Ume-Shoyu-Kudzu: My favorite cure-all

The Ume-Shoyu-Kudzu is the perfect drink for those days when you’ve indulged a little too much, have a tummy ache, or feel like you might be catching that cold. Don’t let the name scare you off….it’s super easy to make and the ingredients are available at all natural food markets and even some conventional super markets.

The star ingredients in this powerful tea are Umeboshi and Kudzu. Ume, a sour plum from Japan, is gaining steam in the superfood world. It’s readily available in it’s fermented form whole, as a paste, extract, and vinegar and is even beginning to be seen in some food products. The plums are picked while they are immature and then fermented in sea salt and perilla (also known as shiso leaf, an herb high in iron that acts as a preservative) for an entire year. The outcome is umeboshi - a very distinct tasting, highly alkaline condiment used with many dishes throughout Japan and China. Check out some of these amazing benefits:

  • Antibiotic and astringent properties – can reduce fevers, coughs, and nausea
  • Eliminates lactic acid – lactic acid is associated with fatigue, colds, flu, viruses, chronic illness
  • Increases hydrochloric acid (HCL) – this is huge! So many are deficient in HCL, which leads to problems with digestion and absorption of nutrients; proper HCL balance strengthens blood quality, helps alleviate symptoms due to overeating, alcohol, and morning sickness
  • High in citric acid – increases calcium retention especially helpful for pregnancy (no need to sacrifice a tooth for each pregnancy as they say) and peri/post menopausal women

Kudzu is one of those awesome nutrient power houses. For those in the southeast US, you may know this species as an obnoxious weed that takes over your house, car, and anything else in its way. What you might not know is that the root has been used medicinally for thousands of years in East Asia. For culinary purposes, it acts as a wonderful thickening agent, useful for making pastas, pastes, sauces, and pastries (think substitution for corn starch, white flour, xantham gum, etc). Some of its benefits include:

  • Contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent known as daidzen – has been shown to help in prevention of cancer
  • Relieves acute pain, especially tight neck and shoulders
  • Aids in digestive disorders and resulting illnesses – food allergies and sensitivities, headaches, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, colds, tinnitus, vertigo, diarrhea, and hangovers
  • Curbs desire for alcohol
  • Has cooling effect – encourages perspiration (detoxifying), can help clear skin (prevents rashes and outbreaks)

 

FINAL SPREAD

Ume-Shoyu-Kudzu is your preventative go-to and will help heal you if you went a little too far be it food, alcohol, stressful situation, etc. It has a wonderfully nourishing flavor that might be “interesting” to adjust to if you’re not used to tastes of this nature. Believe it or not, your kids will probably love it as they naturally have a taste for bitter foods. If it’s tough for you at first, be a big kid and keep trying it! You’ll get used to it and begin to love it yourself. Your body certainly will.

UME-SHOYU-KUDZU Yield 1 serving

Adapted from Rebecca Wood of the New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ½ T kudzu powder (link)
  • 2 cups pure, cold water (more or less depending on desired consistency)
  • 1 tsp umeboshi paste or ½ umeboshi plum
  • 1 tsp tamari (fermented, naturally gluten free soy sauce)
  • 1 T fresh ginger, sliced; or ¼ tsp ground ginger

INSTRUCTIONS

Bring sliced ginger and 1 ½ cups of pure cold water to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes (until the tea tastes potently of ginger); OR if using ground ginger, bring pure water to a boil and remove from heat

Dissolve kudzu root in ½ cup pure, cold water

Add the umeboshi paste and tamari (if you’re using ground ginger, add it at this time) and stir until well combined

Add the ginger tea (or boiled water) to desired consistency and stir well (can be sipped like tea or spooned like a paste)

Drink warm and enjoy!

WHAT I BUY

Umeboshi paste, Ume plum vinegar, Umeboshi plums, Kuzu root powder: Eden Foods

Kudzu root powder, ginger root powder: Mountain Rose Herbs

Tamari: San-J

REFERENCES 

(3rd ed.). Pitchford, P. (2002). Healing with whole foods. Asian traditions and modern nutrition Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. 

WebMD. Kudzu: Uses, side effects, interactions, and warnings. Retrieved from: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/ginger-root-powder-organic-and-fair-trade/profile

Wood, R. (2010). The new whole foods encyclopedia. New York, NY: Penguin Books