I first heard about 2-HOBA from Sam Beer, a gentleman farmer on the front lines of saving buckwheat in the Appalachian foothills of Western New York. Actually, “front lines” gets it wrong. Beer is the only real grower of Himalayan Tartary buckwheat in this entire country, and through Angelica Mill, he’s become the lifeblood for some of Big Bold Health’s first products targeting immuno-rejuvenation.
There’s a big difference between common buckwheat and Himalayan Tartary buckwheat, a species that carries higher loads of key phytonutrients. This is not the buckwheat you find lining the shelves at your local grocery store. With Himalayan Tartary buckwheat, the nutritional science points toward dramatically higher levels of a flavonoid mix — namely, rutin, quercetin, hesperidin, luteolin, and diosmin — and dramatically higher levels of 2-HOBA. The presence of 2-HOBA in foods is rare, and Himalayan Tartary buckwheat is the best food-source we know for it.
The Power Of The Small Farmer
“It was everywhere,” says Beer, referring to his favorite species of buckwheat, “and disappeared from everywhere almost simultaneously. After World War II, farmers started to walk away from these low-yielding, peasant crops. Modern agriculture went a way that just didn’t suit tartary buckwheat very well.” The story of Himalayan Tartary buckwheat is a story of protecting and rediscovering an ancient grain lost to the modern food supply. In the pursuit of yield, uniformity, and crop consistency, maybe we lost something along the way. Maybe we lost access to important compounds like 2-HOBA.
“After World War II, farmers started to walk away from these low-yielding, peasant crops. Modern agriculture went a way that just didn’t suit tartary buckwheat very well.” — SAM BEER
The story of Himalayan Tartary buckwheat is also the story of the wild, and the power therein. “We’ve only worked with four land races from North America,” says Beer. “These are farmer-bred cultivars, so by nature they’re just more variable. No one’s narrowed down the genetics. There’s this sense that they’re still evolving.” This evolution walks an entirely different path from the monocultures of modern agriculture where genetics and cross-breeding can take a plant far afield from its original, wilder progenitors.
And the story of Himalayan Tartary buckwheat is also the story of Sam Beer himself, of a small farmer who happened upon a special crop and spent decades advocating for its role in the modern diet. “We backed into this,” says Beer. “I got the tartary buckwheat seed by mistake. This all started with those 50 seeds, and the years it took to get the fields up to scale, before we even needed field-scale equipment. We can’t offer a price competitive with highly-automated freight-train-scale agribusiness, but we can promise attention to detail every step of the way, from planting the seed to sealing the bag.”
The market came back to Beer because that attention to detail matters in food. That attention to detail leads to quality more than quantity, to higher nutritional value, to a crop that can deliver 2-HOBA to a company like Big Bold Health.
The Power Of An Open Mind
I next heard about 2-HOBA from Dr. Naji Abumrad at Vanderbilt University. A surgeon in training and practice, Abumrad was born in Lebanon and perhaps this informed the open mind he has brought to several key advances in dietary supplements and personal health. “Regardless of the discipline at hand, I was always cognizant that we’re more prescriptive in this country,” says Abumrad. “We find a problem, diagnose it with the knowledge available at the time. In the Middle East, there’s a holistic approach on equal footing with the allopathic. There’s real interest in what we would call alternative medicine.”
This equal footing for the alternative approach led to HMB, itself a powerful ingredient for muscle and lean tissue in the body. “The team behind HMB got interested in how aspirin works, how NSAIDs work,” says Abumrad. “We collaborated with investigators at Vanderbilt to identify the pathways of arachidonic acid, and in doing so, found that minute amounts of 2-HOBA, like you’d find in buckwheat, seemed to prevent the binding of injurious compounds.”
In this light, HMB is the proof of concept that would surface Abumrad’s next powerful ingredient, 2-HOBA. The work continues to assess this ingredient’s ability to rejuvenate the immune system in concert with HMB, and to promote the kind of autophagy that clears out the debris of damaged cells for the flourishing of vital new ones. The immune system presents a special opportunity to promote this kind of rejuvenation. Immunity is where we meet the external world and process its signals. It’s a system where new cells are produced at rapid pace, more than a million with every ten passing seconds.
If 2-HOBA is a powerhouse for immune function, then this story comes full circle. Those “minute amounts of 2-HOBA” found in common buckwheat during nutritional research get less minute with Beer’s super-buckwheat. “Terroir could play a meaningful role here with the tartary buckwheat out of Western New York,” says Abumrad. “There’s much more 2-HOBA there than common buckwheat, but you’ll likely still need to supplement even more.”
“Terroir could play a meaningful role here with the tartary buckwheat out of Western New York. There’s much more 2-HOBA there than common buckwheat, but you’ll likely still need to supplement even more.” — DR. NAJI ABUMRAD
Ancient Wisdom Through The Lens Of Modern Science
This is what it takes to bring an ingredient like Himalayan Tartary buckwheat, with a promising phytoactive like 2-HOBA, center stage. It takes a farmer and a doctor working at twin purposes. It takes a scientific mindset both attracted to and respectful of the age-old lessons taught by Mother Earth. It takes an ancient grain once lost to the Western world and the Western diet to rejigger our very perceptions of immunity and how we might best rejuvenate it.
- Pitchford LM, Driver PM, Fuller JC Jr, et al. Safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of repeated oral doses of 2-hydroxybenzylamine acetate in healthy volunteers: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. BMC Pharmacol Toxicol 2020;21(1):3.
- Pitchford LM, Rathmacher JA, Fuller JC, et al. First-in-human study assessing safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of 2-hydroxybenzylamine acetate, a selective dicarbonyl electrophile scavenger, in healthy volunteers. BMC Pharmacol Toxicol 2019;20:1.
- Thakur R, Verma ML. Food bioactives with special reference to Himalayan tartary buckwheat. Saarbrucken, Germany; LAP Lambert Academic Publishing: 2017.