After a rainy evening in Kyoto, it’s not unusual to spot heart-shaped leaves peeking through narrow spaces between buildings and cracks in the sidewalk. These ubiquitous plants are dokudami (Houttuynia cordata), a medicinal herb famed throughout Asia for its healing benefits. Dokudami is also called juyaku, which means “ten roles” in Japanese—a nickname that highlights how many ailments it helps alleviate. In traditional Japanese medicine, dried dokudami leaves are served as a tea to cleanse the body from the inside. With the arrival of cooler temperatures in the fall, many in Japan, including geisha, still brew cups of dokudami tea as a health drink during the cold and flu season.

“Japan’s eldest elephant, Hanako, drinks dokudami tea several times a day .. 

In fact, Japan’s eldest elephant, Hanako, who is 68, is served dokudami tea several times a day to keep her healthy. Clinical studies have proven the anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits of dokudami. Specifically, dokudami extract has a strong antimicrobial effect against the bacteria most commonly associated with acne. When I learned that, I knew it would be the perfect addition to our Polished Deep Rice Enzyme Powder to help balance acne-prone skin.

While dokudami possesses incredible health benefits, it’s also an understated beauty and a symbol of resilience. Dokudami is a stellar example of a botanical ingredient I want to appreciate for its function and its form. Flourishing in spring and lasting through late autumn, dokudami thrives wherever its seeds land, making it a significant part of the landscape in humid climates. Although the leaves appear thin, a single stem of dokudami can withstand the wind and other elements, bending gracefully without breaking or withering.

Everytime I see the modest dokudami, it reminds me to keep my mind and eyes open when I’m treasure hunting. Sometimes, an astonishing history and healing power can lie in the most unassuming places—even right in front of you.

Victoria Tsai
Chief Treasure Hunter

published October 2015

Ingredients, Food
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