Ashitaba: The Most Health-Giving Plant We Know


During our early discussions about the formation of Dr. Cowan’s Garden, many conversations revolved around ashitaba.  At the time, at least three things intrigued me about this remarkable plant.
 
Ashitaba, otherwise known as “tomorrow leaf,” is the only known edible plant in the Angelica family.   Plants in this family were considered gifts to the human being during the Middle Ages, hence, its name.
 
The most famous Angelica is the well-known medicinal plant Angelica Archangelica, or “gift from the angels and archangels,” which was reportedly the only effective agent against the plague.   Ashitaba is a close relative of archangelica, having evolved in its native lands of Japan, Indonesia and the Phillipines. 
 
The first most intriguing aspect of ashitaba to me was its high nutrient density, as depicted in the following chart:
 
 
As you can see, the nutrient profile of ashitaba easily dwarfs such nutritional powerhouses such as kale and asparagus. 
 
The second intriguing aspect of ashitaba is suggested by its nickname, “tomorrow leaf.” This moniker comes from the idea that if you cut a leaf today, tomorrow, a new leaf will grow in its place.   Though I haven’t yet experienced this phenomenon directly in our garden, this notion suggests tremendous growth forces, unusual even for a plant.   The question for me was how does the plant keep these growth forces in check, or, in other words, not get cancer?   The answer may be found in the yellow sap that oozes from a cut stem stem.
This yellow sap is that marker that lets you know you truly have ashitaba and not another member of the angelica family.    The sap contains a family of chemicals called chalcones, which are being intensely studied as novel chemotherapy agents.  Perhaps the secret to containing abundant vitality and growth forces is to put a small amount of a chemical in your circulation (i.e., the stem) that keeps these growth forces (and rampant cell growth) in check.  Isn’t that exactly the model for a healthy human being: abundant vitality and growth forces held in check so as not to become out of control?   Perhaps it is these abundant growth forces that are responsible for the many pictures and testimonials one can find of people who look (and feel) years younger after taking a daily dose of ashitaba powder.

In addition, studies conducted in Japan and China on ashitaba's chalcones show that ashitaba has:
  • potent anti-bacterial properties
  • heart-protective properties (it has anti-atherosclerotic effects on high cholesterol)
  • red-blood-cell-strengthening properties (which has a positive effect against cardiovascular diseases) 
  • the power to reduce viseral and subcutaneous fat in the belly and hips after eight weeks of use.
The final aspect that intrigued me and got my competitive gardening juices flowing was when we were told that ashitaba will not grow in California, that it grows only in Asia.   Briefly, we considered carrying the organic ashitaba that is grown and processed in Indonesia, but apart from not completely trusting their agricultural practices, every powder I tried had virtually no smell or taste.   We wanted the real thing, full of nutrients and valuable chalcones.  After two-plus years of growing ashitaba, I can report that it’s definitely a tricky plant to grow.  It seems to take forever to establish, and t needs lots of water and shade in the hottest season. But between our garden and our biodynamic-gardener friend John, we are slowly getting enough to harvest. 
 
 After growing the plant for a few years, smelling it and tasting it frequently, I now consider myself an aficionado of the ashitaba plant.  It has a very distinctive taste and smell — something like a pungent celery — that is unmistakable and missing from all the other ashitaba products I have tried.  
 
No doubt, ashitaba is a special plant and a special food, and we are all excited to finally have enough of it to start making our own powder.  Please enjoy it on any savory food or mixed into a daily smoothie.  We would love to hear your story and to see “before and after” photos! And if anyone is interested in trying their hand at growing it for us, let us know. 
With gratitude for your support of our business,
Tom Cowan, M.D.
P.S. I almost forgot. Another popular product is back in stock: Pepper Salt! Most of the peppers — a combination of sweet and hot — we grew ourselves!