BEET ROOT (Beta vulgaris)

Latin: Beta vulgaris

WHAT IT DOES: Beet root is sweet in taste and detoxifying in action.  It nourishes the liver, intestines and other internal organs and protects them from toxins.  

RATING: Silver, due to limitations of medicinal potency


• Vegetable: ingest freely
• Dried powder: two to three grams two times per day

Beets are cultivated worldwide both as a food and a source of sugar.  I personally think they are also a very effective herbal medicine.  Remember all fresh foods are medicinal, but only those with a unique composition that creates a higher-than-normal activity level qualify as medicines.  The dark red color of the beet root is due to an intensly crimson pigment called betanin, which bleeds out if the skin is pierced before cooking.  For this reason experienced cooks usually bake, steam or boil them with the skins intact.  It also contains sugars (up to 22%), valuable fiber, anthocyans, and betaine etc. 

All byproducts of beet production are sold for use in livestock feeds.  Betaine is important because it can help the body regenerate a key cellular antioxidant enzyme(methionine reductase), which in turn is used by the body to prevent the buildup of homocysteine, a harmful inflammatory chemical tested for by physicians as a risk factor for heart disease.  Toxins like alcohol and environmental chemicals work in the opposite direction, damaging our liver, blood vessels, kidneys and intestines if we are low this protective enzyme (Barak, 1996).  Although medical research on beet root is sparse, I suspect that more evidence of it’s medicinal powers will emerge.  I often mix beet root powder into herbal formulas to make them more palatable, especially to children.

More on Beet root

Research highlights

• Researchers tested the inhibitory effect of beet root extract against both the Epstein-Barr virus and mouse skin and lung cancers, revealing a higher order of activity compared to other red-pigment vegetables and fruits such as cranberry, red onion skin and short and long red bell peppers.  Researchers concluded that ” The combined findings suggest that beetroot ingestion can be one of the useful means to prevent cancer.” (Kapadia et al., 1996)

• A controlled study done in Greece of patients with colorectal cancer showed they ate significantly more lamb and beef, and less beets, spinach, lettuce and cabbage (Manousos et al., 1983).

• A rat study suggested that beet fiber could help eliminate abnormal cells from an irradiated colon by initiating apoptosis (programmed cell death) (Ishizuka et al., 1999).