, glycosides, coumarins (a class of widely occurring phenolic compounds, especially abundant in citrus fruits. These are presently being studied for their anticarcinogenic properties, and an unique and rare class of flavanoids called chalcones. Ashitaba is high in chlorophyll, also called “Green Blood”. It is indispensable to the physical functions of our body. It helps the internal organs, the stomach, and the brain work better and has exhibited anti-allergy actions. Chlorophyll is called “Green Blood” because it has a similar molecular structure to that of our blood. Natural organic germanium, in Ashitaba, is known to promote production of Interferon which is defensive material produced be our body to prevent viruses and bacterias from penetrating into our cells. Germanium is valuable in the purification of blood by keeping away harmful hydrogen ions in the blood, creating an alkaline PH, increasing oxygen, and by activating blood cell replacements.
The nutritional and health benefits of this high chlorophyll plant are extensive, and Ashitaba is unique among the Angelicas due to its tasty edibility and the presence of substantial levels of B12, a vitamin normally not found in terrestrial plants. Most plants are devoid of vitamin B12, which is normally only obtainable through meat, fish and eggs. However, Ashitaba is a good source of this nutrient, making it an ideal supplement for strict vegetarians and vegans, who omit these foods from their diets and are at risk of suffering from a deficiency. A shortage of B12 can cause serious cognitive and nervous system problems, in addition to increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and pernicious anemia.
Active ingredient – Chalcones
Unique to Ashitaba is a class of flavonoid compounds called chalcones. Research has shown that they are potent antioxidants, protecting cells from free radical damage, which is associated with accelerating the aging process and with many degenerative diseases, including cancer. They also suppress the excessive secretion of gastric juice in the stomach, which is often caused by stress and can lead to stomach ulcers. In addition they help strengthen the immune system, regulate blood pressure and cholesterol, and exhibit anti-viral and anti-bacterial activities. Ashitaba. Chalcones are rarely found anywhere in the natural world! Research has shown that the unique healing properties of Ashitaba are at least partly due to these unique compounds.
About the Plant: Research just published in Nutraceuticals World, Sept 2002, astonishingly showed that Ashitaba out-performed all other herbs including green tea that were tested for their antioxidant potential based on the ORAC guide (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). Ashitaba plants possess phenolic compounds active as an Anti-Oxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Tumorigenic, Anti-Carcinogenic, Anti-Microbial, and a Detoxifier. The Biomedical Group of Takara Shuzo found that the powerful compounds contained in Ashitaba can enhance production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which, is an incredible process. NGF is a biological substance which is essential in the development and survival of certain neurons in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. In one study, using 1% Ashitaba dry powders, a 20% increase of NGF concentration was noted after only four days!
On the Japanese island of Hachijo, residents have Ashitaba as part of their diet, and typically have some of the longest life spans on earth, many living well into their 90′s healthily. These people have had Ashitaba as an integral part of their diet for hundreds of years.The plant has been an integral part of the diet on this island for hundreds of years, and is the only known plant to contain a substance called chalcones, discovered when scientists began to analyze the diet and environment in order to determine the reasons for the health and longevity observed. Ashitaba is historically referred to locally by the residents of the island as the “longevity herb”, and is one of natures most dynamic nutritional food sources, and has a vast spectrum of other beneficial properties which augment a number of systems in the body, especially the immune system and the circulatory system.