The Healing Power of Umeboshi
The word umeboshi literally means 'dried ume' ('boshi' means dried). Ume is usually translated as 'plum', but this particular 'plum', prunus mume, is actually a species of apricot.
In the past 30 years scientific researchers have shown great interest in the umeboshi, because its benefits cannot be doubted and can even be scientifically demonstrated. Several biochemical explanations for its medicinal effects were discovered, but a number of uses of the umeboshi still remain scientifically unexplained.
Traditionally the umeboshi has been recommended in cases of food poisoning, water contamination, heatstroke, diarrhea of constipation, troubles in the stomach secretion (too much or too little stomach acid), motion sickness, headache, etc.
If we look at the umeboshi in terms of yin and yang, the value of this product can easily understood. The fresh ume is an extremely sour (yin), green (yin) fruit (yin). The process of making umeboshi involves exposure to sunlight (yang), sea salt (yang) pressure (yang) and time (yang). During this long process a strong combination is formed between very yin and yang factors.
We will summarize here some of the established explanations for the beneficial effects of umeboshi:
1. Contents of Ume
Ume contains protein, minerals and fat in twice the amount found in other fruits, In particular calcium, iron and phosphorus are abundant. Ume is also much richer in organic acids (especially citric acid and phosphoric acid) than any other fruit. These acids are not broken down in the pickling process.
2. Alkalizing Effect of Umeboshi
We can maintain a weak alkaline pH (of about 7,35) in our blood by regularly consuming umeboshi. The strength of this alkalizing effect of the umeboshi is due to three factors:
- The abundance of citric acid makes the absorption in the small intestine of alkaline minerals, such as iron, magnesium etc., from other foods, much easier. Citric acid combines with those minerals from other foods, creating an easy to absorb mineral salt
- Umeboshi itself contains high amounts of alkaline minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese, potassium, etc. Because these minerals are digested in the presence of citric acid, their absorption is insured
- Citric acid breaks down the lactic acid in our blood and tissues.
3. Antiseptic and antibiotic Potency
In the early 1950'2 Dr. Kyo Sato (Hirosaki University) succeeded in extracting an antibiotic substance from umeboshi. He could destroy dysentery and staphylococcus with ume extract. His discovery did not become popular, as penicillin and other antibiotics were already in wide use. In 1968 a component was isolated form ume which has a germicidal effect on the tuberculosis bacteria.
4.Other components of umeboshi
- Picric Acid: This acid supports and stimulates the function of the liver. Secondarily, umeboshi helps the liver clean out artificial chemical from our body.
- Catechin Acid: This acid speeds up the peristaltic movements of the intestines; it also has an antiseptic effect, and promotes the digestion of proteins.
- Pectin acid: This acid is present in the umeboshi peel. It has a laxative effect.
General physiological effects
- Prevention of fatigue: fatigue is usually caused by an accumulation of acids (lactic acid, pyruvic acid), which are not broken down fast enough by our body. As we mentioned before, umeboshi supplies the substances to secure a fast breakdown of an excess of acids in the body.
- Prevention of aging: Aging is simply speaking a process of oxidation. Umeboshi have an anti-oxidizing effect on the blood.
- Stimulation of de-toxication: Because umeboshi supports the metabolism, the energy supply to continuously active cells, such as kidney and liver cells is secured. These organs can thus perform their normal detoxifying functions at a more efficient level.
How to use umeboshi
as a home remedy
A strengthening drink for weak digestion.
1 teacup water
1 tablespoon kuzu
½ to 1 umeboshi, the pit removed, pureed
a few drops of Yamaki shoyu
Dissolve the kuzu in the water and, while stirring, boil until transparent. Lower the flame, add the umeboshi and the Yamaki shoyu. Simmer during 2 minutes. Take this drink hot, between the meals, preferably in the morning.
Umeboshi, Yamaki shoyu and bancha have an alkalizing effect on acidic blood. Drink it in case of tiredness, headache, stomach troubles, emotional instability and menstrual cramps. After a few days of the macrobiotic way of eating some may experience discharging discomforts. Take this drink one or two times.
1 cup hot bancha or kukicha
1/3 umeboshi, crushed
1/3 teaspoon Yamaki shoyu or tamari
Mix the ingredients well and drink hot