The Garden or Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea), also called verdolaga, or red root is a vegetable herb popular in Asian and eastern European kitchens. It is widely distributed around the world and grown as a potherb. It is widely used in salads and added to soups because of the mucous-like sap from the leaves and stems. The taste is slightly sour and salty. Even the stems and flowers are edible. The plant grows up to about 40cm. tall and has smooth, reddish stems and yellow flowers. As an annual plant, it typically regrows every year. There are around 40 known varieties.
The purslane was already grown for food even during prehistoric times. Seeds have been found from archeological sites. Its use for medicine was already thousands of years ago included in historic Roman writings. It was also recorded in traditional Chinese medicine. The mucus-like substance found within it was discovered to be of medicinal importance. It was often used on conditions like burns, headache, cough, shortness of breath, arthritis, scaling of the skin, stomach ulcers, and bowel impaction. The Chinese described the herb as a “vegetable for long life.” Even the World Health Organization recognizes it as one of the most used medicinal plants and called it a “Global Panacea.”
The nutrients we get from eating Garden Purslane
The high nutrition that purslane has is one of the main reasons for its wide use in certain areas of the world. It is not as popular as many familiar herbs in western homes. But for many people like the Chinese, it deserves its own place in the kitchen. There is information about the nutrients present in the plant. One comes from the US National database for food nutrients. The table presented below is based on it. The values given are based on a 100 gram per serving of the plant. The percentage of the Recommended Daily Allowance which it supplies is presented alongside each respective nutrient.
|% Dry weight||%RDA(in a 5-gram serving)|
|Proximates||Nutrient value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.1 g||0.50%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.036 mg||1%|
|Vitamin A||1320 IU||44%|
|Vitamin C||21 mg||35%|
Recent information indicates that purslane is better for nutrition than the major cultivated vegetables. The most significant nutrients that the herb provides are vitamin A and C (44% and 35% respectively). In fact, among the green and leafy vegetables, purslane has the highest amount of vitamin A. The amounts for minerals iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium are quite high. Phosphorus, pyridoxine, and riboflavin are still significant.
Since purslane is reasonably palatable, it is not that hard to eat 100 grams or more in a day. This is especially true if taken with other leafy vegetables or fruits. So at least most of the RDA amounts of many of the listed nutrients is achievable. It is one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids among the green plants, without the added cholesterol as it is with fish. Where it is eaten, there is usually a low incidence of cancer and heart problems. This is possibly due to its Omega-3 fatty acids.
In terms of medicinal effects, one of the most highly desired components of purslane is the mucus-like substance in its leaves and stems. It is a compound made of sugar and carbohydrate molecules structurally “strung” together in very long chains. It is consistently thick and sticky. Up to 25% of the herb’s weight is made up of this substance. For centuries, this has been used to treat burns, skin infections, ulcers, and other digestive problems.
Scientific Studies on Garden Purslane
Purslane has been widely known for its medicinal benefits in traditional medicine for centuries. That is why there has been considerable research to determine if there is any scientific basis for this. Research has discovered that the plant’s healthful benefits are due to the activity of the numerous phytochemicals present in it.
- The effects of purslane on the nervous system had already been observed a number of times on rats. The effects include muscle relaxation, lessening of body movements and a reduction in the number of convulsions. A specific study on lab mice showed how the herb could protect nerve tissue through its antioxidant property. Both water and alcohol-based extracts were found to produce the desired protective result. More research is needed to fully explain these observations.
- A group of phytochemicals has been isolated from the purslane. These are considered as rare and could be only be found in the tissues of this herb. These substances were tested on human cancer cells in the laboratory. These could kill off or weaken the cancer cells and could be more effective than a known chemotherapy drug.
- A phytochemical which is like that of a complex compound of sugar was identified from purslane. This was discovered to be able to stop tumor cells in the laboratory from growing. Further lab tests revealed that this substance could kill off many bacteria, as well as fungus.
- Another study further explains how purslane is able to kill off many species of bacteria. The microscopic components of the bacteria including their DNA which are damaged into fragments. The bacteria are continuously weakened. Thus these die more easily. Drugs and other products which takes advantage of this antibacterial action could be commercially developed.
- Extracts of purslane were tested on lab mice suffering from ulcers due to high amounts of acid in the stomach. Both alcohol and water-based components of the herb were used. These were observed to cause a reduction in the amount of acid in the stomach. This then led to an improvement in the condition of the stomach lining damaged by the acid. The effect was dose-dependent. The more extract fed to the mice, the better the improvement of their condition. This experiment gave scientific evidence for the use of purslane in folk medicine for stomach and other digestive ailments.
- New components of purslane were discovered by using chloroform, a substance used for anesthesia. These components were tested on lab mice which had damaged livers caused by toxic chemicals. The extracts were shown to be able to heal the damaged liver tissues and restore at least part of the normal function. This is in addition to the antibacterial and antifungal properties observed.
- An experiment tested purslane chiefly for its wound healing ability. Fresh leaves and young stems were processed into a paste. This was applied directly onto the cut wounds as a single dose, or at half of the first dose applied twice. Observations were made after at regular time intervals. The rate of wound healing was determined based on how the wound contracts or shrinks, and how strong the wound scars progressively become. It was noted that the application of the purslane preparation increased the rate and quality of healing. The surface areas of the wounds contracted more. The strength of wound healing was also increased. Better results were observed if a single large dose is applied once. This study demonstrated the positive benefits of using purslane as an emergency first aid when no commercial wound antiseptic is available. It also reinforced the modern-day use of the herb for folk medicine.
- A research study focused on the ability of the crude extract of purslane to stabilize the membranes of cells against damage. Phytochemical constituents in the crude extract displayed antioxidant property to protect against free radicals. This has the long-term benefit of fighting inflammation especially on vital tissues like the nerves and blood vessels. This helps prevent the start of conditions like heart disease and nervous disorders.
- This study further demonstrated the added benefits of purslane against diseases of the heart, blood vessels, and nerves. Extracts given to lab mice were shown to provide protection to vital tissues like the brain during conditions of low oxygen. The extracts enabled the cells suffering from low oxygen to still function more normally than those which were given placebo. Vital tissues in an individual who has heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity may have less oxygen going to these tissues. This causes damage and may even lead to the death of those tissues. This will then further complicate the individual’s health condition. The ability of purslane extract to protect cells and tissues suffering from low oxygen can act as an emergency measure to keep these alive while more permanent treatment is being given. This could hold great promise for patients with these conditions. So this beneficial property of the herb deserves further research.
- A research trial tested the direct benefits of purslane to sufferers of obesity and diabetes. The study was done on rats injected with a chemical to artificially cause the disease. The rats were furthermore fed a high-calorie diet to further copy the condition. Lab rats fed with purslane reduced their weight and improved their tolerance to glucose sugar. Their bodies improved the metabolism of lipids. The study concluded the plant could evidently improve conditions caused by diabetes and obesity.
- Another research tested if water-based extracts of purslane can protect cells within blood vessels against inflammation. The result showed a connection to the prevention of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Blood vessel tissues were collected from a human umbilical cord for the investigation. The antioxidant property of the herb helps prevent inflammation and protected the cells in blood vessels. Inflammation is thought of as the cause of cholesterol and fatty molecules build-up on affected tissues. This leads to the thickening of the blood vessel (arteriosclerosis). Purslane can be important to prevent the disease.
The Health Benefits of Garden Purslane
Modern research has given strong evidence for many of the uses of purslane in traditional health care. Namely, the herb provides the following health benefits.
- Helps protect the brain and nerves including impairment from due to low oxygen caused by poor blood circulation.
- Helps maintain the health of the heart and blood vessels.
- Antidiabetic and reduces obesity.
- Antioxidant Activity.
- Anticancer potential.
- Anti-Inflammatory Activity.
- Helps heal ulcers.
- Protects and heals injury to the liver.
- It quickens and improves wound healing.
Recipes using Garden Purslane
The focus of this section is on simple easy-to-do recipes to try to get the natural goodness of the plant. The freshness of the recipes will help ensure to preserve all the vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals. This will directly nourish the body. The recipes also aim to take advantage of the mucus-like sugar compound. Its protective properties will make the preparations into versatile tonics to address a wide range of ailments.
Purslane + Banana + Soymilk smoothie for stomach ulcers and laxative
The mucous-like component of purslane will coat the ulcers to protect them from further damage by stomach acids. The banana will counteract the slight acidity of the purslane. It also has its own protective healing effect. The purslane and banana also contain natural fibers that will absorb fluid to moisten the stool and help natural bowel movements.
1 and 1/2 cup purslane leaves and young stems
1-2 pieces peeled banana fruit
1 cup soy milk
- Put all ingredients into a blender to blend into a smooth liquid.
- Drink ½ to 1 cup 3 -4 times a day especially in the morning and before bedtime.
- Do this for 1-2 weeks but you may continue afterward as maintenance.
- Store unused portion in the refrigerator.
Poultice for burns, sunburn, wounds
The high concentration of nutrients in the herb gets released into the injuries and wounds to help these heal faster. At the same time, the mucous component will coat and protect from further damage while giving time for the tissues to heal.
2-3 cups purslane leaves, young stems, and roots
½ cup water
½ cup olive or coconut oil
- Put the purslane and water into the blender and blend until it turns into a smooth paste.
- Transfer into a clean, resealable glass container.
- Apply onto the affected area (wound, sunburn or burn) and gently spread until at least layer is made.
- Let the paste/poultice set for a couple of minutes at most.
- Then get the oil and apply onto the paste/poultice over the affected parts. Do this with gentle dabs so as not to remove or disturb the paste/poultice. This step will help seal in the moisture in the paste and keep it from drying out too quickly. The olive or coconut oils also have their own beneficial substances to help heal the wound or burn.
- Do not mix in the oil with the purslane paste. The mucus present in purslane is soluble in water and not oil. Having the oil in the mixture might interfere with its healing action.
- Do this at least once a day until the wound or burn heals. Make a new batch of paste if necessary.
Why should I grow Garden Purslane?
Ancient doctors already knew about the effectiveness of this plant to in helping cure numerous health problems of the body. Current medical research is slowly but continuously providing proof for this. Furthermore, this plant is considered a weed in many areas. So it grows easily n the natural environment. Purslane can thrive even in places with low water and nutrients. So cultivating this would not be much of a problem. This very versatile, highly-nutritious but low-maintenance plant deserves a place in the condo-farm.
How to hydro grow Garden Purslane
You can grow this plant form seeds. Just spead several black seend in nursery pot.
The easier way is to pick serveral stems from neerby low and put it in the condot-farm system. As a tough wild weed it will grow fast and supply you with steady leaves to eat in your salad.
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