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Amazing Umeboshi Plums: Ancient Power Food

Preserved umeboshi plums are highly regarded to have potent medicinal properties. (Veronica Trey/Sibubooks)

In traditional Japanese culture, the equivalent of the apple a day keeps the doctor away is the umeboshi plum. The amazing umeboshi plum is an ancient power food. Check out my other article: 10 Ways to Use Umeboshi Plums.

These small preserved plums are not only valued for their culinary qualities. The ancient folks highly revered umeboshi plums for their wide-ranging medicinal values.

Pickled umeboshi plums come from the fruit of Prunus mume. This is actually an Asian species of apricot. But it is more commonly called a plum.

The fruits are picked at the end of June when they are green and unripe. This is when the plums are at the peak of their acidity. The plums are then pickled with salt and shiso leaves or beefsteak. Shiso is a medicinal herb that gives the pickled umeboshi plum its distinctive red color.

The preserved plums are then aged for a year or longer, until they become small and shriveled with a reddish hue from the shiso leaves. Due their high citric acid content, the picked umeboshi plums taste salty and sour.

Modern Use for Umeboshi Plums

Umeboshi plums are believed to have originated from China more than 2,000 years ago. For centuries, the Japanese have been eating these preserved plums. The earliest reference to the salty umeboshi plums dated back to the 10th century.

In traditional Japanese societies, everyone ate the umeboshi plums. From daimyo to sumo wrestlers, and samurais who ate them to ward off battle fatigue.

Today, people eat umeboshi plums in a variety of ways. The preserved plums are used in dressings, dips, and sauces to enhance flavor in various dishes and to whet one’s appetite.

Benefits of Umeboshi Plums

This ancient food has powerful healing properties and help balance pH and strengthen the body.

Umeboshi plums are beneficial for many different conditions. The plums help with various gastrointestinal troubles, bad breath, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, lack of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.

They are great for easing many different kinds of fluid discharge. For instance, runny nose, excessive urination or perspiration, and heavy menstrual periods.

One of the most alkalinizing foods, umeboshi plums help restore the body’s acid-alkaline balance. Our blood and body fluids are naturally slightly alkaline when we are healthy. Illness and infections thrive when the body condition becomes too acidic.

Thus, the plums make a good natural home remedy for bacterial and viral infections.

Umeboshi Plums Anecdotes

A friend of mine once alleviated a mild asthma attack by popping an umeboshi into his mouth. Within 15 minutes, he was able to breathe again within 15 minutes.

He did this because he understood the yin and yang nature of foods. He ate too much ice cream, which is yin (cold and sweet), and this upset his body. So he countered the yin situation by eating a salty, yang umeboshi plum.

Another unusual story about umeboshi is that it worked as a mosquito repellent. A macrobiotic teacher from the European Kushi Institute told the story about his visit to Africa. He slept with the windows wide open at night—but with an umeboshi in his mouth. Because of this, the mosquitoes did not bother him at all, he said.

A Personal Story

Here’s a more recent and personal account of the amazing umeboshi. I decided to put the umeboshi plum to test. So I placed an organic umeboshi plum in my mouth before going out to shovel snow from the driveway after a snow storm.

Shoveling snow with an umeboshi plum in my mouth
Shoveling snow with an umeboshi plum in my mouth. (Oliver Trey/Sibubooks)

The effect was amazing if not surprising. I felt like an ancient Japanese samurai who conquered fatigue with a single umeboshi plum in my mouth!

Snow shoveling completed with an umeboshi plum in my mouth. (Oliver Trey/Sibubooks)

For nearly two hours,  I was shoveling all that snow, feeling strong, centered, and grounded from my Hara (in Japanese) or lower Dantian (in Chinese).

In traditional Chinese meridian (or energy pathways) theory, the lower Dantian, also called the “Sea of Qi,” is the reservoir or source of vital energy (Yuan Qi). Lower Dantian is considered the vital centre of the human body.  It is the center of gravity point that is important in Chinese and Japanese martial arts or qigong practices. 

Buying Tips

Many commercially made umeboshi plums contain sugar, MSG, preservatives, and other unnatural ingredients. When you buy umeboshi plums, make sure you read the label carefully. Do not buy the ones with all these unnatural ingredients. 

While these commercial plums may taste nice and sweet, their healing properties are not a strong as the umeboshi plums made using traditional methods and without the use of artificial additives. The best is to buy and use organic umeboshi plums.

It may not matter so much to use commercially made umeboshi plums for culinary cooking. But for home remedies, it is best to use plums preserved without preservatives and other additives.

Of course, it is better to use naturally preserved whole plums, preferably organic umeboshi plums. You can easily buy them online or from health food stores.

Note: These natural food tips, traditional remedies, and anecdotes are for maintaining your health and wellness. They are not meant to replace any medical treatment. If you have a diagnosed condition, or are in doubt, you should always seek medical advice.

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