Ashitaba Plant

Annette McDermott
Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Ashitaba Plant

The Ashitaba plant, also called Angelica keiskei, is native to the central region of Japan. Used in herbal medicine to treat a variety of diseases, the Ashitaba plant has been a cherished herbal remedy for centuries.

Ashitaba Characteristics and Uses

Ashitaba is a perennial plant that belongs to the Apiaceae family, and it is esteemed by gardeners eager to experience the medicinal benefits and beautify common pots or gardens. It resembles celery and is often eaten as a vegetable. You can buy seeds for this plant in catalogs and online at shops like Horizon Herbs.

Herbalists use ashitaba plant as medicine. Due to the its rich content of chlorophyll, vitamin B12, and antioxidants, it is recognized as a favorable herb for fighting disease and encouraging overall health. The leaves and roots are considered a valuable diuretic, laxative, and longevity herb and are thought to promote wellness by boosting the body's immune system.

According to WebMD.com, ashitaba is used to treat a variety of ailments including but not limited to stomach and intestinal disorders, circulatory issues, asthma, gastric ulcers, high blood pressure, kidney problems, stroke, osteoarthritis, and pain. They also report there is insufficient evidence to prove the efficacy of ashitaba for any medical condition.

Other herbal uses of the ashitaba plant encompass symptoms related to menopause and menstruation. Many herbal practitioners believe that the active compounds in the herb strengthen the reproductive organs and assist with endometriosis. In addition, herbalists may treat women with PMS, hot flashes, and headaches with herbal supplements containing ashitaba.

What the Research Shows

As with many herbal remedies, most of ashitaba's success is anecdotal based on centuries of positive results. However, despite the lack of clinical human trials on the herb, some animal research has taken place.

  • Ashitaba is abundant in chlorophyll, which may reduce the risk of cancer. Research published in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids showed the antioxidant properties in chlorophyll make it beneficial for fighting free radicals (damaging molecules that promote aging, destroy tissues, and promote disease in the body). According to Oregon State University, a study on rainbow trout determined chlorophyll, and its derivative, chlorophyllin, protects against cancer against "the modest carcinogen exposure levels most likely to be found in the environment." However, the study also determined that at high levels of exposure, chlorophyll increases the number of tumors.
  • A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Science and Vitaminology on rats fed a high-fat diet and ashitaba for 28 days showed positive results. The study concluded ashitaba may be a source of dietary fiber and might improve gastrointestinal health through the increased excretion of bile acids through feces.
  • According to research on mice published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Ashitaba contains two chalcones, or flavanoid compounds, with insulin-like abilities. One in particular, 4-hydroxyderricin, displayed "preventive effects on the progression of diabetes in genetically diabetic KK-Ay mice."

Dosage and Precautions

Herbalists extract healing substances from the ashitaba plant by boiling it. Some people add washed and dried ashitaba leaves to juice, smoothies, or salads. Ashitaba is also available in tablet, capsule, tea, and raw root forms and as an ingredient in cosmetics.

Rx List states that there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend an appropriate dosage for ashitaba and cautions you should not take the herb if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. While there are no known side effects, WebMD cautions there is not enough information to determine if ashitaba is safe.

Any herb may interact with medications or cause allergic reaction. If you experience allergic reaction symptoms such as itching, swelling, rapid heart rate, or difficulty breathing, get medical help immediately.

Herbal remedies are not tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a result, you should purchase ashitaba from a reputable source and precisely follow manufacturer dosage and usage instructions.

Talk to Your Doctor

Ashitaba is used for many ailments, and it may seem like a quick, natural fix for several problems you're experiencing at once. Even though it sounds like a miracle cure and has been used throughout the centuries, it is still important to discuss its use with your doctor or natural health practitioner. Understanding the uses and properties of the ashitaba plant can help you have an informed discussion about its risks and benefits.

Ashitaba Plant