Only very rich people could afford to visit the doctor if they were sick. Country people used to pick plants like green gentian, cranesbill and dokudami when they went up into the mountains to avoid, as much as possible, having to rely on the services of a doctor.
— Dr. Junichi Saga “Memories of Silk and Straw”, 1970
After a rainy evening in Kyoto, it’s not unusual to spot heart-shaped leaves peeking through narrow spaces between buildings and cracks in the sidewalk. These ubiquitous plants are dokudami (Houttuynia cordata), a medicinal herb famed throughout Japan for its healing benefits. The Japanese consider dokudami a ‘cure-all plant’ and affectionately call it jūyaku, meaning “ten medicines”, a nickname that highlights how many ailments it helps alleviate. In traditional Japanese medicine, dried dokudami leaves are served as a tea to cleanse the body from the inside. With the arrival of cooler temperatures in the fall, many in Japan, including geisha, still brew cups of dokudami tea as a health drink during the cold and flu season.
In fact, Japan’s oldest elephant, Hanako, who lived until 69, was served dokudami tea several times a day to keep her healthy. Clinical studies have proven the anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits of dokudami. Specifically, dokudami extract has a strong antimicrobial effect against the bacteria most commonly associated with acne.
While dokudami possesses incredible health benefits, it’s also an understated beauty and a symbol of resilience. Dokudami is a stellar example of a botanical ingredient I want to appreciate for its function and its form. Flourishing in spring and lasting through late autumn, dokudami thrives wherever its seeds land, making it a significant part of the landscape in humid climates. Although the leaves appear thin, a single stem of dokudami can withstand the wind and other elements, bending gracefully without breaking or withering.
Dokudami has a long and well-established relationship with humans in this region of the world. Part of the traditional medicine cabinet, dokudami leaves are often dried to make a tea that helps with digestion, constipation, and high blood pressure among others. It is also included on the Japanese Government’s List of Approved Kampo (Chinese Medicine) plants.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF DOKUDAMI HERBAL TEA
- Provides comprehensive detoxification
- Fights viral and bacterial infections
- Boosts stamina and endurance
- Improves cognitive health
- Supports Immune System
- Promotes intestinal balance
- Possesses strong antioxidant effect
- Relieves from environmental sensitivities
- Treats acne