A Medicinal Protein Vegetable for Longevity
We’re really enjoying growing and eating longevity spinach!
Longevity spinach is related to but not the same as “Okinawa spinach”, with the scientific name of Gynura procumbens, from the family Asteraceae. G. Procumbens is a low-growing, semi-succulent leaf vegetable very popular in Southeast Asia, its home turf.
As vegetarians, we were delighted to discover that longevity spinach is high in quality protein, and so many other benefits.1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21938418
AUDIO ARTICLE – GROWING LONGEVITY SPINACH
How to Grow Longevity Spinach
Longevity Spinach Grow Zones 9-11
- Height: 6-12 inches
- Growth: naturally vining; can be pruned for branching
- Light: Full to part sun
- Soil: Keep moist, but not soggy
- Zones: 9-11 – G. procumbens is a tropical plant, but can grow indoors in colder climates.
SOURCE: Wellspring Gardens2)https://wellspringgardens.com/products/longevity-spinach-gynura-procumbens
- Difficulty: Longevity spinach is very easy to grow and propagate from clippings
Is Longevity Spinach a Perennial or Annual?
Gynura procumbens is grown as a perennial in warmer regions or as an annual where frost and freezing is a factor.
For those in the warmer US growing regions (zones 9 and above), the gynura plant will proliferate as a perennial through the warm season and hold its own over the “winter”.
This plant is not hardy to freezing temps, so if you have a freeze in zones 9-11, use a plant cover to protect it.
Gynura Grows Best in Partial Shade
Our original G. procumbens plants arrived in good bare root condition but a bit early for our NC climate. So we bagged up in organic potting mix and kept them protected with straw and an occasional cloth cover.
The young Gynura plants struggled a bit until we modified the full sun exposure. They were getting scorched from too much sun, so we added a shade cloth for screening and from there on they’re thriving.
So, gynura—like spinach—grows best in partial shade. They did alright in their cozy 3 gallon grow bags. We ran one dripper per bag from our irrigation grid and packed in straw around the sides as insulation against cold in early season and to retain moisture in summer.
Can You Grow Longevity Spinach Indoors?
Yes, you can grow longevity spinach indoors in pots during winter.
We’ve propagated cuttings to pots in the garden, then brought them indoors before the first frost.
However you’ll need ample sunlight and/or grow lights. While Gynura needs protection from too much sun outdoors, it often doesn’t get quite enough with indoor lighting.
Grow Bags and Pots
The first year we used grow bags, which work great, though maybe not the prettiest presentation (my wife advised)😉. So the next season, we put all of the plants in nicer 16″ pots.
The indoor Gynura plants over wintered in a corner tub with south and east windows. (The sacrifices gardeners make for their plants! 😃 To that we rigged up some LED grow lights on a tripod. Our starts from clippings were under grow lights in the indoor greenhouse set-up.
Moving on up!
So we went from two pots of gynura to a handful and from grow bags in our sunroom to 16″ pots in the tub. This year our gynura graduated to our cattle panel greenhouse. We’re planning on growing gynura for a long time to come. It’s an easy growing superfood, so an easy decision to make.
Gynura can grow indoors, but will need some additional care.
Longevity spinach grows year round outdoors in zones 9-11, and can grow indoors in colder climates with enough sun and/or grow lights.
Why is the Gynura Plant Called Longevity Spinach?
Commonly called “Longevity Spinach”, Gynura procumbens, or G. procumbens, has been used for centuries in tropical Asian countries.
Why is it Called Longevity Spinach?
- LONG LIVED PLANT: The gynura procumbens plant is a long-lived perennial in warm climates and easy to grow.
- FIGHTS DISEASE: Gynura has been used medicinally for centuries in Asian countries – thwarting disease, elongates live.
- IMPROVES HEALTH: Some studies have corroborated some of G. procumbens’ extraordinary healing properties, including anti-aging benefits.
SOURCE: Study published 20153)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791373/
Ways to Eat Longevity Spinach
Our favorite ways to enjoy Gynura procumbens:
- Mixed in with other salad greens
- Green juice and smoothies
- Added to soups (we prefer to add them, then turn off the heat so that the nutrients remain intact)
- Dried and made into tea
- Dried and powdered
How Does Longevity Spinach Taste?
Gynura leaves are very slightly fuzzy textured and taste somewhat similar to malabar spinach. Both have a strongly greens taste, and when cooked, the longevity has a bit of a viscous quality reminiscent of okra, so good for thickening soups and sauces.
For some, it may take a bit of getting acquainted with the flavor and texture. We’ve enjoyed it sparsely mixed in with our leafy salads, green juices, and in soups.
During winter, we’re growing the gynura indoors and eat a leaf or two or three a day as a vitamin. Several times a day we pluck a leave as we pass by a longevity plant and plucking a leaf… vitamins on a stem.
Longevity spinach leaf is satisfyingly vibrant and fresh and gives the sense of consuming health with every bite.
Pests on Longevity Gynura
The general assessment is that the plant is mostly pest-free. We did have a few bug issues and occasional slug munch, but in general, there were no serious pests.
However, they didn’t thrive indoors over the winter, and ended up with some green aphids on the leaves that were hard to control.
We’ve found that we needed to spray Gynura for aphids soon after bringing them inside. Growing outdoors, there’s natural pest control plus more sunlight, so aphids have only been a problem indoors.
We tried many different sprays, but it didn’t really take care of the problem. However, soon after moving the plants outside in spring, the aphids disappeared. We figured there were natural conditions outside that prevailed.
Then this year, shortly after moving them indoors, the aphids appeared again. The ones in our indoor greenhouse faired better because lots of tiny spiders set up shop there. But the plants in our bathtub needed help.
So I made up a batch of natural aphid control that worked really well.
Homemade Organic Aphid Spray
- 1 oz Dr. Bronners peppermint soap
- 1 oz Neem oil
- 1 Gal water
- Spray thoroughly over top and under leaves once/week for a few couple weeks.
- Check periodically; repeat as necessary.
I wanted to really zap these, so I used a handy one gallon spray pump once a week for several weeks and that did the trick.
Longevity Versus Regular Spinach
If the taste is okay and the texture slightly slippery, why not just grow regular spinach with all its iron and healthy antioxidants?
We think of our food as medicine first and foremost. Indeed, all garden veggies are healthy, however, longevity spinach is especially nutrient dense. So we grow what we love, and then we decide on what to grow by what our body’s need most for nutrients.
The Chinese have been using the gynura plant as a medicinal for centuries. Some refer to it as “cholesterol spinach” due to its reputed cholesterol-reducing effects.
Gynura procumbens — longevity spinach — is beneficial in lowering cholesterol.
In our interview with Dr. Tom Cowan, he extolled the virtues of Longevity spinach as a superfood. Quoting his blog:
“Gynura gains its super-food status because of its ability to counteract diabetes and reduce elevated blood sugar. Shown to be as effective as the front-line diabetic drug metformin (with none of the side effects), gynura also lowers blood pressure and LDL cholesterol.“
~Dr. Tom Cowan, DrCowansGarden.com
Gynura Procumbens Benefits
While Asian countries have used longevity spinach medicinally for centuries, extensive western research studies have definitively proven some of gynura’s legendary benefits.
A host of health attributes have been assigned to this simple and prolific plant, and proven it to be beneficial for numerous diseases.
Longevity Spinach Benefits
- Diabetes – lowers blood sugar in diabetic subjects4)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10783673/
- Cancer – fights many different cancers
- Heart disease
- Decrease in heart rate (using gynura extract)
- Sexual reproduction and libido
- Proactive support of the immune system
- Anti-inflammatory / steroidal properties5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12602932/
- Organ and tissue protectant
- Heals wounds more quickly with less scarring, (see the tissue/cell images and also lab rat healing images here)6)https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/06ba/fa9ee0e3f957f5babb9472d77d6ae1aa2f11.pdf
- Lowering of systolic blood pressure7)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17201650/
- A general tonic8)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791373/
Plants Over Pills Whenever Possible
The way our family chooses to “self-insure” our health is by growing our own organic medicinals and vitality supportive foods. We consider “longevity spinach” to be one of the essentials in our holistic healthy food lifestyle.
We use longevity spinach for food and medicine, and eat a few leaves a day as vitamins. Plants over pills whenever possible.
“Pop a leaf”! 🌱😀
Longevity Spinach Nutrition
Dried gynura protein is approximately 4.51 grams of protein per 3.4 ounces.
Gynura extract is a good source of vegetable protein and may have positive effects on free radical scavenging and iron chelating.9)https://www.scialert.net/abstract/?doi=ajps.2010.146.151
Beyond that, there’s very little to be found with a breakdown of the nutrients in longevity spinach in the layman’s terms we’re all familiar with. Most of the information on gynura nutrients to date relates to medicinal values for tinctures and supplements.
If you know of better nutrition resources, please send us a link and we’ll add it here.
We suspect that longevity spinach leaves contains similar nutrients to Malabar Spinach. While that’s a guess, here’s what science knows:
The diverse pharmacological effects and biological properties of Longevity Spinach, (Gynura procumbens) are mainly attributed to its flavonoid content.
~Study article: PMC4791373
Longevity Spinach is a fantastic addition to your garden for both food, tea and medicine!
Where to Buy Longevity Spinach
We originally purchased just two little plants that grew to maturity in the first year along with two others from clippings of the first set. Now, in our third summer, we currently have 28 new rooted plants in small pots. We could easily take more cuttings and continue expanding the brood, but we’re running out of space.
Buy from Amazon
There are a number of Gynura sellers on Amazon. Just check the reviews as usual.
Buy from Baker’s Creek – Rare Seeds
We got our first two plants from Baker’s Creek Rare Seeds, (but last check they were out of stock).
For a limited time we have extra plants, so you can order from us too while supplies last. If there’s enough demand for us to sell these regularly, we’ll create a ‘Buy’ button and all. You can see photos of our plants throughout this article.
For now, please just send us a note and we’ll send you a PayPal invoice. Our price is $35 (includes shipping and handling) for 2 plants approximately 8-10″ tall in two 4″ pots, and… your satisfaction is guaranteed!
Buy from Wellspring Gardens – this is the Best Price
Wellspring Gardens’ pricing is at wholesale price, so this is your most economical option.
Once you get your first few plants though, it’s really easy to propagate those into many more.
If you’re like us, you’ll want to grow and propagate for yourself and others. G. procumbens is easy to grow from clippings and makes great host gifts for fellow gardeners and plant lovers interested in edible medicinal plants.
Longevity spinach… a great host gift for health and longevity!
Longevity spinach is very easy to grow from cuttings.
Buy one plant and you can quickly root more.
Uses for Longevity Spinach
- Sautéed solo or with other ingredients
- Edible garnish, similar to parsley
- Add to:
- smoothies (raw or as dried leaves or powder)
- green juice (raw or as dried leaves or powder)
- Tea – dried Gynura leaves make pleasant, soothing and medicinal teas
- Powder – dried leaves can be ground into powder for supplements or additives
There are many wonderful attributes to longevity spinach. We’ve touched on just a few here. It’s very easy to grow and propagate. For gardeners in colder zones, the plants can be brought inside and continue to yield healthful nutrition. We definitely plan to keep growing and enjoying longevity spinach as a dietary and medicinal staple.
If you’ve had experience growing gynura procumbens (alias longevity spinach), please let us know. We’d be glad to add your experience and photos to this article.
Update on Growing Longevity Spinach
Mid Summer Update, 2019
The Gynura procumbens plants we cultivated last year and nurtured indoors during the cold season have flourished. This year, shade fabric has made a huge difference in the growth and maintenance of our plants.
This longevity plant is so prolific that we’re harvesting many shoots to use for tea and powder.
Have a look at our short video to see the bounty propagated from cuttings of two original plants we purchased in 2017. We must be on our third or fourth generation at this point.
Once you’ve got longevity spinach, with a little care, you’ve got them forever.
Growing and Harvesting Longevity Spinach
Drying Longevity Spinach
The drying process has begun. Leaves are selectively stripped from the stems and placed on a home engineered hammock set above a sunny roof. We could dry them in our oven or dehydrator, but why ignore the natural summer sun?
HOW TO DRY GYNURA LEAVES
You can dry longevity spinach leaves on a hot surface in the sun in just one day. We engineered a drying hammock of sorts using landscaped fabric stretched over a half coil of wire fencing.
Another even easier way is if you have an extra window screen and lay it across a couple bricks to suspend it for air flow.
Wishing you great gardens and happy harvests!
G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson
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