Macrobiotics #3: Healing inside: The miracle of Ku(d)zu

Let’s talk about one of my cornerstones of healing – Vega Morning Tea. The basics of this come from a medicinal tea created by Herman and Cornelia Aihara, the great teachers and cheerleaders of the American Macrobiotic movement. They designed it for cancer patients, but I think that anyone suffering from a chronic illness, or anyone who feels drained, exhausted, stressed and unable to comfortably digest food, can benefit from this drink.

Macrobiotic counselors will tell you to drink this tea first thing in the morning, so it can pass without interference from the stomach into the small intestine. In fact, they’d prefer that this be breakfast. Using this tea continues the “fast” you began when you went to sleep the night before. The longer you can wait, the more time your digestive system has to rest and recover from its hard work – and from whatever health or diet problem has damaged your ability to take nutrients from food. It also has toxin-cleansing properties. You can do anything from substituting it for your usual breakfast to having it before roasted whole grains cereal and veggies. If you want more than tea for breakfast (and I do, even though I can run well on this for hours) Wait a minimum of 20 minutes, and longer if you can, before eating anything.

Vega Morning Tea

1/3 umeboshi pickled plum; you can use 1/8 tsp. Umeboshi paste. (Refrigerate plums and/or paste after opening.)

“You’re kidding, right? Those things are salty!”

(Not in this recipe – the salt is totally balanced, by the end.)

½ tsp. Organic shoyu (soy sauce)(Ideally, get unpasterized and refrigerate after opening.)  I am wheat-free, so I buy traditional tamari instead.

3-5 drops organic ginger juice.

1 tsp. COLD filtered or spring water. (MUST be cold when mixed in!)

1 level teaspoon of kudzu root, ground to a powder.

½ cup Kukicha tea, heated to a rolling boil.

Yield: 1 serving


Mash umeboshi into a paste using flat side of knife. Grate ginger and squeeze 3-5 drops of juice into cup; pushing the ginger into the cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer helps with this process. I just use my fingers. Add shoyu/tamari, kuzu and water to cup. Mix ingredients together with the fat, square end of a chopstick, making sure kuzu is fully dissolved. (Think of the kuzu as being corn or tapioca starch – the water’s gotta be cold, and the kuzu must be completely dissolved.) Place umeboshi into cup; mash it around with the other ingredients.

Bring kukicha tea to a rolling boil, remove from flame and quickly pour into the cup. (The kukicha must be very hot to ensure that the kuzu will cook and thicken. If the tea is hot enough, the mixture will change to a dark color. If the mixture remains milky, the kuzu has not cooked completely.) After adding kukicha, allow the mixture to steep for 15 – 30 seconds, then stir with a chopstick. Serve hot.

Surprise! Vega Morning Tea does not taste salty!


The original recipe calls for putting the umeboshi in the tea cup first, but I don’t because it can hide kuzu powder. If any of the powder is not fully mixed, it can keep the kuzu from completely cooking. You can drink the tea if you don’t thoroughly cook the kuzu, and it is just as effective — it just doesn’t taste quite as good.

I add at least 3-5 drops of ginger juice, but you have the option of mashing the grated ginger flat in a fine mesh strainer. People with arthritis may not be able to just squeeze the ginger, and the garlic press did not work as well as I’d hoped. Cheesecloth is traditional.  Remember ginger is powerful — if you have an upset stomach, less is more.

Use less shoyu for a lighter tea.

Kuzu comes in packets of very small chunks. Some people grind it in a coffee grinder that is not used for coffee, but those particles took too much extra mashing. I put some into a small zippered bag, crack the opening, and roll my maple rolling pin all over it. Then I store the powder. This step saves a lot of time getting this tea made first thing in the am!

After the tea turns dark, I often add more tea or water while stirring to have this as a full cup of tea.

Eat the umeboshi at the end – pickled food is also great for digestion.

So why does it help heal the gut?

All the ingredients of Morning Tea are alkaline-forming, and that’s our goal – to help the body chemistry to lean alkaline as opposed to acid. This tea is a good balance of yin and yang properties. Umeboshi plums are pickled in sea salt and shiso leaves (beef steak plant). Umeboshi is a yang, alkaline-forming food that aids digestion, encourages healthy intestinal flora, and has many uses in macrobiotic cooking. Kuzu (or kudzu) powder is also a yang alkaline-forming food; it’s made from the root of the kuzu plant. It’s a fantastic thickener, and is used in soups, sauces, and desserts. Macrobiotics practitioners believe kuzu strengthens the intestines, and it is a component of many Japanese home remedies for diarrhea.

Shoyu, a yang, alkaline-forming food made by fermenting soybeans and wheat with salt, is ubiquious in macrobiotic cooking. As mentioned in the last installment, kukicha twig tea is a yin, alkaline-forming food made from the leaves and twigs of the Japanese tea plant. Kukicha bonus – almost no caffeine! Ginger juice is a yin, alkaline-forming food made by grating ginger root and then squeezing the juice from the pulp. And no, of course you can’t use ginger ale or ginger beer. Get the root!

I wish for you healing. Take control of your health – try Vega Morning Tea.



Macrobiotics #3: Healing inside: The miracle of Ku(d)zu — 5 Comments

  1. What a fantastic post!

    Ume Sho Kudzu is indeed a fantastic remedy, and is usually part of most counselor’s first recommendations. I have not had it with ginger, but that sounds great.

    Actually, I still feel a bit sluggish after the Thanksgiving feast, so I think its a great time to give my Intestines a bit of attention. After all, it is the metal season 🙂

    Thanks again!

    • Actually, Pati, it’s not as convoluted to just learn how to start cooking this way. I know three or four cookbooks, any one of which could start you experimenting with it, if you’re curious. I added a lot of info for people to understand exactly why they were eating this way–but you don’t need to know any of those details, now or ever, to benefit from these simple cooking techniques.

      I think I put cookbooks at the end of this mini-series, but life was convoluted when I did this series I may need to go back and finish it!

  2. Hi, I have all the ingredients except the umeboshi plum, can I substitute the ume vinegar for it??
    Thank you. Please email me your answer I would also love to know other things you recommend for great health.

    • Sharon, I’m sorry, I just saw this–I don’t have your email address!

      You really need to use the plum or plum paste–ume vinegar won’t give you the same elements. That’s how it was taught to me.