Unfortunately, ignorance leads many to consider it a weed, as is the case with other important medicinal plants, although it is still possible to find it in the markets of some countries for sale as a vegetable.
Purslane stands out above all because it is one of the richest vegetables in omega-3 known. A cup of the fresh plant can contain 400 mg. of this essential fatty acid. But, in addition, it offers us a very complete contribution of a great variety of nutrients and medicinal principles:
- Vitamins: A, beta carotenes (7 times more than carrots), B1, B2, B3, C, E (one of the plants that contain the most) ...
- Minerals: potassium (more than spinach), calcium, magnesium (one of the best vegetable sources), iron, phosphorus ...
- Amino acids
- Bioflavonoids such as liquiritin
- Important antioxidants such as glutathione or betalains (in their pigments)
- Neurohormones and neurotransmitters in the fresh plant such as dopamine and l-norepinephrine (vasoconstrictor, anti-hypotensive action and that helps reduce bleeding)
How is it consumed?
Its stems, leaves, flowers and seeds are edible. It has a mild flavor, slightly acidic, to which it owes the name "cruet" by which it is known in some places, it can be taken in many ways:
- Fresh in salad or any other raw presentation.
- Cooked, preferably steamed, or sautéed.
- The juice: we can extract it from the fresh plant with a blender, or add it to a smoothie. The daily recommendations in general are a maximum of 100 gr. of fresh liquefied plant, or 1 to 3 tablespoons of juice that can be mixed with water or honey.
- Macerated in vinegar.
- In infusion, either with the fresh or dried plant. The maceration time will be short so that too much oxalic acid does not pass into the water.
- The dry plant: although fresh is how it retains all its properties, we can also dry it and then use it for infusions, add it powdered to soups (it serves as a thickener), salads ... etc.
- Flour: from its dried seeds you can make a flour that is used in the kitchen, as is the tradition in Kenya.
- Tincture; macerated in alcohol.
- Decoction of the seeds.
Purslane has also been known for centuries for its medicinal virtues, both in internal and external use.
Its abundant mucilage, among other qualities, has made some like Leclerc consider it an internal poultice for its power to soften and soothe irritations of internal organs.
Internally it can be taken in the various presentations set out above.
If it is going to be used externally, you can make a poultice by crushing the plant until it has the right consistency, or apply a compress soaked in the juice of the plant, or in the infusion, tincture, etc.
Some properties attributed to it are described below, as well as different examples of traditional uses against health problems. A part of these properties has currently been scientifically demonstrated, another part shows the usefulness that man has given it for centuries.
Neuropharmacological, antibacterial, antiscorbutic, analgesic, antifungal, anti-haemorrhagic, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, antitussive, antiulcer, bronchodilator activity in asthmatic people, calming, purifying, diuretic, antioxidant effect, uterine stimulant, strengthens the immune system, hepatoprotective against certain toxic substances , hypolipidemic, blood purifier, insulin resistance reducer, refreshing, muscle relaxant, regulator of intestinal function, vermifuge, Vulnerary.
Some examples of its traditional use as a natural remedy
These are just examples, because the versatility of this plant means that it has been used in many other ways.
ANALGESIC: the juice of the plant.
ANTIHEMORRHAGIC: the flowering tops.
ANTIPARASITIC: It is consumed against pinworms, ascaris lumbricoides and hookworm, among others. For this purpose, the juice of 100 grams of fresh liquefied plant is taken in the morning for 3-5 days. The decoction of its seeds, or the cooked plant, has also been used in the diet.
ARTHRITIS: the plant in the diet and also external applications.
EYES: applied with polenta in the form of an external poultice.
DEPURATIVE: Due to its purifying, blood purifying, antiscorbutic, laxative and antibacterial effects, some studies suggest its usefulness in diseases of the liver, stomatitis, spleen, kidneys, bladder or cardiovascular system.
DIARRHEA, DYSENTERY: fresh juice for its calming action. Some research in China suggests its usefulness in bacillary dysentery.
TEETH AND GUMS: chew the plant (sensitive teeth, weak gums ...).
DIURETIC: The juice of the fresh plant exerts a diuretic and calming action that is used to soften bladder problems.
HEADACHE: applied with polenta in the form of an external poultice, or mixed with oil and applied externally.
MUSCLE SPASMS: the aqueous extract has been shown to calm them when applied externally.
HEMORROIDS: cooked or fresh as food.
WOUNDS: the fresh crushed plant is applied in the form of a poultice.
HYPERTENSION: due to its diuretic action, abundance in potassium and omega-3, it can be a recommended food.
INFLAMMATIONS IN GENERAL: applied with polenta in the form of an external poultice.
MASTITIS: externally, poultice of crushed leaves.
PICADURAS: has a calming effect, the crushed fresh plant is applied in the form of a poultice.
SKIN: in different skin problems, from allergies, abscesses, burns, dermatitis, impetigo, dry skin, etc. The crushed plant is used externally.
GASTRIC PROBLEMS: included in the diet.
LIVER PROBLEMS: included in the diet.
VITÍLIGO: it is believed that the plant could normalize skin pigmentation. Used in the same way as in skin problems.
Its traditional uses in different cultures
This plant has been part of the traditional medicinal remedies in various parts of the world for centuries, here is a small compilation of the uses that have been given to it throughout history and that in some places still give it.
Against ulcers, tumors, inflammation, asthma, leprosy, hemorrhoids, scurvy, liver and lung diseases, kidney and bladder diseases, constipation, diuretic, blood purifier. Roasted seeds as a vermifuge, diuretic and against dysentery. A paste made from the seeds is applied to burns.
Against atheroma, as an antifungal, antiviral, to lower blood sugar, regulate blood lipids, strengthen the immune system, appendicitis, dysentery.
As a diuretic, in rheumatism, gynecological problems, sedative, analgesic, cardiotonic, against fever, urinary tract problems, intestinal parasites, syphilis, gonorrhea, cancer, tonic, choleretic, against dysentery. In external use in skin problems such as ulcers, eczema and dermatitis. Purslane ashes mixed with salt are a remedy used in heart disease.
Headache, painful urination, stomach pain, enteritis, mastitis, lack of milk in nursing mothers, postpartum bleeding. Externally: burns, earache, ulcers, itching, insect bites, inflammations, skin ulcers, vitiligo, eczema and abscesses.
Some scientific research
Abnormal uterine bleeding in premenopause
Purslane is used in Iran as a traditional remedy against this problem. In a clinical trial at the Iranian Faculty of Medicine (Fatemieh University of Medical Sciences, Qom), 2009, it was concluded that seed treatment can be effective. The powder of the seeds was given, 5 g. with a glass of water every 4 hours for 3 days to patients, 48 hours after the start of bleeding. 80% of the patients reported that the duration and volume of bleeding were reduced, and that menstruation had returned to normal without adverse effects. This continued during the 3-month follow-up.
In a laboratory study conducted in India with mice, it was shown that treatment with hydroalcoholic extract of purslane protects the liver from hepatotoxicity induced by the antibiotic rifampicin. (Department of Pharmacology, Padam, Dr. D. Y. Patil Institute of Pharmaceutical Science and Research, Pimpri, Pune, 2007).
In a clinical trial in Yemen, with type 2 diabetic patients, it was concluded that treatment with purslane seeds could be effective and safe as adjunctive therapy due to its remarkable hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, and insulin resistance-reducing effect. . The patients took 5 g. of seeds twice a day, (Department of Organic Chemistry Pharmaceutical Biochemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Sana’a University, Madbah, Sana, 2011).
This plant, like others such as spinach or beets, contains oxalic acid, which makes it advisable to consume it in moderation. This acid is not harmful in itself, but if we consume an excess of foods rich in it, and do not drink too much water, it increases the risk of suffering from kidney stones. People with a tendency to develop these stones should exercise special caution.
Given the possibility that purslane could cause uterine contractions, some authors do not recommend its intake during pregnancy.
This vegetable also accumulates nitrate, so it is recommended that it be grown organically and not overheated once cooked.
Purslane may interact with bronchodilator medications.
Description and how to differentiate it
Succulent plant, highly branched creeping, which can reach about 50 cm. tall, reddish stems, transparent sap, sessile leaves of 1 or 2 cm., often reddish at the edges, sessile yellow flowers and terminals of 5 petals, solitary or in groups, and only open for a short time a day. The capsule-shaped fruits contain multiple dark-colored seeds.
If you do not know this species, it is very important that you are sure that it is the correct plant before using it, an identification error can have undesirable consequences and health risks that you should never assume. Another very similar but toxic species, which usually grows near purslane, is the euphorbia maculata, swallow grass. Although they are similar, they have several features that distinguish them. For example, the toxic plant has the smallest and finest leaves, and may present a reddish spot in the center of them, it is also covered with hair, the flowers are different from those of purslane, and if we split the stem of the Toxic plant leaves a white sap, while that of purslane is transparent.
This information is for educational purposes only. In no case is it or does it replace the consultation of a competent health professional.