Umeboshi plums are the ultimate functional super food – a true example of “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates.
They are a salty and sour plum from Japan that have been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of health complaints. Umeboshi plums are highly alkaline and antibiotic. In fact, in the 1950s, Dr Kyo Sato, a Japanese doctor, isolated a highly antibiotic extract from the humble Umeboshi plum which could destroy dysentery (staphylococcus) germs. Take that, antibiotics!
Umeboshi plums are sometimes called the “Japanese Alka-Seltzer” because of their use in treating digestive upsets like constipation, diarrhoea, bad breath, motion sickness, morning sickness and lack of appetite. They’re also excellent at treating hangovers due to their ability to relieve symptoms of dizziness, nausea and fatigue, and because they’re so highly alkalising. They are useful in inflammatory stomach conditions like ulcers too, but aren’t aggravating. Umeboshi plums contain high amounts of citric acid, making them beneficial in fatigue as the sour plums help to break down and excrete excess lactic acid, which may build up from eating too many acidic foods like sugar, refined dairy, refined wheat and other grains, alcohol, and a sedentary lifestyle.
How to take it:
Add a splash of the salty vinegar to soups, stews, casseroles or on veggies, meat or salad.
Umeboshi plums (eaten whole)
A little more hardcore than taking the vinegar, you can boil this tangy plum and drink it as a tea or just eat one a day as a general preventative and over-all wellbeing booster.
This can be mixed into sauces or used as a salty condiment (maybe scrape a little on some sourdough toast with avocado and poached eggs).
I have often recommended clients take some Umeboshi vinegar if they’re feeling a little queasy or out of sorts*. I’ve had a few clients tell me they don’t want to take it because of the high salt content so this post is especially relevant if you’re worried about that. Obviously if you have a highly processed diet, then adding extra salt into your life isn’t ideal, but if the majority of your diet is comprised of whole, unprocessed, fresh foods then you really wouldn’t be consuming huge quantities of salt, or sodium, anyway.
Salt has gotten a bad rap in the last few years but it’s the same as giving all forms of sugar a bad name. Processed sugar isn’t good for us, but some natural sugars are ok in moderation. Same goes for salt. Processed white table salt? No thanks. Unprocessed pink Himalayan real salt? Sure, and here’s why:
Salt is clarifying, purifying, alkalising and centering. It stimulates the kidneys, which then promote fluid metabolism and a “moistening” effect which benefits dryness in the body (especially helpful in winter, when dryness from heat-producing activity of the body and heaters, hot showers, hot baths etc may “dry” your energy and your body actually craves fluid for balance.) Salt is also highly detoxifying and purifying (hence why I LOVE Epsom salt baths) – a little salt can purify and counteract the negative effects of some unhealthy foods and drinks as well as detox and re-balance your body after long-haul flights.
The Doctrine of Signatures is an ancient principle in herbalism which suggests that a plant or substance will sometimes have an appearance that suggests its use (e.g. the four chambers of a heart, and it’s red colour, suggest it’s beneficial for heart health and research shows that lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, is beneficial in preventing certain heart conditions. This is one of many examples). Salt has a crystalline appearance, suggesting definition and clarity.
“Salt… is a grounding crystal that takes us down into the body/mind where well-centered concentration of matter attracts a clear perception of its opposite: Spirit (non-matter).”
- Jacques De Langre, in Seasalt & Your Life
Do you crave salty foods? You could be in need of some real, whole salt, which will reduce cravings within a few weeks. Common sea salt is refined and stripped of all its nutrients – your body is probably craving the grounding, balancing energy of real salt, hence your cravings. Pink Himalayan sea salt (or whole sea salt) contains 84 elements naturally found in our bodies. It can help support a healthy pH balance in our cells, nourish our adrenal glands, support our energy and mental clarity, and regulate water content in the body.
“Salt has the most descending characteristics of any substance we eat. It relates closely to our root chakra, the lower foundation area of the body. The key emotional quality of this chakra is security, without which smooth social interaction and other vital activities fail. A… proposition in Chinese physiology states that the kidneys rule the emotions fear and insecurity. Our desire for salt may reflect an internal wish for a more emotionally safe foundation, particularly in a modern society characterised by tremendous change and uncertainty. The anchor of security provided by salt is something to be highly valued. However, too much of an extreme substance such as salt causes its properties to reverse – kidney damage, fear, rigid legs and pelvis are all symptoms of a poor emotional and physical foundation resulting from excess salt.” **
Of course, it’s always good to use common sense when trying to elevate your vitality, so don’t use excessive amounts of salt, but don’t be scared to use some real salt as well. A miso soup when you’re feeling flighty, some Umeboshi vinegar when you’re feeling a little out of whack; these should do the trick wonderfully.
Hey there ~ a few little notes:
* If you have high blood pressure, kidney/renal disease or heart complications, I don’t advocate adding salt to your diet and would recommend you speak to your GP if you have any concerns about the salt in your diet.
** This quote, and a some of fascinating info in this post, was taken from one of my favourite books, Healing with Whole Foods – Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, by Paul Pitchford. This book is invaluable and if you’ve ever wanted to know more about nutrition, the energetics of food, the traditional Chinese perspective on food and healing or um, how to heal with whole foods, then grab yourself a copy.
Have you ever tried Umeboshi plums? What do you think about adding some real salt to your diet? Let me know in the comments below, I always love hearing from you.