In Japan, January 7 is the day of the Festival of Seven Herbs (Nanakusa no sekku). On this day, the Japanese make a special porridge called nanakusa-gayu with seven herbs, rice, and a bit of salt.
The seven herbs, collectively called nanakusa, are among the first signs of the coming of Spring. For over a thousand years, the Japanese have believed that eating them on January 7 brings good fortune and health for the coming year. It also happens that they help the stomach recover from the feasts during the New Year festivities.
Traditionally, the Japanese collected the seven nanakusa herbs from forests and mountains in Japan’s countryside.
These days, you can buy them in supermarkets and grocery stores in the days before January 7. They come conveniently bundled together in a single package.
Below is a brief description of seven nanakusa herbs and their principal benefits.
- Seri (Japanese parsley) – Helps alleviate lightheadedness
- Gogyo (Jersey cudweed, Gnaphalium affine) – Reduces congestion and relieves coughs
- Hotokenoza (nipplewort, Lapsana communis) – Relieves muscular aches and pain
- Suzuna (turnip) – Reduces fever and regulates the gastric functions
- Nazuna (shephard’s purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris) – Heals digestive irregularities
- Hakobera (chickweed, Stellaria media) – Fortifies the stomach
- Suzushiro (radish) – Aides the intestine and digestive functions