Purslane Uses and Benefits

Purslane uses and benefitsJoin Julie Polanco on this episode of Crunchy Christian Podcast as she discusses purslane uses and benefits. Find out how this common weed has been used for centuries as a nutritious vegetable and helpful plant.

Some Facts About Purslane

History

Purslane, or Portulaca oleraceae, is an incredibly old plant. Seeds found in the modern United States date as far back as 1000 BC. But, some argue that it originated in north Africa far earlier than that because of its succulent stems and leaves. After all, that’s where many other succulents originate from. It was certainly known to the ancients, for records show that the Greeks, Persians, Indians, and Romans ate it as a vegetable.

And, indeed the most common of purslane uses and benefits is adding it to salads. Or, gently blanching it and serving it up with some oil and vinegar. Some old recipes even give instructions for pickled purslane. Indeed, people grew it in cultivated gardens as early as the 1500’s in Great Britain as a garden green. It is also used in the French Soup, bonne femme (Good Woman), along with sorrel. And, due to its hardy nature, it is found all over the world, from Europe to Japan.

More than a salad green

But, historic purslane uses and benefits are not limited to salads. Ancient people used it for urinary complaints, dry coughs and shortness of breath, and for inflammation and sores. Dioscorides (40–90 AD) recommended the leaves for headache, heartburn, and kidney and bladder ailments; he noted the juice soothes the eyes. A couple of centuries later, Galen (129–216 AD) considered it nearly a heal-all plant. In the 16th century, famous German physician Leonard Fuchs also wrote of its uses for inflamed eyes and bladder and kidney ailments, but he added toothaches, and sunstroke as well. Hear about more uses on the podcast as well as some commentary about purslane from historical figures.

What does it look like?

This succulent low-growing plant has reddish stems and somewhat small, paddle-shaped, smooth succulent leaves. The leaves have rounded tips with no spines or toothing. The reddish stems branch everywhere. The small yellow flowers have four to six petals, but they only open on sunny mornings. When it goes to seed, it forms a little capsule that opens like a lid to reveal tiny black seeds that can still germinate up to 40 years later!

Purslane Uses and Benefits

Today, it is mostly used as a vegetable and as animal feed. It is high in vitamins C and E, iron magnesium, manganese, and potassium and so it naturally supports the immune system, heart, and circulation. It’s historical uses certainly inspire a desire to at least try this plant in salads and soups as many people around the world still do. Since it grows so freely, it’s pretty easy to gather some purslane, dandelion, and other weeds to make delicious raw meals. God provides exactly what we need!

Safety

Purslane has some poisonous look alikes, so be sure you have the real purslane if you choose to harvest it from your backyard. The real plant has watery sap, not milky. The real plant is generally safe for human consumption. Be aware, though, that some cattle grazing on large amounts of purslane have suffered oxalate and nitrate toxicity. The toxicity levels depend on the growing conditions of the purslane.

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