Samurai’s Leaf: This Japanese Herb Might Be the Secret to Longevity, Study Says

February 26, 2019 Updated: February 27, 2019

A Japanese plant traditionally eaten by samurai warriors could hold the secret to longevity, scientists say.

The Ashitaba plant (Angelica keiskei koidzumi) has a long history of being used to aid wound healing and prevent infection. Its name literally means “tomorrow’s leaf” in Japanese, because it grows back quickly after being cut.

According to traditional Japanese medicine, the slightly bitter leaves of the Ashitaba plant works wonders in extending a healthy life. Now, a new study may provide some good scientific evidence for these traditional beliefs.

(Belikel/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0 (ept.ms/2Bw5evC)])

The Magical Compound Unique to the Magical Plant

Researchers at the University of Graz in Austria, led by Professor Frank Madeo, detected a unique natural compound named 4,4′-dimethoxychalcone, otherwise known as DMC, in the leaves of the Ashibata plant.

“This fuels the expectation that DMC may be therapeutically applicable in humans,” the authors note in the journal Nature Communications. The team believes DMC could work by triggering autophagy, a cleansing and recycling process in the cells, removing damaged cells that can cause disease if allowed to accumulate.

An employee prepares stem cells
(Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

The team started by testing how DMC affected yeast cells, and discovered it was indeed helping to protect the yeast cells from the effects of aging. In fact, the compound performed as well or even better than some existing compounds touted for their cell-healing properties like resveratrol, which can be found in grape skins.

Tests in animals also showed promising results. It suggested that worms and fruit flies fed with DMC extended their lifespan by 20 percent. It also protected the hearts of mice when blood flow was blocked.

The researcher didn’t stop there, however. The moved on to see how this magical compound could perform in human cells.

Prof. Madeo and colleagues tested DMC’s effect on different types of human cells growing in cultures, and they were able to confirm the same positive outcome.

“Future studies must explore whether DMC and/or its chemically defined derivatives can be advantageously used in humans as well,” the research paper states.

They Eat a Lot of Seafood

Fishermen slice up a fish at the Tsukiji market. (Annie Wu/The Epoch Times)
(Annie Wu/The Epoch Times)

Seafood, especially fish, is an indispensable element of traditional Japanese cuisine. After all, Japan is a country composed of islands. Eating seaweed, which is loaded with nutrients, is another important part of their daily practice. In fact, Japan consumes about 100,000 tons of seaweed per year.

They Choose Water Over Oil

A Kyoto-style home-cooked meal, at the WAK Japan office in Kyoto. (Annie Wu/Epoch Times)
(Annie Wu/Epoch Times)

The Japanese cook with little oil or no oil at all. Instead, the Japanese cooking methods, namely steaming, pan-grilling, broiling, stir-frying, slow-cooking, and fermenting, all heavily use water.

 They Choose Rice Over Bread

(Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

Steamed rice is eaten with almost everything in Japan. This means they don’t eat as many processed foods, including bread, as most of the Americans do. Bread is often made from refined or all-purpose flour which can hamper the digestive system in the long run.

They Eat With Smaller Plates and Bowls

Among the Japanese, soba's health benefits are no secret. In Tokyo, some eat it three times a day. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Japanese people always practice amazing portion control. They eat their food in smaller plates and they value quality, not quantity of their dishes. They also eat their food slowly, helping them feel more satisfied and improving digestion.

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