All of the information covered by Forage Friday is presented as trivia and not to be mistaken for medical advice.
Like most of the invasive species found in my area Japanese Knotweed as it’s name implies comes to us from Asia. In spite of the fact that Appalachia has its own native river cane with the properties of bamboo in 1800s a German born botanist named Phillipp Von Siebold discovered a plant on a volcanic island that he thought would be a great idea. I’m not sure if he personally brought the plant to the United States or if it got here by way of marketeers that got it from Von Siebold but once it was off the island it went to work taking over planet earth.
Japanese Knotweed is found in almost all 50 states including Alaska. It spreads through seeds and rhizomes. The plant Is so aggressive that it can break up Asphalt and even push through the foundation of your house. It’s really worse than Kudzu in some ways because it’s able to adapt to more conditions. And while I do not recommend introducing it into an new area I do recommend that if it’s already there then we might be able to gain from it.
Japanese Knotweed is in the Buckwheat family and at the time of writing this article I am not aware of any toxic components in the leaves or stem. The leaves are kinda tart and reminds me a little of rhubarb. It’s not really something that I have eaten in quantity but because it’s so prolific I decided to test it out as a survival food. It’s been a part of Japanese diets for centuries and the internet is full of different recipes including breads made from Japanese Knotweed.
The plant also has an interesting substance in those rhizomes. They have been found to have high concentrations of trans-resveratrol. You know, that substance that very expensive makeup that increases concentration of collagen 3? Well as it turns out the resveratrol in a lot of those makeups and creams is sourced from Japanese Knotweed roots. The internet research I did for tonight’s post indicates that not only does Japanese Knotweed have higher concentration of resveratrol than red wine but the form it’s found in is better absorbed by the body. So much so that cosmetic manufacturers are turning away from the grape based resveratrol and purchasing more trans-resveratrol from those who can supply the roots of Japanese Knotweed. The problem of this plant is that it’s extremely invasive. It’s even killed my roses. However, because the best way to control it is to dig up the roots why waste them? The current market value of resveratrol is a little over 58 million dollars and by 2026 is expected to hit 99 million dollars per Google search. But before you make plans of getting rich by cleaning out every ditch on the mountain I need to point out that you’ll need market access through a buyer and that the sheer volume of available Japanese Knotweed could easily flood the market. But if you are removing it anyway then there’s really not much to lose.
There is also the option of creating your own products for your own use. According to WebMD grape based resveratrol is a powerful antibiotic that might help you prevent cancer and heart disease, shield nerves from plaque that is thought to lead to Alzheimer’s disease and something that is important to me personally is the possibility of helping to overcome insulin resistance. It’s thought that resveratrol helps to activate the SIRT1 gene. SIRT1 is believed to be the gene that helps protect against the effects of obesity. But the article is specifically referring to grape derived resveratrol and Japanese Knotweed has trans-resveratrol which according to Google search is far more beneficial.
Tonight’s Feature Image was taken last year and shows Japanese Knotweed being pollenated by an umbrella wasp and a mud dauber. But in the next few weeks the tops will die back and all of the energy collected by the plant will be stored in the roots. So when the food value is gone the medicinal value is going to be at its strongest. The bamboo like shafts are like markers that tell us where to dig. If you’re already familiar with the methods of preservation it seems like the preferred forms are to powder the roots and measure them out for teas etc or to create a tincture that can be added to creams and salves.
The closing thoughts of Forage Friday #79 are that a forage plant doesn’t mean that it has to be something that is hard to find and needs to be preserved and harvested with intentions of conservation. No, sometimes it’s a noxious weed that is actively damaging the environment by pushing out native species. But instead of soaking the earth in dangerous chemicals that poison the land for all life we can simply pull out a mattock and a shovel and use the plant as God intended.
Good night friends and be blessed throughout your days.
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