Macrobiotic Nutrition & Lifestyle: The Superpowers of Umeboshi Plum

Posted by Shima Shimizu on

Umeboshi Fruit, Harvesting and Preparation


Umeboshi is a species of fruit-bearing tree sharing the same family roots with
cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and almonds. Umeboshi which is often
called a "plum" is actually a cross between an apricot and plum.

Traditionally made by harvesting ume fruit when it ripens around June, young
umeboshi are packed in barrels with shiso leaves (which add flavour and a pinkish red colour), water and 20% sea salt per weight of fruit. The sea salt extracts a salty sour liquid called umezu, often translated as “ume vinegar”. Ume soaks in it for about two weeks and is then ready for consumption.

Finished umeboshi plums have a sweet, sour and salty flavour and traditionally
served as a side dish for rice or eaten on rice balls for breakfast and lunch, but can also be used to season salads, boiled vegetables and even pasta sauces.

In macrobiotic nutrition, thanks to its many alkaline properties, umeboshi plums,
paste and vinegar hold a very special place and are often used in cooking and
preparation of medicinal drinks.


Umeboshi Benefits

Umeboshi Chemistry


Umeboshi are a good source of polyphenols, which reduce the risk of diabetes, help lower blood pressure, prevent hardening of the arteries, and boost calcium
absorption. Sea salt, citric acid, and polyphenols also contribute to antimicrobial
activity, so umeboshi are a natural preservative for foods and help prevent food
poisoning and other bacterial stomach problems.

Benzoic acid, a key component of umeboshi’s preservative properties is also an important part of the aroma. The compound limits the ability of bacteria to proliferate, a trait thought to be one of the reasons for the popularity of umeboshi in rice balls.

It has been recently found that heating umeboshi produces vanillin, a chemical that helps to restrict the bloating of fat cells, providing support for people trying to control their weight.

One potential drawback of umeboshi is the high sodium content, though this makes umeboshi an effective way of combatting the dangers of heatstroke during the brutal summers. Still, it is probably a good idea to avoid consuming too many umeboshi on daily basis. Like with every other food, moderation is the key.

Umeboshi’s Medicinal Properties

The small, wrinkled umeboshi plums are full of health benefits. They help the body absorb calcium, increase saliva production and improve digestion, soothing
headaches and activating metabolism, preventing nausea and combating systemic toxicity (including hangovers). Umeboshi also protect against aging!

Citric acid, along with lending umeboshi a mouth-watering sourness that sharpens
the appetite, improves circulation and boosts the immune system, reducing the
chances of coming down with a cold or catching a nasty bout of the flu. Umeboshi’s antibacterial effects proved very useful during the epidemics of cholera of the nineteenth century in Japan.

Umeboshi has also been shown to limit the activity of the pylori bacterium, a leading cause of gastroenteritis, stomach ulcers, and stomach cancer. In addition, it boosts energy and aids the body in recovery after exertion by helping break down and flush out lactic acid, one of the causes of physical fatigue.
Traditionally, for their energizing qualities, umeboshi were esteemed by the samurai to combat battle fatigue. Today, in Japan they are still consumed to regain energy. Eating umeboshi in Japan is the equivalent of the English expression "An apple a day keeps a doctor away".

To this day, however, the active ingredients of umeboshi and their health-giving
effects are not widely known among the public.


Umeboshi in Cultures Around the World

The umeboshi style of pickling is common in Japan and is similar in style to other
Asian preserved pickling techniques found in China, Vietnam, and Korea.

In South Asian countries, a fruit called “amla” in Hindi, or “amala” in Nepali, is
prepared in the same way, but with Indian gooseberries instead of ume.

In Mexico, it is known as “chamoy” and is usually made with apricot, ume or tamarind and a mix of salt and dry chili.

In South Africa, a similar style of preserved dried fruit is used to produce a salty,
acidic variety.

People in Japan have eaten umeboshi for centuries, having learned from experience of their restorative and preservative properties along with their virtues in helping to ward off colds and other bugs.


When umeboshi were first introduced to Japan 1,500 years ago from China, they
weren't seen as a food but as medicine. Called "ubai" in China, these small plums
macerated in salt is cited in Chinese pharmacopoeia written 2,000 years ago. 


From the twelfth century, umeboshi consumption became very popular among
priests and samurai who attributed extremely powerful effects to it. It was able to
revive a fighter, or even bring him back to life!
Preserved, and therefore able to be stored a long time, samurai consumed umeboshi on the battlefield for its nutritional benefits. It was in the nineteenth century that umeboshi found its place on the Japanese table and usually served as a side dish for rice or eaten on rice balls (often without removing the pit) for breakfast and lunch. They are occasionally served boiled or seasoned for dinner.


Younger Japanese today are eating far fewer umeboshi than previous generations did. However, proponents are fighting back, arguing that the combination of health benefits and unique flavour make the humble umeboshi the ideal superfood for the twenty-first century.

A few Umeboshi characteristics:

  • Tart salty plum, pickled with red shiso leaves
  • Juicy pulp and delicious flavour
  • High citric acid content (higher than lemons!)
  • Fights fatigue and systematic toxicity
  • Aids digestion
  • Helps manage weight
  • Activates metabolism
  • Increases immunity
  • Protects from aging
  • Known as “King of the alkaline foods”


 Umeboshi Benefits


Macrobiotic Workshops with Srdjan “Serg” Dobic

Serg has 3 levels of workshops lined up for October and November 2019. Sign up for the classes from the links bellow!


Workshop Sign Up Dates:


Srdjan “Serg” Dobic 

 Macrobiotic Hong Kong

Srdjan “Serg” Dobic is a macrobiotic nutrition and lifestyle counselor. Implementing the principals of macrobiotic philosophy, diet and lifestyle, Serg specializes in working with clients to enhance vitality and improve specific health conditions such as stress, anxiety, chronic fatigue, digestion and respiratory issues.


For a 15 minute complimentary consultation and to schedule a full consultation with Serg, please send email to or Call / WhatsApp: +852 6112 4183

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