In Japan, in the beginning of January, soon after the New Year’s festivities have ended, the first signs of Spring begin to sprout from the soil.
This new growth is manifest in the nanakusa (七草), literally “7 wild herbs,” a group of wild plants traditionally foraged from forests and mountains of Japan’s countryside and an important part of Japanese living customs and culture.
The nanakusa are traditionally consumed on January 7th. On this day Japanese prepare a simple and superbly healthy rice porridge called nanakusa-gayu, consisting of rice, the seven herbs, and a bit of salt.
The porridge is wisely enjoyed after the New Year’s feasts have finished and the body is in need of a detox.
Nanakusa are easy to prepare, delicious and readily available in January. And the Japanese have over a thousand year history of consuming them every year and observe their beneficial effects. If that does not beat the modern so-called clinical studies, I don’t know what would!
Below is a brief description of these wonderful herbs.
1. Seri (Water Dropwort) – Rich in iron. Helps alleviate lightheadedness
2. Gogyo (Cudweed) – Reduces congestion and relieves coughs
3. Hotokenoza (Nipplewort) – Relieves muscular aches and pain
4. Suzuna (Turnip) – Reduces fever and regulates the gastric functions
5. Nazuna (Shepard’s Purse) – Heals digestive irregularities
6. Hakobera (Chickweed) – Rich in protein and minerals. Fortifies the stomach
7. Suzushiro (Radish) – Aides the intestine and digestive functions
These seven wild herbs are available for purchase in the supermarkets in the days before January 7th. They come conveniently bundled together in a single package and often include a recipe for making the nanakusa-gayu.
Origin of Nanakusa
Ancient Japanese wisdom says the nanakusa remove all evil from the body and help improve well-being, vitality, and longevity. The tradition dates back to an Imperial Palace ceremony which began during the Heian period (794-1192 AD.) It’s consumption is also believed to bring good fortune and health for the coming year.
This year I decided not to take any chances; I doubled up on my servings of nanakusa-gayu after the New Year’s feasts!
Thus far I am feeling great, and full of energy. The year is looking bright!