Botanical: Ipomea batata (or Ipomœa batata)
Family: Convolvulaceae (morning glory)
Other common names: Satsuma-imo, White Sweet Potato
Japanese Sweet Potato is a powerhouse of nutrients that acts as an antioxidant, helping the body to rid itself of free radicals that attack and damage healthy cells and tissue and to promote healthy heart function. It is also considered an anti-inflammatory that eases the discomforts caused by arthritic conditions, and White Sweet Potato may help to stabilize sugar levels in the blood.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
The Japanese Sweet Potato is an herbaceous, mainly creeping (sometimes semi-erect) perennial that is descended from the sweet potato, which is native to Central and South America, where it was domesticated at least five thousand years ago (some say ten thousand!). The plant spread throughout the Americas, and an interesting controversy has arisen with regard to its reach throughout the world. The sweet potato was also found in pre-Columbian Polynesia. Exactly how they arrived in the Orient is a subject of fierce debate in scholastic circles. The sweet potato was one of the first plants to be introduced from the Americas to Europe during the voyages of Columbus; from there, Portuguese traders carried it to Africa, India and Asia. This is called the "batata line" of dispersal. Now the controversy: There is another line that is said to predate the others: Archaeological sites have produced stored sweet potato tubers in Pacific Islands that date back at least one thousand years - prior to European exploration. Some scholars claim that Peruvian voyagers carried them to the East, and others assert that Polynesian travelers transported the plants. To complicate matters, a third line of dispersal has been introduced, and one that is often neglected - Nature. The sweet potato is tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions, and there are slight differences in coloration and composition throughout the world, depending upon the local agricultural conditions. The Japanese White Sweet Potato is long and tapered and typically has a beautiful dark pink-to-purple skin with white inside, but the color can range from red, to purple, to brown; and its flesh can range from white through yellow, orange and even sometimes purple. The Japanese Sweet Potato has a delicious sweet chestnut-like flavor and is sweeter than the American sweet potato, which is similar to the yam, but should not be confused with it, as it belongs to another plant family entirely. Generally, the Japanese Sweet Potato prefers well-drained soil with a high organic (calcareous/lime) content and is harvested in the autumn. The leaves are used as a potherb in Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and in Latin America and are considered a cheap source of nutrition and forage. Today, the main commercial producers of Japanese Sweet Potatoes include Vietnam, Japan, China, Indonesia, India and Uganda. Currently, Vietnam exports about seventy tons of Japanese Sweet Potatoes monthly to China, where it is utilized in maltose production and glucose syrups that are sent to western countries for baby foods. Japanese Sweet Potato (with its high fiber content) is also processed to make starch and a flour substitute in bakery products and to thicken salad creams, jams and toffees. It is also used in Japanese tempura and made into shochu (a Japanese liquor). Some of the constituents included in Japanese Sweet Potato include very high levels of vitamin A content (as beta-carotene), zeta-carotene, vitamins C and E, vitamin B-6 and other B-vitamins, plus manganese, copper, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, phosphorus, calcium, alanine, phenylalanine, arginine, isoquercitrin, quercetin, linoleic acid, monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid, phytosterol, proteins, polyunsaturated fat, squalene, thiamine, tocopherol, tryptophan, pectin and rich dietary fibers. The edible tuber also yields starch, glucose and alcohol.
Japanese Sweet Potato has been called an "anti-diabetic" food. Much recent research claims that it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, which is caused when cells don't respond to the insulin hormone. Insulin is thought to act as a key to unlock the cell in order to allow sugar to pass from the blood into the cell. The heavy concentration of carotenoids in Japanese Sweet Potato is thought to be inversely associated with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels and it is said to show unique healing properties in the area of blood sugar control, particularly when ingesting carbohydrates - without causing glucose fluctuations, i.e., the high spikes and ultimate drops in blood sugar. People with high blood sugar levels and others wanting to avoid glucose highs and lows can turn to Japanese Sweet Potato. It should be repeated here that diabetics should frequently monitor their blood sugar levels and always consult their physicians before embarking on any regimens dealing with this condition.
With a unique ability to store proteins, Japanese Sweet Potato is said to possess significant antioxidant capacities. In one study, the proteins were said to contain about one-third of the antioxidant activity of glutathione - one of the body's most effective, internally produced antioxidants. The vitamin A and C content in Japanese Sweet Potato are also said to be powerful antioxidants that work in the body to neutralize free radicals, the chemicals that damage cells and cell membranes and are associated with the development of conditions like arteriosclerosis, diabetic heart disease and other serious illness. Many health professionals believe that the carotenoids in Japanese Sweet Potato not only fight free radicals, but are also chemo-protective against invasive infection, and antioxidants are also essential for good brain functioning and in delaying in the effects of ageing on the brain.
The vitamins A and C content in Japanese Sweet Potato are believed to promote healthy heart function and may guard against stroke. Moreover, its vitamin E content also works to protect against heart attack and arteriosclerosis by reducing the harmful effects of low-density cholesterol and preventing blood clots. This activity is also thought to benefit deficient blood circulation problems throughout the body.
Japanese Sweet Potato is an extraordinary source of good nutrition, containing high levels of vitamin A (as beta-carotene) and vitamins B-6, C and E, as well as other minerals. It is also an excellent source of fiber, which lowers the risk for constipation, diverticulosis, colon and rectal illness, heart disease, diabetes and overweight (by providing a feeling of fullness that helps to curb the appetite).
Further supporting its role as a highly nutritious supplement, Japanese Sweet Potato is an excellent source of potassium. This mineral plays a major role in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance and cell integrity. Its distribution in the body is important because it affects many aspects of homeostasis, or metabolic equilibrium, including a steady heartbeat.
Japanese Sweet Potato is considered an anti-inflammatory. The carotenoids and vitamins are both thought to be helpful in reducing the severity of conditions where inflammation plays a role, such as asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
People with kidney or gallbladder problems should not take Japanese Sweet Potato Herbal Supplement, since it contains naturally-occurring oxalates, which may be detrimental in these situations. Oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium.