A Medicinal Protein Vegetable for Longevity
We’re really enjoying growing and using longevity spinach, aka, Gynura procumbens! There are so many benefits and uses, that if you’re just becoming acquainted with this plant, then you’re in for a treat.
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.
No Nutritional info on Gynura Procumbens
While there are published papers on the health benefits and chemical constituents of Gynura, we’ve yet to find any information on the nutritional facts of longevity spinach beyond a measure of protein. If you’re aware of any, please let us know.
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 Gardenshttps://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 2015https://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.
A nibble of a 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. If you have a lot of plants or areas to spray, we written about our use of a battery powered sprayer here, to make quick work of it.
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.comhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791373/
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 – Research Continue, but Some Studies Are Included Below
- Anti-inflammatory / steroidal propertieshttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12602932/
- Blood Pressure – lowers systolic BPhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791373/
- Cancer – fights many different cancers
- Decrease in heart rate (using gynura extract)
- Diabetes – lowers blood sugar in diabetic subjectshttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10783673/
- Health tonic – overall health benefits2
- Heart disease
- Organ and tissue protectant
- Proactive support of the immune system
- Sexual reproduction and libido
- Wound healant – faster healing with less scarring, (see the tissue/cell images and also lab rat healing images here)https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/06ba/fa9ee0e3f957f5babb9472d77d6ae1aa2f11.pdf
Plants Over Pills Whenever Possible
Our family’s “supplemental healthcare” is growing our own organic foods and herbs and maintaining a healthy diet. Longevity spinach is one of the essentials in our holistic healthy food lifestyle.
We use longevity spinach for food and nutrients, eating a few leaves a day as vitamins. We choose plants over pills whenever possible. “Pop a leaf”! 🌱😀
Longevity Spinach Nutrition
Dried gynura contains approximately 4.51 grams of protein per 3.4 ounces. Use as tea or powder for adding “hidden” nutrients to smoothies, salad dressings, soups, casserole and green juices
Gynura extract is a good source of vegetable protein and may have positive effects on free radical scavenging and iron chelating.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 medicinal benefits!
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).
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.
Growing Longevity Spinach
Spring Update, 2021
The Gynura procumbens plants we’ve cultivated over the past couple years are flourishing. The first couple winters they stayed indoors in our south facing sunroom and bathtub, where they were supplemented with grow lights.
These past two winters they’ve thrived just fine in our cattle panel greenhouse, where they fared with fewer aphid issues than growing indoors. In summer, the use of shade fabric has made a huge difference in the growth and maintenance of our longevity spinach plants. While G. procumbens is a tropical plant that can’t tolerate freezing temperatures, this longevity spinach also can’t take too much heat. Temps 65-85 are the best for Gynura.
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 fourth or fifth 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?
You can dry longevity spinach leaves in hot sun in just one day.
We engineered a hammock of sorts using landscape fabric stretched over a coil of wire fencing secured by wooden clothespins.
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 landscape fabric stretched over a half coil of old wire fencing.
Another even easier way is if you have an extra window screen and lay it across a couple bricks (or stacked on a second screen) to suspend it for air flow. For outdoor drying whenever wind or insects could be an issue, stack another screen over whatever you’re drying to keep them from blowing away or attracting insects.
Leaf get light and airy as they dry and could blow away in a gust of wind. Drying Gynura shouldn’t attract insects, but if you’re drying other foods or fruit it might, so that’s when the extra screen stacked on top comes in handy.
Longevity Spinach – Gynura Procumbens – Flowers
Wishing you a long and healthy life with great gardens and healthy 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