Friday, April 11, 2014
Also known as: pussley, pigweed, pressley, little hogweed, verdolaga
Parts Used: leaves, stems
Meridians/Organs affected: circulatory, urinary, digestive, cardiac, brain
Properties: mucilaginous, digestive, nutritive, anti-mutagenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, vermicide, stomachic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, febrifuge, diuretic, analgesic, antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic, cardiac protectant, refrigerant, demulcent
Purslane is a member of the Portulacacea family. It is a small, mat forming plant with alternate leaves that are paddle shaped and red or green stems that remind one of plumbing pipes going every which way. The leaves are smooth and glossy and the yellow flowers bloom from July through September. It can be found in nutrient-rich sandy soil and full sun. It is most commonly found in neglected landscapes, vacant lots, sidewalk cracks, rubble dumps and worn out lawns.
Purslane is a 'hot weather' plant that doesn't typically germinate until the soil warms up. The seeds actually continue sprouting throughout the hot summer months. It produces an abundance of little black seeds (over 52,000 per plant) that can remain dormant up to 40 years. The seeds are loved by birds and rodent which could help explain its world wide distribution as well.
Purslane is a native of India, Africa and Persia where it has been used for thousands of years. It has been considered a succulent garden herb by Europeans for centuries. In fact, early colonists in this country were surprised that the Native Americans weren't eating it but rather discarding it like so many gardeners do. Henry Thoreau once stated that, "I learned that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength. I have made a satisfactory dinner of a dish of purslane which I gathered and boiled. Yet men come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries but for want of luxuries."
This plant is well known in other countries as an anti-inflammatory. Dioscorides included it in his 'De Materia Medica'. It was grown as a crop by the colonists in New Plymouth in the early 1600's. Parkinson, Culpeper and Gerard all agreed it was great for conditions where heat was involved such as fevers and inflammation. The expressed juice of purslane mixed with honey (succus) often was used for dry coughs, immoderate thirst and shortness of breath, as well as externally for eye inflammation.
Purslane is one of the eight most common herbs on the planet. There have been several studies done on this plant and yet it still remains nothing but a weed to most of the populace. Chemical studies have found that purslane has quite a few flavonoids and nitrogenous compounds including dopamine and norepinephrine. Purslane is also the richest source of omega 3 fatty acids studied to date (particularly linolenic acid). It is a powerhouse of nutrients rich in vitamins A, C, E, B and the minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, lithium, phosphorus, zinc, chromium, manganese, silicon, copper and selenium. It is two times higher in antioxidants than grape seed extract and cranberries and seven times higher in vitamin E, ascorbic acid and glutathione than spinach. Glutathione is the 'master antioxidant' found within each cell of the body, detoxifying, flushing out heavy metals and fighting free radicals. We produce less glutathione as we age which causes premature aging, stress, disease, and decay. All the more reason to consume purslane regularly.
The ancient Egyptians used purslane as a medicinal plant; the Greeks used it for urinary inflammation and constipation, the Romans used it for headaches, intestinal worms, dysentery, and stomach aches, the Chinese also used it for dysentery but also for bleeding from the urinary tract and as a topical agent for snake and insect bites. It has been used across the globe for pulmonary issues, heart disease, liver problems, dry cough, scurvy, mouth ulcers, skin diseases, painful urination, burns, mastitis, enteritis, hemorrhoids, abscesses, cancer, acute appenditicitis, earaches, shingles, diabetes, etc. It also may be helpful in cases of Parkinson's due to its content of dopa and dopamine. It is high in psoralens which help normalize skin pigmentation aside from being cancer-fighting compounds. As it is a mucilagenous herb, it also enhances digestion and absorbs toxins in the digestive tract making it useful for any number of issues including candida.
Purslane can be used in salads or in the place of lettuce or other leafy greens. It is used as pickles, can be fried, and is also often used to thicken soups and stews. Try adding more to your diet when it is in season.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your benefit. Use them as you deem necessary and stay well and healthy!