What is Ashitaba?
Ashitaba (Angelica keiskei) is a green, leafy herb and is part of the carrot (Apiaceae) family. It is also called “tomorrow’s leaf” because of its rapid growth and regenerative properties. All parts of the plant, including the roots, are edible.
Native to the coastal regions of Japan, Ashitaba is commonly used for food and medicine on the Izu Islands and the Izu Peninsula. Ashitaba is a cold-hardy plant that also easily is grown in partially-shaded garden beds.
Ashitaba is eaten as a fresh vegetable, dried into leaves for teas, entrees, and soups, and ground into powder for supplementation. Tea is made after 15 minutes of steeping dried leaves in hot water. The plant was traditionally used to treat the flu, hepatitis, arthritis, indigestion, fever, and infections .
- Chalcones, including isobavachalcone, xanthoangelol, and 4-hydroxyderricin
- Alpha-carotene and beta-carotene
Mechanism of Action
Ashitaba has many diverse effects, including:
- Increasing levels of the hormone adiponectin, which reduces glucose levels and increases fat breakdown .
- Decreasing levels of a receptor called PPAR–γ, which plays a key role in fat cell creation (adipogenesis) .
- The causing of programmed cell death (apoptosis) in cancer cells .
- Blocking the activity of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which lowers blood pressure .
- Increasing levels of the antioxidants glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase, reducing inflammation [10, 11].
- Reducing depression by blocking the activity of monoamine oxidase (MAO), an enzyme that breaks down dopamine and serotonin .
- Decreasing levels of the protein plasma plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), which decreases the risks of blood clotting .
15 Health Benefits of Ashitaba
1) Helps with Weight Loss
In a study of 15 healthy weight and 25 overweight people, ashitaba reduced waist width and body weight after 8 weeks. Overweight people also had reduced stomach fat (visceral fat) .
A pilot trial found that ashitaba reduced stomach fat (visceral), total body fat, BMI, and body weight in people with metabolic syndrome at both 4 and 8 weeks .
Ashitaba increased a hormone that may benefit weight loss (adiponectin) in mouse fat cells .
2) May Reduce Liver Damage from Alcohol
In a study of 82 heavy alcohol drinkers, 12 weeks of supplementation with ashitaba reduced gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), a marker of liver damage .
3) May Help Fight Cancer
Ashitaba prevented tumor growth, increased survival time, and prevented the spread of cancer to other sites (metastasis) in mice .
4) May Help with Diabetes
Ashitaba reduced blood sugar levels, insulin, and triglycerides in rats fed a high-sugar diet .
Two of the active compounds in ashitaba (4-hydroxyderricin and xanthoangelol) reduced blood sugar and insulin levels in mice fed a high-fat diet by increasing adiponectin, a hormone that improves insulin sensitivity .
5) May Help Reduce Blood Pressure
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) is an enzyme that plays a role in blood pressure control. Drugs that block the activity of ACE (ACE inhibitors) are used to treat high blood pressure.
Ashitaba reduced blood pressure in rats by blocking the activity of ACE .
6) May Prevent Memory Loss
Ashitaba improved short- and long-term memory in mice with drug-induced memory loss .
7) Reduces DNA Damage
An ashitaba-based juice (240 ml daily) over 8 weeks reduced DNA damage in 20 smokers in an open-label study .
A cell study found that ashitaba protected DNA from compounds that cause mutations (mutagens) .
8) May Help Fight the Flu
Ashitaba prevented the flu virus from replicating in a cell study .
9) Reduces Inflammation
- Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-alpha)
- Interleukin 6 (IL-6)
- Cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2)
- Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases (MAPKs)
- Nuclear Factor Kappa Beta (NF-kB)
- Endothelin 1
10) Increases Antioxidant Levels
In a pilot study of 10 healthy adults, ashitaba powder increased antioxidant levels .
11) May Reduce Blood Clotting
Fibrin is a protein that is involved in blood clots.
Ashitaba extract reduced levels of plasma plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PA-1), a compound that prevents the breakdown of fibrin clots (fibrinolysis) .
Platelets are one of the main components of blood clots and the grouping together of platelets is one of the key steps in the clotting process.
In a cell study, 4-hydroxyderricin and xanthoangelol reduced the grouping together of platelets (platelet aggregation) .
12) May Be Antibacterial
13) May Protect the Liver
In a cell study, ashitaba extract protected liver cells from acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) toxicity .
14) May Have Antidepressant Effects
Drugs that block the activity of the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO) are widely used as antidepressants.
In a cell study, xanthoangelol and 4-hydroxyderricin achieved similar potency in blocking the activity of MAO as the common antidepressant drug iproniazid .
Yet, moderate and high amounts of ashitaba powder did not improve blood cholesterol in rats fed a high-fat diet .
Side Effects of Ashitaba
There are no reported side effects of ashitaba. However, some users have reported mild stomach upset.
Limitations and Caveats
Most of the research for ashitaba is conducted in cells and animals and there are few clinical trials. Caution should be taken when applying this research for use in humans.
Ashitaba leaves, stems, and the roots can be eaten either raw, cooked, or dried. Ashitaba extracts are available in tablet, capsules, tea, and powder form for supplementation.
Doses ranging from 200 to 500 mg of ashitaba extract have been used in clinical trials.
Users of ashitaba found improvements in blood pressure, well-being, energy, and digestive pain.
Lactating mothers had improvements in breast milk supply. Others found that it kept them from getting gout symptoms.
As a tea, users state that it tastes nutty, like green tea, or has a pleasant taste. Others find it is bitter in taste.
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