Many Japanese elders refer to the plant ashitaba as the immortality plant and believe it will keep you looking and feeling young. For ages, people in Japan have been using this plant as medicine to prevent illness. Now, researchers are discovering why. A flavonoid substance in ashitaba may be responsible for boosting cellular health. It does so by helping the body clear out cellular “debris” and supporting the process of autophagy.
Most parts of your body completely regenerate themselves many times during your lifetime. Some cells, as for example the lining of the stomach, are completely new every few days. Other types of cells take longer. For example, bones take around 10 years to regenerate themselves.
This means that every day the body has to clear itself of cellular debris in order to maintain cellular health. Scientists call this clearing process autophagy. This process rids the body of broken, disused and dead parts. As a result, there is less likelihood that debris builds up and causes disease.
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.” (1)
Why do we need to rid ourselves of cellular debris? And why is it important that we support the process of autophagy? Because as we age, our cells could accumulate various dead, damaged or oxidized particles. These, in turn, can impede the inner workings of our body. Consequently, this accelerates aging and induces age-related diseases, such as dementia. As well, this stockpile of “rubbish” within our cellular network can increase the risk of cancer. (4)
Supporting Cellular Health with Ashitaba
Scientific researchers are discovering that there are various ways that we can support our body’s autophagy process. A new study from the University of Graz in Australia revealed that certain types of flavonoids can support the cellular process of renewal and removal. Moreover, flavonoids, which are present in many plants, have strong antioxidant properties.
The University’s researchers identified that the flavonoid called 4,4′-dimethoxychalcone, or DMC, was “the one best-equipped to ‘counteract age-related cell demise,’”(1) when compared to 180 others.
The researchers identified Angelica keiskei, or ashitaba, as a noteworthy source of DMC. This may be why the Japanese culture has used the ashitaba plant in many of its plant medicines.
Here are some of the study’s findings:
Remarkably, chronic DMC treatment […] prolonged the median lifespan of both model organisms by approximately 20 percent.(1)
[The team] tested the effect of DMC on mouse heart cells, findings that the substance once more boosted autophagy. DMC also appeared to protect against liver damage caused by ethanol (pure alcohol). (1)
Finally, Prof. Madeo and colleagues tested the compound’s effect on different types of human cells, confirming the same positive outcome, although the researchers warn that real certainty can only come from future clinical trials.(1)
Other studies have shown that ashitaba can help prevent osteoporosis and abnormalities associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. (2) (3)
Read more articles by Anna Hunt.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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