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Herb Information
Name: Soy
Biological Name: Sojae praeparatum


Other Names: Soy, Black soybean, Dan dou chi, fermented black soybean
Parts Used: Beans, oil, sauce, and a variety of other forms
Active Compounds:  

Soy, a staple food in many Asian countries, contains valuable constituents, including protein, isoflavones, saponins, and phytosterols. Soy protein provides most of the essential amino acids. It’s also low in fat and cholesterol-free. 

The isoflavones in soy, primarily genistein and daidzein, have been well researched by scientists for their antioxidant and phytoestrogenic properties. Saponins enhance immune function and bind to cholesterol to limit its absorption in the intestine.

Phytosterols and other components of soy have been reported to lower cholesterol levels.

Isoflavones may reduce the risk of hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer, as well as other cancers. Both animal and human studies have confirmed this.


Ancient Chinese books have many references to the use of soy products. The predecessor of miso probably originated in China as a salt- fermented food called Chiang sometime during the Chou dynasty (722- 481 B.C.). At first, the term referred to any protein-rich animal food that was preserved with salt. The substitution of soybeans for meat and fish as the basic protein of chiang was first described in the Chimin Yaushu (535-550 AD) which is the oldest agricultural encyclopedia in the world. From the book's description, it appears that fermented soybean foods had been prepared several centuries before.

The cultivation of soybeans occurred with the spread of Buddhism, which recommended vegetarianism, during the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.). It was also around 164 B.C. that Lord Liu An of Huai-nan invented the process of making tofu. Miso probably arrived in Japan either directly from China or from Korea around the same time as the introduction of Buddhism, sometime around the sixth century A. D. Since that time, Miso has become a characteristic staple of the Japanese diet. Today, it is made in various ways, distinguished by the local districts in Japan in which it is made. Whatever else is added, all Japanese miso varieties contain fermented soybeans.

Miso is one of the most perfect foods. First, because of the fermented soybeans, it is rich in easily assimilated high-quality protein. Second, it is commonly taken before or during Japanese meals because it aids the assimilation of other foods. This is because unpasteurized miso contains natural digestive enzymes, lactic acid bacteria (lactobacillus), salt- resistant yeasts, and healthful organisms found in the ingredients used to make miso.

The best-quality miso is fermented over several years. This supports the breakdown of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into smaller molecules in the large and small intestines. Because enzymes and lactobacilli are live organisms, they die at temperatures over 104 degree Fahrenheit. This means that they are present in only unpasteurized miso. It also means that miso should never be boiled, rather, the paste should be stirred into the basic broth toward the conclusion of cooking, ideally when the temperature of the liquid is below 104 degrees.

Remedies For

Weak diaphoretic, calmative

Soy is useful for:

• cancer risk reduction
• high cholesterol
• menopause
• vaginitis

Soy and Reduction in Cholesterol:
A meta-analysis study that pooled thirty-eight trials for reanalysis reported that a soy diet led to cholesterol reductions in 89% of the studies. Increasing soy intake was associated with a 23 mg per deciliter drop in total cholesterol levels.

Soy Beans and Breast Cancer:
Eating lots of beans may help protect you from breast cancer, possibly because they contain so-called phytoestrogens that help block the activity of cancer-promoting estrogen. Hispanic women in the Caribbean and Mexico are known to have less breast cancer than American women. One reason could be that Hispanic women eat twice as many beans-mainly pinto, garbanzo and black beans-as American women.
Hispanic women average three-fourths of a cup of beans six days a week. That's compared with beans three times a week for African-American women and twice a week for white American women. Beans also possess several anticancer compounds, including protease inhibitors and phytates.

Soybeans contain compounds that can manipulate estrogen as well as directly inhibit the growth of cancerous cells, theoretically reducing the risk of breast cancer in women of all ages. One soybean compound, in fact, is quite similar chemically to the drug tamoxifen, given to certain women to help prevent breast cancer and its spread.

Animal studies have shown that the soybean's phytoestrogens counteract cancer-promoting estrogen much the same way tamoxifen does. Researchers believe that soybean's most active anticancer agent is genistein. This was found to prevent breast tumors in animals. Human studies are in progress.

Soybeans seem to protect Asian women against breast cancer. A recent study found that premenopausal women in Singapore who ate twice as much soy protein as most people had only half the risk of breast cancer.

Soybeans are regarded as the likely primary reason Japanese women have less breast cancer. Researchers found that those who ate the most soybean foods had the highest urine concentrations of isoflavonoids, which are anti- cancer agents, particularly against. breast cancer and prostate cancer. Typically the women ate three ounces of soybean products a day, including tofu (soybean curd), miso (soybean paste), fermented soybeans and boiled soybeans. Eating miso has also decreased both the occurrence and growth of breast tumors in animals. This jibes with the observation that postmenopausal breast cancers grow more slowly in Japanese women than in Caucasian women.

Soy and Stomach Cancer:
Soybeans may help. fight off stomach cancer. Japanese scientists found that men and women who ate a bowl of rniso soup a day were only one- third as apt to develop stomach cancer as those who never ate it. Even eating it occasionally cut the odds of stomach cancer by 17 percent in men and 19 percent in women.

NOTE: Only soybean protein appears protective. That includes soybeans, textured soy protein, soy milk, tofu, miso and tempeh, but not soy sauce or soybean oil.

Soy and Menaupaual Symptoms:
The mild estrogen activity of soy isoflavones may ease menopause symptoms for some women, without creating estrogen-related problems. A group of fifty-eight menopausal women, who experienced an average of fourteen hot flashes per week, supplemented their diets with either wheat flour or soy flour every day for three months; the women taking the soy reduced their hot flashes by 40%. In addition, soy may help regulate hormone levels in premenopausal women.

Miso and Vegetarians:
Vegetarians who exclude all animal protein and dairy can become deficient in vitamin B12. The bacteria in naturally fermented miso have been found to manufacture vitamin B12, making miso paste an important vegetarian food. Japanese monks, who are well known for their vitality and long life and eat no animal products, regularly consume miso.

Improves Digestion:
Miso is used to relieve acid indigestion, symptoms of hangover, and other digestive upsets. Because of this, it is used with ginger and/or garlic to prevent and/or cure colds, improve digestive metabolism, increase resistance to parasite infestations (which tend to occur in an acid environments), and neutralize blood toxins and therefore clear the skin.

Counteracts pollution and adverse effects of radiation:
Miso was also found to counteract the adverse effects of radiotherapy, antibiotics, chemotherapy, and environmental pollution. By 1972, Dr. Akizuki, his nurses, and co-workers, whose hospital was located only 1 mile from the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima in 1945, still had experienced no side effects from radiation exposure, despite the opposite experience of others in the near vicinity. He attributed this to the fact that they regularly ate miso. Stimulated by Dr. Akizuki's claims, Japanese scientists conducted a study of miso and one of the ingredients used to make it, called natto. They found a substance they called zybicolin, which is produced by the yeasts of these products. It has the special ability to attract, absorb, and discharge such radioactive elements as strontium. Miso is also able to detoxify the harmful influences of tobacco and traffic pollution.


In addition to whole soy-beans, foods derived from soy include tofu, tempeh, soy milk, textured and hydrolyzed vegetable protein, meat substitutes, soy flour, miso, and soy sauce. Soy is also available as a supplement, as soy protein or isoflavone in powder, capsule, or tablet form. High levels of soy-based isoflavones are in roasted soy nuts, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and some soy protein isolates.


The ideal intake of soy is not known. The equivalent of one serving of soy foods per day is believed to support good health. The benefits increase as soy intake increases.


Mothers who are nursing should not use black soybean, as it may inhibit lactation.

Soy products and cooked soy beans are very safe at a wide range of consumption. A small percentage of people are allergic to soybeans and if you are one of the lucky ones, you should avoid consuming soy products.

Certain constituents in soy was found to interfere with thyroid function. It is not clear at this time what the significance of this is. Soy contains a compound called phytic acid which can interfere with mineral absorption

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