Perennial with swollen edible red or white root, upright shoots, large deep green leaves tinged with red, and spikes of greenpetaled flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Sea beet (the wild subspecies) is native to coastal regions of Europe, North Africa, and Asia from Turkey to the East Indies. Red beet is widely cultivated as a vegetable, white beet as a vegetable and source of sugar.
White beet contains betaine, which promotes liver regeneration and fat metabolism. Red beet contains betanin (also found in red wine), which is partly responsible for its immune-enhancing effect, and inorganic nitrate, which increases nitric oxide levels within the body and thus lowers blood pressure.
History & Folklore
The Materia Medica, written by Dioscorides in the 1st century CE, recommends the following prescription for clearing the head and relieving earache—mix beet juice with honey and sniff it up the nose.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
White beet acts to support the liver, bile ducts, and gallbladder, influencing fat metabolism and helping to lower blood fat levels. Several clinical trials have shown that red beet juice (due to its high nitrate content) relaxes the arteries and lowers blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. A glass a day of juice will help to support lower blood pressure. Red beet juice is also thought to support immune function and is prescribed by herbalists as part of a cancer treatment regime—though large quantities must be taken (up to 1 quart a day) to be effective.