Research on the Effects of Ashitaba, Angelica Keiskei Koidzumi
By Dr. Kevin Lance Jones, L.Ac., O.M.D.

Little is known about the world of Herbal Medicine. Of all the plant species in the world, only five percent (5%) have been cataloged. Of that five percent that have been cataloged, a full one quarter (1/4) or tweet - five percent (25%) have medicinal qualities. There is the example of Taxol, an anti-uterine cancer drug that is derived from the bark of the Yu tree.

Another shinning example of a newly discovered herbal medicine is ASHITABA. Its name literally translates to "Early Growth" in Japanese. It was named so because of its ability to grow very fast and exhibit a strong Qi or energetic life force.

What is Ashitaba?

Ashitaba is indigenous to a small area called the Seven Islands of Izu. It is a herbaceous plant that grows year round. This greenish yellow vegetable has been mentioned in many ancient Japanese Medical Writings. It has been consumed as a vegetable and medicine for many hundreds of years by the local island herbalists. Ashitaba contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, proteins and plant fiber. This powerful strain of Angelica was unknown until recently. Only a few islanders knew of this herb and kept it a guarded secret.With the coming of the information age, news of this healing plant began to reach beyond the Seven Islands of Izu. The leaves and stems are used to extract a yellowish liquid from the plant.

The Properties and Therapeutic Uses of Ashitaba

In this section I will endeavor to explain the therapeutic actions of Angelica Keiskei Koidzumi or Ashitaba in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine as practiced currently in the People's Republic of China. One of the fundamental actions of Ashitaba is that it is great at activating Qi and Xue (Blood). The application for this is apparent in the treatment in the menstrual problems. It removes stagnation in the uterus, which will help with many menstrual difficulties. It also increases blood flow (activates Qi and Blood). This herb, which can be used by it self alone, increases Kidney Yin and Yang Qi.

The increase of the Kidney Yang Qi will act as a diuretic and increase the urine output. In Japan, Ashitaba is used to treat hypertension. As a diuretic it has no side effects such as western medicines frequently have. It increases the libido (sex drive) for those persons with Kidney Yang Xu (deficiency). In terms of the increase in Kidney Yin Xu (deficiency), this herb is wonderful in treating the problem of Peri- menopause. With a Kidney Yin Xu (deficiency) one of the cardinal symptoms in women is irregular or no menstruation. The usual four to six years of peri menopause that women in their middle forties to early fifties in age experience could be made much more comfortable with the use of Ashitaba. Because this herb warms the uterus, it is very useful in treating menstrual cramps and pain, regardless of the age of the patient.

Ashitaba is a useful Lactagogue, that is, an agent which induces the secretion of mother's milk. There is anecdotal evidence from Japan of a cow that was fed Ashitaba and had record milk production. By analogy, Ashitaba could be used with mastitis or low milk production after delivery.

Ashitaba harmonizes the Spleen and Stomach. It helps to balance the Earth element. There is a patient in Texas that has Insulin- Dependent Diabetes that is currently taking the herb. He says that he now has to use less Insulin because his blood sugar no longer spikes with attacks of Hyperglycemia. Another Diabetes patient in Japan took Ashitaba for six months and his blood sugar level droped from 400 mg./dL to 150 mg./dL. Dr. Baba at Osaka University School of Pharmacy has published a paper showing the decrease of the rate of acid production in the stomach with Ashitaba. In her paper he also showed a decrease in the severity of stress related to stomach ulcers. The extract of Angelica Keiskei Koidzumi also exhibited an anti-bacterial action. Research in Japan has shown that Ashitaba has anti- viral properties. At a 1993 Pharmacology Forum in Japan, it was reported that A a demonstrated antiHIV activity.

The Active Factors in Ashitaba

Chalcones are the active factors in Angelica Keiskei Koidzumi. The two that are in Ashitaba are known as Xanthoangelol and 4- Hydrooxyderricin. These were discovered by Dr. Baba. These factors are found only in this strain of Angelica and are derived from the yellowish liquid extract of the leaves and stems. This differentiates it from any other strain of Angelica.

Types of Angelica

The Angelica Family has a history as a medicinal herb and health food since ancient times in both China and Japan. In Mainland China and Taiwan the root of the Angelica Senesis has been popular for thousands of years and is frequently called the "Woman's Ginseng." Ashitaba, has an anti- viral property that is not present in Dang Gui (Tang Kuei). The Ashitaba extract is a gentler medicine that can be taken frequently and at bed time without the stimulating effect that Dang Gui has, especially on women. Because it is gentler, it can be tolerated better by peri- menopausal women.

Cancer Research and Ashitaba

Dr. Toru Okuyama at Meiji University, College of Pharmacy tested Ashitaba on mice with tobacco- induced lung cancer and skin melanomas. In this six month study the skin cancer mice were given an external application of the Ashitaba extract. The article stated that the cancer was controled-with this therapy. In the tobacco- induced lung cancer the mice were given the extract of Ashitaba in fluid and food form. The article stated that the lung cancer progression stopped with the oral Ashitaba therapy.

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