Ashitaba is a relatively unknown medicinal plant in Europe and North America. It contains some promising ingredients that help reduce stress, prevent muscle and joint pain, and strengthen the immune system. The milky juice is even used in Japan as a rejuvenating agent.
Profile of ashitaba:
Scientific name: Angelica keiskei
Plant family: umbellifer ( Apiaceae)
Other names: tomorrow’s leaf
Sowing time / Planting time: April – May
Flowering period: June – October
Harvest time: April – November
Location: sunny to partially shaded
Soil quality: nutrient-rich, humus-rich and well-drained soils
These information are for temperate climate!
Use as a medicinal herb: asthma, obesity, cellulitis, heart and circulatory problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, muscle aches, body aches
Use as aromatic herb: preparation as vegetables, as spinach, for sushi, as a spice for Asian food
Plant characteristics and classification of ashitaba
Origin and occurrence of Ashitaba
The Ashitaba is a native plant of Japan. Their area of origin is the Izu Islands, which are located near the main island of Honshu. The herb grows there mostly near the coast. Incidentally, the name Ashitaba in Japanese means tomorrow’s leaf.
Plant order of Ashitaba
Ashitabi (Angelica keiskei) is a member of the umbelliferae (Apiaceae) and thus related to known herbs such as caraway, lovage or dill. In the closer relationship, Ashitaba belongs to the genus of angelica (Angelica), which is considered as species-rich with more than 200 species.
Known other species of this genus are the wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris) and garden angelica (Angelica archangelica), the later is used as a medicinal plant.
Look and characteristics of Ashitaba
The herb belonging to the angelica, Ashitaba is a perennial, hardy and quite robust plant. Under optimal conditions, the herb can grow up to 110 cm high (44 in), but usually much smaller. The light to dark brown root consists of a fairly strong main root, from which depart a few secondary roots.
The leaves of the Ashitaba have a pointed shape, are light to dark green and slightly to moderately sawn. Noteworthy is the rapid reproduction rate of the leaves. As a rule, a new scion already appears on the next day at the location of a harvested leaf. Also characteristic is the milky juice contained in the shoot.
During flowering, which usually takes place between June and October, grow white to orange-colored flowers with a pleasant, honey-like fragrance. The flowers are arranged in typical umbels. In temperate climate, however, the duration of flowering is usually not so long lasting.
Ashitaba – cultivation and care
The plant prefers a sunny to half shady and warm location with loose, well drained, humus and nutrient rich soil. Loamy to clayey garden soils should therefore be made permeable with mineral aggregates such as sand, lava or zeolite. Sandy soils should be mixed with compost.
A cultivation on the balcony is possible. Suitable here are mainly south and southwest locations. As a substrate, peat-free potting soil combined with sand can be used. Insofar as the plant should be kept in a container for a longer period of time, larger plant pots are recommended.
Growing Ashitaba from seeds is not easy. For successful cultivation, the seeds should be housed in a predominantly mineral substrate. Optimal is a mixture of sand and compost (alternatively potting soil) in the ratio 80:20. Also possible are other mineral aggregates such as vermiculite or lava. The seeds should only be pressed slightly into the substrate (the seeds need light to germ). Since the seeds also need cold, they should be exposed to temperatures of about 4 to 10 ° C (39 to 50 °F) at the time of growing. The soil must always be kept moist during the germination phase. The germination time can be about 14 to 30 days.
The plant is adapted to relatively humid locations. It is therefore necessary to water the plants frequently. The substrate or soil should always be slightly moist. Waterlogging should be avoided, otherwise there is a risk of root rot. The soil should never completely dry out.
Ashitaba has a very high nutrient requirement. Owners of a garden can add some fresh compost into the ground every one to two months. Also suitable are nitrogenous fertilizers such as horn shavings or cattle dung. If no organic fertilizer is available, commercial herbal fertilizers can also be used. However, as mineral fertilizers mostly contain concentrated nutrients, fertilization should be frequent (once per month) but sparing.
The plant is frost tolerant and can be left in place in winter. For very severe winters, the surface should be protected with a little brushwood. mulch or foliage.
Ashitaba and its use
Ashitaba is used both as a kitchen and as a medicinal herb.
Ashitaba in the kitchen
In the Japanese kitchen both the leaves and the stems are used. Leaves and stems both taste pleasantly tart, whereby when eating the stems an oily taste is to be perceived, because of the milk juice.
The leaves of the ashitaba can be prepared like spinach. The stems and the leaves can also be steamed as a vegetable and make a very interesting dish with rice or wild rice. Most of the leaves and stems are seasoned with garlic (you can also use wild garlic), soy sauce and red pepper. Rice and ashitaba vegetables are sometimes eaten with fish in Japanese cuisine.
Sushi lovers can also use ashitaba leaves as an ingredient in a stuffing. Thereofor, the shredded leaves are cooked in conjunction with carrots, vinegar, sugar, sesame and rice and finally rolled up as maki.
In addition to the fresh leaves and stems, the dried powder is used as a spice.
Ashitaba as a medicinal plant
Ashitaba is a well-known and very versatile medicinal plant in Japan. In ancient herbal books in Europe, the herb was unknown.
In fact, the plant has many medically effective ingredients that make its use as a medicinal herb justifiable. The healing effect has antibacterial, wound healing and antithrombotic properties. It should also have a preventive effect against certain cardiovascular diseases (including coronary heart disease) and diseases of the digestive tract.
Several scientific studies show postivie results on the treatment of various cancers and cancer prevention, such as skin cancer.
Ashitaba can be used for these ailments and diseases
- chronic hepatitis
- coronary heart disease
- high blood pressure
- muscle and joint pain
- nervous restlessness
In medicine, both the leaves, the stalk containing the milky juice and the powder are used. From the powder and from the fresh leaves ashitaba tea can be prepared, but here the water must not be boiling hot. More often, the powder from the dried ashitaba plant is added to the food. The stems are sometimes eaten pure or the milk juice is sucked out.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.
Buy Ashitaba – What to pay attention to?
Ashitaba is still rare to find in commerce. Only a few specialized herbalists offer fresh plants or seeds. With some luck you can also buy it online. Important is the botanical name Angelica keiskei, as more Angelica species are offered in the trade. Sometimes the species dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is mistakenly referred to as Ashitaba.
Some online platforms offer extracts or tinctures from Ashitaba. At best, get information on the origin and processing of the extracts here.