Wasabi: Beyond Just Spicy, This Green Condiment May Boost Your Memory

For centuries, wasabi, the vibrant green paste enjoyed alongside sushi, has been celebrated for its pungent flavour and ability to clear sinuses. Now, a groundbreaking study from Japan suggests it may possess another surprising benefit: boosting memory.

A Memory-Boosting Bite:

Researchers from Tohoku University in Japan conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 120 healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 75. The participants were divided into two groups, one receiving a daily dose of 6-methylsulfinylhexyl isothiocyanate (6-MSITC), the key bioactive compound in wasabi, while the other received a placebo.

After 12 weeks, the study revealed significant improvements in participants who consumed 6-MSITC. They demonstrated:

  • Enhanced working memory: The ability to retain and manipulate information in the short term.
  • Improved episodic memory: The ability to recall past experiences and events.
  • Faster association between faces and names: A common memory challenge for older adults.

How Wasabi May Work:

The study suggests that 6-MSITC activates specific pathways in the brain linked to memory formation and consolidation. It may also enhance the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein crucial for maintaining and strengthening cognitive functions.

Beyond Sushi: Potential Applications:

While further research is needed, this study opens exciting possibilities for the potential use of wasabi in cognitive health supplements and dietary interventions. It could be particularly beneficial for older adults experiencing age-related memory decline or individuals with mild cognitive impairment.

Lead Researcher Comments:

Dr. Ryosuke Kubo, lead researcher on the study, stated: “This research provides promising evidence for the potential of wasabi to improve cognitive function. While more research is needed, it’s exciting to consider the possibility of incorporating wasabi into dietary strategies to support healthy aging and memory.”

A Note of Caution:

While consuming commercially available wasabi products could offer some cognitive benefits, it’s important to note that most wasabi available outside Japan is not pure and may contain artificial ingredients. Opting for authentic wasabi or 6-MSITC supplements derived from it may be more effective.

The Future of Wasabi:

This study adds to the growing body of research highlighting the potential health benefits of traditional foods. It also contributes to the increasing interest in exploring the role of dietary interventions in promoting brain health and preventing cognitive decline. As research progresses, we may see wasabi evolve from a beloved condiment to a powerful tool for cognitive well-being.


1. What is Wasabi?

Wasabi is a green paste traditionally served with sushi. It has a pungent flavor and aroma due to a compound called 6-methylsulfinylhexyl isothiocyanate (6-MSITC).

2. How is Wasabi made?

Authentic wasabi is made from the grated rhizome (underground stem) of the Wasabia japonica plant. However, most commercially available wasabi is not pure and may contain horseradish, mustard, and artificial colors and flavors.

3. What are the health benefits of Wasabi?

Wasabi is believed to have several health benefits, including:

  • Antibacterial properties: 6-MSITC may inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi.
  • Anticancer properties: Studies suggest 6-MSITC may have antitumor and anticancer effects.
  • Pain relief: Wasabi may have pain-relieving properties due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Memory enhancement: Recent research suggests wasabi may improve working memory, episodic memory, and face-name association.

4. How can I incorporate Wasabi into my diet?

  • Enjoy it with sushi, sashimi, or other Japanese dishes.
  • Add it to marinades and dressings.
  • Use it as a condiment for grilled meats and vegetables.
  • Incorporate it into dipping sauces.
  • Look for wasabi-flavored snacks and beverages.

5. Can I grow Wasabi myself?

Yes, you can grow wasabi at home, but it requires specific conditions such as cool temperatures, shade, and moist soil.

6. What are the side effects of Wasabi?

Wasabi is generally safe for most people when consumed in moderate amounts. However, excessive consumption may cause:

  • Stomach upset and irritation
  • Heartburn
  • Skin irritation
  • Difficulty breathing (in rare cases)

7. Is Wasabi safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women?

Consult your doctor before consuming wasabi if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

8. Is there a difference between real and fake Wasabi?

Yes, real wasabi is made from the Wasabia japonica plant and has a distinctively pungent flavor and aroma. Fake wasabi is often made from horseradish, mustard, and artificial ingredients and may have a milder flavor.

9. How can I tell real Wasabi from fake Wasabi?

Real wasabi is bright green, has a bumpy texture, and releases a strong volatile oil when grated. Fake Wasabi is usually smoother, brighter green, and has a less pungent smell.

10. Where can I buy real Wasabi?

Real wasabi can be found in some specialty Asian grocery stores or online retailers.

11. How long does Wasabi last?

Fresh wasabi has a short shelf life and should be consumed within a few days. Wasabi paste or powder can last longer, but its flavor and aroma will deteriorate over time.

12. How much Wasabi should I eat?

There is no recommended daily intake for Wasabi. Start with a small amount and adjust to your taste and tolerance.

13. Can Wasabi be used for anything other than food?

Wasabi has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It is also sometimes used in cosmetics and cleaning products.

14. Is Wasabi considered a superfood?

While Wasabi has several health benefits, it is not officially considered a superfood. However, incorporating it into your diet in moderation can be a healthy choice.

15. What are the cultural significance of Wasabi in Japan?

Wasabi is an integral part of Japanese cuisine and culture. It is believed to cleanse the palate between bites of sushi, enhancing the flavors of other dishes.

16. Are there any interesting facts about Wasabi?

  • Wasabi is a member of the Brassica family, which includes cabbage, broccoli, and kale.
  • The Japanese word “wasabi” refers to both the plant and the paste.
  • Wasabi is considered a luxury ingredient in Japan due to its rarity and difficulty to cultivate.
  • Wasabi ice cream is a popular dessert in Japan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *