Chomeiso: The Long Life Grass of Okinawa
|Okinawan Dialect||Sakuna (Mainland Okinawa), Upuba-safuna (Miyako), Chomigusa (Ishigaki)|
|Agricultural Classification||Vegetable (leaf stem vegetable variety)|
|Classification||Apiaceae or Umbelliferae (Parsley Family)|
|Origin||Yonaguni Island, Yaeyama Islands|
What if I told you there is a plant that increases your life span by one day every time you eat it? Well, according to Okinawan culture, that plant exists and its name is chomeiso. Chomeiso in Japanese characters is 長 (cho - long) 命 (mei- life) 草 (so - grass). In Okinawa folklore, eating one stalk of chomeiso increases your lifespan by one day. I couldn't tell you if this is made up or not, because I would need to know the day you die beforehand and calculate it afterward. I guess we'll never really know for sure now, will we?
Botanbofu is its official name, chomeiso is its common name, and sakuna is its name in Okinawan dialect. This plant is from Okinawa as it's origins trace back to the Yaeyama islands of Okinawa. On other small islands surrounding Okinawa, such as Ishigaki island and Miyako island, which have their own, even rarer dialects, it is called chomigusa. I bet you were waiting for the English name, but alas, this plant is so rare and uncommon in Western areas, there is no English name! Chomeiso (cho-may-so) is easy to pronounce, so we have decided to keep it like that. Just how the words geisha, sushi, and samurai were kept as is.
Chomeiso is a part of the parsley family. The parsley family includes veggies and plants you likely already know, such as carrots, celery, coriander, cumin, and...parsley, of course (duh). The plants in the parsley family are known for their aromatic flowering characteristic, including chomeiso, which blooms tiny white flowers. While the aroma of the flowers is not so significant, the smell of a broken chomeiso leaf or stalk is a scent of itself. The smell and taste of chomeiso cannot be compared to anything one comes across in daily life. It has a very distinct smell which leads to its peculiar taste. Both its smell and taste are powerful but not overwhelming. Due to these strong factors, it is commonly used in stinky fish dishes, because its leaves compliment pungent-smelling meat and somewhat masks it.
The conditions a plant grows under really tells about its personality. Chomeiso's personality is strong, persistent, and enjoys a tough, salty life. Literally. Chomeiso contains more nutrition and is less susceptible to diseases when grown by the ocean in cliffy areas. Okinawa is an island with plenty of rain, salt flying everywhere, and typhoons to drown you (if you are outside by the ocean during a typhoon, which you certainly should not do. Seriously, never do that). While your rusting car can't handle it, chomeiso loves it. Most chomeiso grown for food and other products are not grown right by the sea, but close to it and by Okinawan farmers who know how to optimize growing conditions. The most famous island for chomeiso cultivation is Yonaguni island. Yonaguni's population is only about 1,700 so there are more stalks of chomeiso than there are people! (go count each stalk yourself if you want to fact check me, I'll take you up on that bet)
This plant that is virtually unheard of outside of Asia has likely contributed its part to the famous Okinawan longevity. The Okinawan people used chomeiso for cough, colds, and fevers. However, in recent years, it has been researched to further confirm other health benefits. That concludes the story of Chomeiso here. If you are interested in scientific studies on the health benefits of Chomeiso, please continue down below!
It is an anti-oxidant:
Chomeiso is found to have the strongest radical scavenging activity among a group of researched subtropical plants in this study in Kyoto, Japan. Its anti-oxidant activity is proved even further by this study also published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. When a plant has a strong anti-oxidant activity that means it contains components that can interact and neutralize free radicals. Free radicals cause damage to other cells, especially cell DNA, which may be a major factor in the cause of cancer.
It is an anti-platelet:
Chomeiso has a component called coumarins that have anti-platelet aggregation activity shown in a study in Taiwan.
Platelet aggregation is the clumping together of platelets in the blood and a part of the events that lead to a blood clot. Blood clots lead to stroke, heart attack, and other diseases. A plant that has anti-platelet aggregation activity means it decreases platelet clumping and inhibits blood clot formation, overall being a food that contributes to the prevention of strokes and heart attacks. This study conducted in Tokyo showed chomeiso to lower blood pressure and increase blood flow, important factors in preventing blood and blood pressure-related diseases.
It may be able fight some cancers:
This study taken in Taiwan showed chomeiso to show activity against lymphocytic leukemia system in cell cultures.
Chomeiso has shown anti-cancer activity in this study conducted in Gifu and Okinawa, Japan. Chomeiso indicated chemopreventive effects on the first stage of colon cancer by inhibiting free radicals and rapid cell multiplication activity.
However, during this study another discovery was made: the rats given Chomeiso showed a significant amount of weight loss.
It is an anti-obesity:
In this study, two groups of rats were given a high-fat diet. Chomeiso powder was given to one group of rats and not to the other.
The group given the Chomeiso supplement showed the highest suppression in body weight, abdominal, and subcutaneous fat. They also had reduced serum leptin levels which lead to decreased adipocyte volume, or fat storage volume.
This study states that Chomeiso can be used for the '...development of a safe natural agent to reduce obesity or body weight.' How does Chomeiso have these weight loss effects? It contains a series of compounds, among which one is called pteryxin. Pteryxin, among many other anti-obesity compounds in chomeiso, is a compound found to prevent and/or decrease the amount of adipose tissue and adipocytes, or simply known as fat and fat cells. Being overweight or obese is one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, certain types of cancer, and, for many, a hindrance in everyday activities. Chomeiso shows to be a plant that may relieve the excessive build-up of fat tissue, assist weight loss, and a key part of the diet for keeping healthy.
Let's Compare the Plant
・Nugara, Ruwani N., Masashi Inafuku, and Hirosuke Oku. "Peucedanum japonicum Thunb and its Antiobesity Effects: Evidence and Related Mechanisms." 脂質栄養学 25.2 (2016): 177-196.
・Takeuti, Naoki, et al. "Pharmacological activities of the prenylcoumarins, developed from folk usage as a medicine of Peucedanum japonicum THUNB." Chemical and pharmaceutical bulletin 39.6 (1991): 1415-1421.
・(Translated from) 下地, 清吉. 琉球薬草誌. 1st ed. 沖縄県: 琉球書房, 2015. Print.
・(Translated from) "資生堂 長命草（ボタンボウフウ）". Shiseido.co.jp. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.
⁂The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this website is intended for education, entertainment, and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe, or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate, or prevent any disease.
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