Chopped Purslane Salad with Cilantro

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a super common weed that pops-up in almost any garden this time of year- don't weed it! Instead, harvest it for the amazing food and medicine that it is. This unassuming weed has been identified as the richest known plant source of alpha-linoleic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid! Remember that omega-3's are the anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, heart-healthy "good fats" most concentrated in fish oil, so having access to a local, bioregionally abundant plant source of this is fantastic! Also, most people's ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids is waaaaaay off, which means more inflammation. Researchers think that ancestrally our ratio of 3's to 6's was a about a 1:1 ratio. The ratio in an average adult nowadays is about 1:15 to 1:17! Read: inflammation and cardiovascular problems that are epidemic in America and the developed world-basically the ills of the modern world.  So, you can easily see how consuming ample amounts of Purslane while it's in season is beyond good for your health.  It is also quite vitamin and mineral-rich, most notably in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Potassium, and Calcium.  If you don't feel solid on identifying it, check-out this great resource

Purslane also contains high amounts of mucilage- a thick, moistening substance with a borderline gooey consistency, which can be difficult for some people to get past.  The good news is that mucilage is very nourishing and healing to to the lining of our gut and intestines- a support many people need.  And I've found that when its prepared in a salad, it can be a lot easier to enjoy! It has a lovely, somewhat sour flavor that pairs especially well with tomatoes, herbs, and a lemon-y dressing. I hope you'll try the recipe and think twice before weeding it from your garden!

Chopped Purslane Salad with Cilantro

2-3 cups Purslane, chopped leaves and stems
1 medium Cucumber, chopped into 1-inch squares
1/2 Onion, chopped
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, quartered or halved
1 1/2 cups Cilantro, chopped finely

If you have a salad spinner, give the Purslane a quick spin (or be sure to rinse well), as it can often be dusty due its creeping growth form.  Then combine all the ingredients. Toss with dressing of choice- I like a combo of nettle-infused raw apple cider vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt. Enjoy as it's own, or it's also great on a bed of quinoa. To bulk it up into a very filling and extremely omega-3 rich meal, add a can of sardines (they're yummier than you might think)! Additionally, the large amount of Cilantro gives this recipe another layer of medicinal action- it's a potent digestive aid which supports nutrient absorption and assimilation, is extremely mineral rich, and helps the body remove accumulated heavy metals

Enjoy!

References & Resources

Purslane Weed (Portulaca oleracea): A Prospective Plant Source of Nutrition, Omega-3 Fatty Acid, and Antioxidant Attributes
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3934766/

Foraging: Identifying and Eating Purslane
http://foragedfoodie.blogspot.com/2015/11/purslane.html

Omega 3 Fatty Acids
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/

Placenta Medicine

Note: This piece was originally published on the Birth Institute Birth Wisdom Blog in 2016

Prepared Placenta/Zi He Chi

Prepared Placenta/Zi He Chi

In our current model of healthcare, there is often quite a bit of emphasis put on pre-natal care and preparing for the birth itself, but when it comes to postpartum times, quality care (and education) for the mother is often lacking. However, in many traditional cultures the proper postpartum attention for both the mother and baby is of the utmost importance, with a myriad of time-honored treatments and protocols adhered to. In some of these traditions, incorporating the placenta as medicine is an important part of the postpartum recovery for the mother.

Medicinal Use

The oldest recorded use we have of the use of the placenta as medicine comes to us from Chinese Medicine, the system of medicine in China that is over 2,000 years old and still in use today.  In this system the prepared placenta (more on how to make this preparation later) is called Zi He Chi, is considered a supreme medicine for restoration, and is said to store the vital essence for the baby.  Some specific indications for its use postpartum in Chinese Medicine are fatigue in the mother and insufficient lactation.  It is also used during menopause- a testament to the high hormone levels it contains.

Modern-day science on the benefits of ingesting the placenta (called placentophagy) is lacking, but on the rise, and we do have some scientific studies (see references below) and lots and lots of empirical evidence.  Once study by the National Institute of Health showed that the placenta is very rich in Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone (CRH), which is a stress-reducing hormone, and that the placenta secretes so much into the bloodstream during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy that the CRH levels increase three times their normal levels.  Normally this hormone is secreted by the hypothalamus, but during pregnancy it isn’t, as the placenta takes care of that.  After delivery of the placenta, however, it takes the hypothalamus some time to get the signal that CRH levels are low and that it needs to start producing it again, and ingesting the placenta- rich in this hormone, and others- can help mitigate this fluctuation and also shows some scientific evidence for its use to prevent postpartum depression.  Also, interestingly, nearly every mammal consumes its placenta after birth- even herbivores- and one study showed that animals refused to eat other meats offered and preferentially ate their placenta.

Other medicinal benefits observed by midwives, herbalists, placenta consultants, doulas, birth professionals and traditional healers include increased general energy, better mood and prevention of postpartum depression and the “baby blues”, improved sleep, improved milk production and nutritional quality of the milk, prevention of iron-deficiency anemia, and faster postpartum healing.  The placenta may also be used anytime a mother is going through a time of increased stress- even if it isn’t immediately postpartum- and can be helpful during menopause as well, as mentioned above. It is sometimes recommended for the child too if they are undergoing a lot of stress.

It’s also important to take a moment to discuss the nutritional content of the placenta. Remember the placenta is an organ, which makes it an organ meat, which are universally revered in traditional cultures for their life-giving properties due to their high vitamin, mineral and hormone content, and the placenta is no different! We know it is high in protein, fat, iron, minerals including sodium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese.  It is also rich in hormones- many of which are in flux in the days and weeks following birth- including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, prolactin, oxytocin, thyroid stimulating hormone, corticotropin releasing hormone, cortisone. (For specifics on how these hormones effect the postpartum body please refer to item #3 in the references below).

Preparing and Using the Placenta for Medicine

There are many ways to take and prepare the placenta as medicine, including eating it cooked or raw, tincturing it, and preparing it according to Traditional Chinese Medicine and making a tea, or powdering the prepared placenta and putting it into capsules. The latter is my favorite for to work with the placenta in my herbal practice, and is the form I have the most clinical experience with and have seen excellent results both in myself and others. One study even showed that certain nutrients were increased by the heating process. I love it when scientific study validates centuries of traditional use!

Here’s how to prepare it according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. (This recipe comes from licensed acupuncturist Amy Mager of Mager Healing in Northampton, Massachusetts):

How to Dry a Placenta

Ingredients:

1 Placenta
1 Peel of grapefruit, lemon or orange
2-4 One inch pieces of fresh ginger
1 Fresh jalapeno pepper

Scrub out your sink and clean your counter to be used as well.  Use a large clean bowl to rinse the placenta, removing any clots or loose blood. Wash and cut the other ingredients.

Place the ingredients in a stainless steel or cast iron pot and cover with filtered water. Simmer until completely cooked.  Test with a fork: No blood should run and it should feel tender and not tough.  Usually this takes about an hour and a half. 

Remove the placenta from the liquid and cool to room temperature on a plate on which it can be cut.  Using a very sharp knife, cut the placenta into very thin, long strips.

Lay the strips upon either oven racks, cookie sheets or on food dehydrator trays.  Allow them to dry in the oven (or food dehydrator) on the lowest possible setting.  Dry until the pieces snap. This may take 5 hours or longer. Leave in an uncovered glass jar for 1 day. Cover the jar after that for storage. Store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

A few more notes on this:

This is an excellent job for the partner, a close friend or family member, postpartum doula or a placenta encapsulation professional (a quick internet search may yield some in your area). The bottom line is that this is not a job for the mother.  Also a few more considerations: For hospital births, bring a cooler to store the placenta in if it cannot be immediately refrigerated and be sure to communicate that you do not want it to be disposed. If birthing at home the placenta should be refrigerated immediately.  If it cannot be processed as above with 24 hours of the birth it should be frozen. It can then be thawed out and prepared according to the recipe.  Once it is prepared and stored in the jar in pieces, it can be ground as needed into powder and then put into capsules, which are available at most health food stores. A clean coffee grinder does a great job of powdering it. In my herbal clinical practice I have seen a dosage of 2 capsules/day be enough for most women, and taking them for 6-8 weeks after the birth is recommended, although I have often seen women intuitively know when they no longer need them.

The placenta can provide amazing postpartum support and I believe the more of us birth professionals sharing this option and information with our clients, the better!

References:

1.      Phuapradit, W. (n.d.). Nutrients and Hormones in Heat-Dried Human Placenta [Abstract]. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand,83(6), 690-694.

2.     Bensky/Gamble. 1997. Materia Medica, Eastland Press, 549.

3.     Research Studies Supporting Placenta Encapsulation. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2016, from http://www.placentawise.com/research-studies-supporting-placenta-encapsulation/

4.     Amy Mager, Lic. Ac., MS, Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM). http://www.wellnesshousenorthampton.com/

Beach Rose-Seaweed Mermaid Bath Salts

Summer in New England is fleeting and beautiful and- for me- is not complete without numerous visits to the ocean.  Maybe it’s because I’m a life-long New Englander, or because I grew-up going to the ocean every summer, or because I’m a water sign, or because the ocean never fails to put it all into perspective, and feel like a beyond nourishing and calming presence…but for me connecting with that ocean energy for just a few months a year never feels like enough! Hence the creation of Beach Rose-Seaweed Bath salts, which I affectionately call “mermaid bath salts.”  This is basically the ocean in a bottle!

 

These are so easy to make, and I really do encourage you all to make your own!  To make about about 1 quart of bath salts you'll need....

20-25 Beach Rose (Rosa rugosa) blossoms
2 handfuls of seaweed
1 handful of shells of choice
1.25 lbs of sea salt

Start by gathering your Beach Rose (Rosa rugosa) blossoms, but before you start picking take some time to sit with the plant. Engage with your senses- the smells, sounds, feelings, tastes (yes, taste the plant!) and sights. Try to align your energy with the roses. Simple tools for this include exchanging breath with rose (remembering we breathe in what they breath out, and vice versa!).  You can also sketch or photograph the plant, journal about your experience, nibble on a petal or leaf, meditate with it, or just take a little nap with it! These are all valid ways of engaging with the energy of a plant.  When you feel like you’ve tapped into rose’s energy, ask if you can harvest, and if you get a “yes” then go for it! It’s ok if you don’t get a clear voice in your head- just a feeling that it’s “right” is enough.   I prefer to harvest the whole flower, as opposed to just the petals, for this particular preparation. Next collect your seaweed- any kind will do. I prefer to take what has washed-up or is floating in the water as opposed to harvesting the living seaweed from the rocks as much as possible.  You can gather some special shells to add if you like- this year I added some of my beloved moon snails. And of course- as always- feel free to play around with this recipe and make it your own!

Once you’ve gathered your materials, you’re ready to make your bath salts!  The process is simple and takes 5 minutes. Start by adding about a 1 inch layer of sea salt to the bottom of your jar. You can use fine or coarse, Celtic, Himalayan, or any kind really. One of my current favorite sea salt brand is Redmond’s Real Salt, which comes from salt flats from ancient oceans in Utah! But in my wildest dreams I’m using my own homemade sea salt I’ve made myself by cooking down the seawater, but that time hasn’t come for me yet! Next add a ½- 1 inch layer of the roses, seaweed, and a sprinkling of shells if you’d like. Then add another layer of salt until the plant material is covered, then another rose/seaweed/shell layer, and so on, ending with a 1 inch layer of sea salt at the top! Cap and let sit at least a week before use. It will have the heady smell of seaweed and rose when it’s done.

Misty morning in Maine

Misty morning in Maine

When you’re ready to take your mermaid bath (I prefer to use mine in the dead of the New England winter when I need that summer and ocean connection, and the comforting feeling of the sea), add as much as you want to your bath. Be sure to add the roses and seaweed right into the bath too where they will re-hydrate for full mermaid effect!  (You can get little mesh screens that fit over your drain for easy clean-up.)  Sit in your bath and dream summer dreams and memories, and relax in the nourishment the beach and essence of summer has to give! And of course both rose and seaweed are emollients, and deeply nourishing and softening to the skin! 

Happy high summer to you all!

Beach Rose Love

Beach Rose Love