What smells like fish, grows like a weed, and is consumed as tea? You guessed it–dokudami!
If you have ever had iced dokudami (どくだみ, Houttuynia cordata) tea on a sweltering hot Tokyo summer day, you know how refreshing a gulp of it feels as it slides down your throat. You also know that it has a funny smell, somewhere between citrus and cilantro. The story goes that this flowering herb was given its name when people smelled it and wondered what kind of poison it might contain (毒 poison 溜み storing). However, dokudami is far from poisonous, and another name for it is “jūyaku” (十薬, ten medicines). Here are a few of its health properties:
- Supports immune health
- Relieves seasonal allergies
- Good for breakouts, rashes, and eczema
- Relieves constipation
- Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial
*This does not constitute medical advice and should not be taken us such. Please use the recipes in this post at your own discretion.
Some of the dokudami’s names in English are rather unappealing: lizard tail, chameleon plant, fishwort, or fish mint, while others like heart leaf and bishop’s weed are more charming. Fish mint seems to be the common name among plant people. While dokudami tea goes for an extortionate price outside of Japan, you can buy live fish mint plants for a reasonable price. Do note, though, that fish mint is considered a weed and can be quite invasive.
That said, here are three ways to enjoy dokudami.
How To Make Dokudami Bath
It so happens that “dokudami yu” (ドクダミ湯, dokudami bath) is the seasonal bath for the month of June! Here’s how to draw a dokudami bath.
- Fill the tub up to waist-level with hot water.
- Chop dokudami stems and leaves coarsely
- Tie them up in a handkerchief or old (clean) sock to form a simple sachet
- Put sachet in the bath
- While soaking in the tub, squeeze the dokudami sachet to extract the natural oils
How to Make Dokudami Tea
(In a Pot)
Needed: 1 liter of water to 5~10 grams of dried dokudami leaves
How To: Bring to a boil, turn off heat, and steep for 2 minutes (or longer if you prefer stronger tea)
(In a Teapot)
Needed: ~15 grams of dried dokudami leaves and enough boiling water to fill your teapot
How To: Pour boiling water over dokudami leaves and steep 3-4 minutes (or longer, if you prefer stronger tea)
Enjoy with ice in the summer. If the taste of dokudami is a little strong for you at first, try adding green tea with brown rice tea (抹茶入り玄米茶) or roasted green tea (ほうじ茶) to create a balanced blend of flavors.
How to Make Dokudami Toner
- Dokudami flowers, stems, and/or leaves
- Vodka or white liquor (minimum of 35% alcohol content)
- Glass jar with lid
- Rinse flowers (and/or leaves and stems) lightly
- Allow to dry thoroughly
- Wash and dry jar
- Fill jar with flowers
- Add liquor until flowers are covered
- Close lid tightly and leave in a cool, dark place for 1~2 months, shaking lightly once a day
- Liquid will darken to brown over time
- Strain liquid into another jar or spray bottle
*Optional-add yuzu water
If you do not have access to dokudami, have a glass of your favorite chilled beverage, turn on the AC, and watch this beautiful 2-minute YouTube how-to video: [ドクダミ花チンキの作り方] 化粧水や虫除けスプレーに for some cool summer vibes.
There’s no doubt summer can be muggy and unpleasant, but with a little creativity, we can make this season one we look forward to every year!