Ashitaba Makes Its Own Ketones, the Best Fuel for the Brain

These days, ketosis, ketogenic diets and all things to do with low-carb diets figure prominently in the news — understandably, as we would not be who we are without the ability to go into ketosis.

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Although I dispute the conclusion that the brain is the generator of our thoughts (these originate in the ill-defined “mind”), without a large and complex brain, our thoughts would lack the physical connection that allows them to play such a large role in our lives.  It is largely because of ketosis that we can have this large and complex brain in the first place.  Ketosis essentially means that, in times of food deprivation lasting more than 12 hours, our physiology switches from a glucose-burning mode to a fat-burning mode.


In our livers, we produce chemicals called ketone bodies (or ketone esters), which travel to the brain to be used as fuel to maintain the voracious energy needs of our large brains.  Without ketones or our brains’ ability to use ketones as fuel, we would be reliant, as are other mammals, on glucose as fuel for our brains.  Because glucose regularly is depleted in the course of our lives (sickness, prolonged sleep, food shortages, etc.), we would be able to maintain and nourish only a much smaller and less complex brain without the overlying ketosis mechanism.


Interestingly and perhaps inexplicably, it turns out that not only are our brains able to use ketones as fuel, they seem to actually prefer using them.  We know this because when we are forced, or force ourselves, to be in ketosis for prolonged periods, the blood flow to the brain is increased, and even some brain-based diseases like epilepsy can be healed through this approach.   When we are in ketosis, we reduce the levels of inflammation in our tissues and improve our detoxification ability.  The ability to go in and out of ketosis is truly a foundation of our bodies’ remarkable healing capacities. 


Although I almost never recommend someone staying in ketosis all the time, I often suggest that people go in and out of ketosis as a regular practice.  The simplest way to do this is through intermittent fasting of at least 18 hours.  Recently, in researching the remarkable health benefits of the ashitaba plant, it has come to my attention that ashitaba, unlike most plants, actually makes its own ketone esters.  These are called chalcones and are thought to be the healing agent of the plant. 


The chalcones are found in the sticky, yellow sap that oozes out of the cut stem of the ashitaba.  Under certain growth conditions, the sap is increased, which is when the plant is particularly prized for consumption.  At Dr. Cowan’s Garden, we are researching how to deliver these ashitaba chalcones in an easy and delicious form.  We are exploring tea combinations, “keto cups,” grain-free granola and other products using ashitaba.   For now, you can use our Ashitaba Powder by simply sprinkling it on or stirring it in any dish.  We are the only company carrying a U.S.-grown organic or biodynamically grown ashitaba product.


We use the powder in our homemade granola, in Lynda’s cacao-coconut oil chunks, in soups and in teas.  This is a special plant, one that we are committed to providing for our customers.


With gratitude,

Tom Cowan, M.D.

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