Umeboshi, the Japanese plum: benefits, properties, uses

Umeboshi is a cornerstone of the Japanese tradition, both in the culinary and medical fields. Let’s find out what it is and how to take advantage of the many beneficial properties of this extraordinary food.

Umeboshi is a plum typical of Japan that is dried and salted in order to obtain a particular condiment that boasts numerous therapeutic properties exploited by traditional Japanese medicine. In reality, the plant is native to China and from there it spread to Japan. “Umeboshi” literally means “dried plum”.

This fruit, which is actually an apricot variety, grows on Prunus mume trees, which blooms in February. The fruits are harvested in June, when they are still unripe and therefore extremely acidic, they are washed and left to dry.

They are then placed in salted barrels wrapped in shiso leaves for a minimum period of about six months, where they ferment and thanks to the shiso leaves they acquire the characteristic reddish color. The fermentation process releases citric acid and phosphoric acid, which give this product much of its beneficial properties.

Umeboshi: calories and nutritional properties

Umeboshi is a low-calorie food, with its approximately 33 kcal per 100 g and is particularly rich in carbohydrates and mineral salts including sodium and potassium. The vitamins most present are A and B1, while fats are almost absent.

It is also rich in fiber and antioxidant compounds for which, beyond the beneficial properties that we will see later, it is a dietary and healthy food that, according to Japanese tradition, was used by samurai to recover their strength after the intense physical exertion.

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of umeboshi plums:

  • kcal: 33
  • carbohydrates: 10.5 g
  • fat: 0.2 g
  • proteins: 0.9 g
  • fibers: 3.6 g
  • sodium: 22.1 mg
  • potassium: 440 mg
  • manganese: 0.23 mg
  • vitamin B1: 0.02 mg
  • vitamin A: 7 μg

Umeboshi: the health benefits

In the Japanese tradition it is believed that the umeboshi possesses great therapeutic qualities and is thought to be the secret of the samurai’s strength, so much so that it becomes a symbol of vigor and endurance. Thanks to the organic acids and mineral salts it contains, it boasts numerous beneficial properties for the body. Traditional Japanese medicine sees umeboshi plums as protagonists in the treatment of colds, gastro-intestinal problems, nausea, infections, circulatory problems. Let’s take a closer look at all the properties of umeboshi.

✓ Umeboshi liver friendly

Umeboshi plums appear to promote liver function by purifying and protecting the liver by stimulating the elimination of toxins.

✓ Useful against infections

Umeboshi plums are known for their antimicrobial properties and, according to some studies, phenolic compounds and citric acid give them these properties.

✓ Umeboshi against gastroesophageal reflux

As shown by various scientific papers, and in particular by a 2015 study, eating umeboshi plums daily helps the gastrointestinal system, improving the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux.

✓ Remineralizers for the bones

The umeboshi plums, thanks to the high content of mineral salts such as calcium and magnesium, favor the balance of bone metabolism and contribute to the proper functioning of the muscles.

✓ Ally of teeth and mouth

Thanks to their antibacterial properties, umeboshi plums protect our mouth by preserving the teeth from the onset of caries.

✓ They fight fatigue

According to ancient traditional Chinese medicine, umeboshi plums maintain the balance of the whole organism, toning and restoring it after intense physical effort and purifying it from waste and toxins, so much so that it seems to be useful in metabolizing alcohol after a excessive use.

✓ Excellent supplement in case of anemia

The citric acid present in large quantities in umeboshi plums helps the absorption of iron present in food. This makes umeboshi an extra ally in case of iron deficiency anemia.

✓ Useful against nausea

It seems that chewing a small umeboshi plum in case of nausea is a portentous remedy, in fact these fruits are also recommended in pregnancy to combat pregnancy nausea, or to combat car sickness nausea.

✓ Natural remedy against hemorrhoids

Being a naturally fermented food, umeboshi contains probiotics which are essential for gastrointestinal balance and can be of considerable help in the treatment and prevention of hemorrhoids.

✓ Powerful anti-inflammatory

Umeboshi plums contain numerous antioxidant compounds, including terpenes, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, which make this food also used as an anti- inflammatory in the Chinese and Japanese tradition.

Umeboshi plums: how many to eat and how to use them in the kitchen

Umeboshi plums can be eaten whole, it seems for example that a plum in the morning is able to improve the whole day, giving energy, stimulating the metabolism and helping the whole organism. You can chew it or dissolve it in a cup of hot bancha tea for breakfast.

By crushing them you can obtain a paste to be used as a condiment to flavor meat, fish or soups instead of salt or even for raw vegetable dishes. A plum in the cooking water of the vegetables will avoid the use of salt.

In Japan it is widely used as a condiment for rice, to which it seems to give a much more intense and particular flavor. Umeboshi plums are also obtained from umeboshi plums, which is a kind of vinegar, which can be used as a condiment instead of the latter.

Umeboshi is also used together with kuzu, a powder obtained from the root of a typical Japanese plant, also used as a therapeutic remedy, to obtain a useful drink against gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, colds. The Japanese use plum stones as an antidote to sore throats: it would be enough to keep a stone in your mouth for a couple of hours to get rid of this annoying problem.

For a healthy person, an adequate amount of umeboshi would be equal to one plum per day, but it is always good to consult your doctor in the presence of any pathology. If you appreciate the pungent flavor of these plums, you can indulge yourself in the kitchen in many preparations by inventing recipes that blend the oriental tradition with the Mediterranean one.

Contraindications of umeboshi

Umeboshi plums have no particular contraindications if taken in limited quantities. Given the high salt content, anyone with kidney problems or hypertension should avoid continuous use and take them only after medical advice.

Umeboshi: prices and purchase

Umeboshi plums can be purchased from organic or macrobiotic food stores or online. They are packaged in jars containing whole plums or in the form of acidulated. The price is around 40 USD per kg.

Furthermore, umeboshi can also be found in the form of tablets, in this case more suitable for use as a therapeutic remedy rather than as a condiment. In case of nausea and gastrointestinal problems, a couple of tablets can be taken as needed.


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