Cherished for decades in the East for its unique flavor and healthful influences, Wasabia japonica is best known as an age-old food pairing with sashimi or sushi dishes that include raw fish. Wasabi is also served as a garnish with Soba noodles and made into pickles, jams, wine and other foods. While distinguishing itself with unique and versatile flavors earns it a special spot in any self-respecting gourmand's pantry, true wasabi also serves up benefits that strengthen immune systems.
Wasabia japonica owes its flavor and healthful benefits in part to a suite of isothicyanates (ITC's) with unique characteristics including powerful anti-bacterial properties, which help mitigate microbial elements or pathogens potentially present. Rich in beta-carotenes and glucosinolates, wasabi also kills some forms of E-Coli and Staphylococcus. Studies also indicate it helps reduce mucous, which has made it the focus of experiments relating to its use in combating asthma and congestive disorders.
The unique ITC spectrum present in wasabi includes long-chain methyl isothiocyanates uncommon in most American's diets. Long-chain methyl ITC's have proven efficacy and potency in supporting natural liver and digestive detoxification functions than other more common types of isothicyanates.
The powerful antioxidant scavanging characterisics of Wasabia japonica are also attracting additional scientific study. As more evidence accumulates, suggesting that glucosinolates and their hydrolysis products are efficacious in reducing cancer risk, legends that refer to wasabi as the "King of Herbs" are gaining credibility.
Wasabi is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin B6, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Manganese, and an excellent source of Dietary Fiber and Vitamin C.
With so much healthful activity going on within one plant, it is not surprising that studies and laboratory tests continue to indicate that wasabi shows promise as a nutraceutical or pharmaceutical component.