Ashitaba Leaves: Edible and Wonderful
To be packed with much properties alledged to be beneficial to human health is just too wonderful for a leaf! And because the leaf comes from a plant that has grown and been used by Japanese since when makes it more believable.
And why not? Japanese people are amongst those with highest life expectancy in the planet earth (Population Reference Bureau 2016). When a group of humans live ten to twenty years more than the rest in the same universe, they must have something that the rest do not have. They must have better environment, better peace and order, healthier food, more positive outlook in life, happier relationships, more resilience and more.
So, let us get back to Ashitaba leaves. I am a fortunate recipient of Ashitaba plant from a classmate-friend Jenny who lives in a cool, farm-conducive, mountainous Bukidnon. Bukidnon province is one of the vegetable baskets of the Philippines. I did not know about Ashitaba but this friend’s generosity led me to it. Jenny knows I am a natural remedy advocate. With my husband’s help (in getting good soil), our home is now with this Japanese plant Ashitaba.
In more complex but delicious taste, the leaves can be taken in as a juice, smoothie, tea or salad dressing. For no hassle, simply pluck a leaf, wash and eat!
My son has this eating vegetable challenge in his health class today. The easiest and fastest way is to cut three tip branches from the Ashitaba plant and voila! Johm has now the ready to eat veggie. Off to school he went this morning with these leaves still on the tip branches inside a clear plastic food container.
So, what are those alledge health benefits of Ashitaba leaves? Here is a good write-up about Ashitaba from Ashitaba Plant website.
What Is Ashitaba
Ashitaba has the scientific name Angelica Keiskei. This plant naturally grows on coastal lands in Japan (here is in depth article about growing ashitaba). Ashitaba has been a staple in the Japanese diet and “regular” in their medicine cabinets for centuries. Recently, Ashitaba has begun to grace in natural food stores and on the worldwide web.
Based on folktales, the Japanese have used Ashitaba for generations. Only in the 90s that modern researchers—hearing of its benefits —dig deeper about the plant.
Scientific Researches on Ashitaba
In 1991, Y. Inamori and his group of scientists from Osaka University in Japan set out to find what was so magical about the plant. They were specifically studying “chalcones”—naturally occurring antioxidants found in the plant that provide the medicinal properties.
Inamori’s research was focused on two specific chalcones (xanthoangelol and 4-hydroxyderricin) which he isolated because they were thought to provide powerful anti-bacterial benefits. The scientists actually used the drug Streptomycin in the study, and compared its potency to Ashitaba. While Streptomycin was more powerful than the plant, they found Ashitaba to be very effective against Staph and Strep infections (and you don’t even need a prescription!).
At the end of the study, the scientists said that Ashitaba “possessed potent anti-bacterial properties.” They concluded by writing, “The growth-inhibitory effects of II [Ashitaba] on plant-pathogenic bacteria is also reported for the first time in this paper.”
Another research group lead by Takata Okuyama from Meiji College in Tokyo, was looking at the anti-tumor benefits of Ashitaba. They were focusing on Ashitaba’s golden, oozing sap that is extremely rich in specific “chalcones”. The scientists stated that potent anti-tumor promoter activity has been found in “extracts of the root of Ashitaba which is eaten as a vegetable in Japan”.
The Meiji College group was focused on two completely different chalcones (xanthoangelol and ashitaba-chalcone). According to their report, both of the chalcones revealed anti-tumor-promoting activity and “may be useful in developing effective methods for cancer prevention.”
Ashitaba can also keep your blood healthy. This, according to Jing-Ping OY, and associates at the Medical College of Wuhan University, Wuhan China. This group of scientists wanted to learn if Ashitaba could protect human endothelial cells. Endothelial cells are cells that line the blood vessels.
They discovered that Ashitaba had anti-atheroscleroticeffects on high cholesterol. In other words, Ashitaba is “heart-protective.” They actually went so far as to write that all the health problems associated with high cholesterol could be “reversed by Ashitaba [angelica] significantly; our findings provided experimental basement for the clinical application of Ashitaba [angelica] to prevent the development of atherosclerosis.”
For this last research group, Wang X and his scientists reported in the Archives of Pharmaceutical Research on findings discovered about the plant. These researchers wanted to know if there was a connection between Ashitaba and blood circulation. The scientists placed red blood cells (RBCs) in various concentrations of Ashitaba in test tubes. Their question: Does Ashitaba affect aggregation or “clumping” of red blood cells? (Clumping of blood cells is not good because it can result in strokes and other problems.)
Further, they wanted to know—when Ashitaba was present in the blood— how red blood cells preformed when they were “squeezed” or “squished” as they passed through tiny capillaries in the body (scientists call this deformation, and only healthy red blood cells can withstand the pressure).
Amazingly, the researchers showed that when the chalcones in Ashitaba were present, red blood cells were strengthened, didn’t clump, and could withstand their tight passage through minuscule capillaries. In other words, the blood cells were made stronger. Ashitaba has a “positive effect against certain cardiovascular diseases.”
Knowing all these health benefits, it is just sensible to include Ashitaba in daily regimen. The plant is too gardener-friendly it grows without much effort and hassle. And it tastes alright like other vegetables.
Inamori Y, Baba K, Tsujibo H, Taniguchi M, Nakata K, Kozawa M. Antibacterial Activity of Two Chalcones, Xanthoangelol and 4-hydroxyderricin, Isolated from the Root of Angelica Keiskei.
Osaka University of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Japan. Pharmacol Ther 1991 Dec;52(3):331-63.
Jing-Ping OY, Baohua W, Yongming L, Lei W, Jingwei Y Effect Of Angelica On The Expressional Changes Of Cytokines In Endothelial Cells Induced By Hyperlipidemic Serum.Department of Pathophysiology, Medical College of Wuhan University, Wuhan, 430071, P.R. China. email@example.com Clin Hemorheol Microcirc 2001;24(3):201-5.
Wang X, Wei L, Ouyang JP, Muller S, Gentils M, Cauchois G, Stoltz JF. Effects Of An Angelica Extract On Human Erythrocyte Aggregation, Deformation And Osmotic Fragility Group Cell and Tissue Mechanics and Engineering, LEMTA – UMR 7563 CNRS/INPL/UHP, 54500 Vandoeuvre-les- Nancy, France. firstname.lastname@example.org 1991 Mar;14(1):87-92.
Okuyama T, Takata M, Takayasu J, Hasegawa T, Tokuda H, Nishino A, Nishino H, Iwashima A. Anti- tumor-promotion by principles obtained from Angelica keiskei. Department of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, Meiji College of Pharmacy, Tokyo, Japan. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 1991 Jun;39(6):1604-5.