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Nanakusa, the Seven Herbs of Early Spring

In Japan on January 7, we typically eat nanakusa as a way to detox after the holiday festivities. Find out what the health benefits are behind these seven special herbs!


Nanakusa, the Seven Herbs of Early Spring

Happy New Year! Actually it’s already January 7 which marks an important day of healthy eating here in Japan.

Originally brought over from China, this custom marks January 7 as the traditional day to eat nanakusa (七草), seven herbs of early spring. This basically marks the end of festivities (boo!) and detoxes our stomachs and resets minds for a (hopefully) year of healthy eating (yay!). Traditionally nanakusa is prepared as nanakusagayu (七草粥), steamed in a rice porridge, but okayu is one of my least favorite dishes on the planet! So I thought of a different way to prepare this dish (next post).

In the meantime, let’s look at what the nanakusa are and why they’re good for you. Back in the day, these herbs were deemed valuable because they grew even during the harsh, snowy season. However, today if you live in Japan, you’ll notice packets of nanakusa sold at almost any grocery store.

Seri – refreshing scent, good for digestive health, increases appetite
Nazuna – a mild diuretic and rich in iron, lowers fever,
Gogyo – effective against coughs and the common cold
Hakobera – rich in vitamin A, used to be dried, powdered, and mixed with salt for use in cleaning teeth
Hotokenoza – rich in dietary fiber, treats muscle pain and contusions
Suzuna / kabu – rich in vitamins
Daikon – promotes digestion and prevents colds

Here’s a recipe for one of the ways I like to eat nanakusa, Nanakusa Risotto!