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Ashitaba: The Japanese Plant Being Praised As The Fountain Of Youth
by Andrea D. Steffen
May 13, 201
Today, Ashitaba is being praised as the plant form of the fountain of youth. Yet, it has been around since ancient times when natural chemists used it in traditional medicine in Japan, touting its powers of increasing breast milk flow, easing blood pressure and even calming savage ulcers. Samurai, too, would use the plant but as a food supplement, nibbling on it throughout the day for its reputable ability to add years to one’s life.
The questions many researchers are asking today are: Does it really work? Or does it get a pass from traditional medicine because it tastes awful? Well, a team of Austrian scientists from the University of Graz conducted experiments to find the answers; and they came up with some startling results from their study.
“It is always nice to find a scientific rationale for traditional medical folk tales.” – Professor Frank Madeo
Their research suggests that the Japanese may be right in believing that Ashitaba is important in supporting a person’s health and well-being. There is a compound in the plant that they found may boost cellular health and in the process, prolong youth. In their paper published in the journal Nature they explain how a key component of the plant — called 4,4′-dimethoxychalcone, or DMC — may act as an anti-aging mechanism. The substance was found to prolong the lives of worms and fruit flies by as much as 20 percent.
DMC: The Cellular Garbage Collector
Old cells in the body are normally removed regularly through a process called autophagy. Autophagy, explains study author Professor Frank Madeo, Ph.D., “is a cleansing and recycling process” that disposes of “superfluous material, especially cellular garbage like aggregated proteins.” But as we age, the body’s trash collector starts missing appointments, allowing the damaged cells to accumulate, opening the door for a wide range of diseases and disorders.
That’s where DMC steps in; the wonderful substance kept the process whirring along, hence why the researchers nicknamed it the “cellular garbage collector.” It is the reason why Ashitaba keeps you younger. It is speeding along the body’s natural process by which frail and damaged cells are shed to be replaced by shiny new ones.
- Once they identified DMC as a potential autophagy-booster they began testing its effects.
- First, they conducted experiments on yeast cells. They found that the substance did protect these cells from age-related damage, and it did so more efficiently than other compounds known to bring similar benefits – for example, resveratrol, a phenol found in grape skin.
- Next, they experimented on fruit flies and worm cells yielded the same results. One of the researchers wrote, “remarkably, chronic DMC treatment […] prolonged the median lifespan of both model organisms by approximately 20 percent.”
- Then, they also tested the effect of DMC on mouse heart cells, findings that the substance once more boosted autophagy. Not only that, but DMC also appeared to protect against liver damage caused by ethanol (pure alcohol).
- Lastly, Prof. Madeo and colleagues tested the compound’s effect on different types of human cells, confirming the same positive outcome. However, they do make it a point to state that “the experiments indicate that the effects of DMC might be transferable to humans, although we have to be cautious and wait for real clinical trials.”
- What they plan to do next is conduct a more detailed study in mice, assessing whether DMC’s protective effect on heart cells means that the substance will also shield the rodents from age-related diseases.
Note: The Austrian researchers developed an intensive process to isolate the DMC, administering concentrated dosages to subjects. Meaning, it’s not likely that the same results from their study will translate into your anti-aging genes by chewing on a bale of Ashitaba or making it into a tea. Also, the tests were on animals and it’s not necessarily certain that the same effects will happen to humans.
Nevertheless, the plant is full of nutrients so whether or not it’s adding years to your youth, eating (or drinking) it will still keep you healthy! Even the golden sap is high in a substance called chalcone with reported antibacterial, antifungal, antitumor, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Grow A Garden
If you decide to grow yourself a little Ashitaba garden, keep in mind that the plant grows best in cold weather preferably in 30-degree temperatures, to help them germinate. As an alternative, Botanist Dr. Don Mahoney suggests, a couple of weeks in the fridge could kickstart the process.
And once you’ve got a plant ready for harvest, you’ll love the fact that they have a remarkable knack for rejuvenating themselves — a leaf cut off in the morning will start growing back the next day. That is where it got its name actually, Ashitaba translated means “tomorrow’s leaf.” The taste is bitter at first, then warm and fresh. “Very celery-like,” proclaims Mahoney, “It takes a while to get used to, but pretty soon you crave the taste.”