Common Purslane is an herb that is known throughout the world for its many uses. Its scientific name is Portulaca oleracea. Many people in the United States consider purslane to be nothing more than just a weed but throughout the world, it has been used to treat disorders ranging from fever and stomach aches to hemorrhoids.
Hippocrates, who was known as the father of medicine in ancient Greece, used purslane to heal wounds. Also, purslane was used as an ingredient in a fresh salad mixture to fight the common cold in the 17th century. Today, common purslane is gaining popularity as an edible weed that is full of nutritional value.
The purslane herb grows to a height of about 3 inches. It will grow from 12 to 18 inches in width. Purslane is characterized by the long spoon shaped leaves that are between 1/2 to 2 inches in length. The stem of the purslane herb is green in young plants and changes to a reddish brown as the plant matures. The actual flowering part of the Portulaca oleracea has five petals that contain black seeds that are round in shape. They are a bright yellow in color.
Purslane is found growing wild in nature but can be found growing in gardens as well. It is a very easy herb to grow and harvest. To grow it in the garden, you can simply scatter harvested seeds on the ground. The seeds don't need to be planted or covered with dirt. They only need to be in an area that receives part to full sunlight during the day. Purslane plants can also be grown by simply laying cuttings of the herb on the ground where they will be growing. Once they are watered, the cuttings will begin to take root within a few days. Purslane herbs are not available in all grocery stores or farmers markets so growing the plant at home has become a more popular, cost effective option.
Purslane is full of nutrients that are essential to good overall health. One cup of purslane has all of the Vitamin E needed in a full day. In addition, purslane also contains significant amounts of Vitamin C. The human body has a daily need of about 450 mg of magnesium. One cup of purslane can satisfy that entire total.
A deficiency of magnesium can be linked to diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.
The component of purslane that seems to be drawing the most attention is the Omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 is important to health because studies have shown that consumption of these fatty acids can actually help to reduce heart disease and stroke risks. The human body isn't able to efficiently produce Omega-3 fatty acids so it must be acquired from foods.
Eating fish (or using fish oil) is one of the most common ways to include Omega-3 in the diet. Walnuts is used as another source of fatty acids. A 1/4 cup serving of walnuts contains 2.3 grams of Omega-3.
Purslane is being called a nutritional powerhouse plant because it contains more Omega-3 than any other leafy vegetable plant or nut. The purslane herb contains 12.2 mg of Omega-3 per 100 gram serving. Eating purslane is seen as a better way to get Omega-3 because it is tastier than supplements and cheaper as well. To get one gram of Omega-3 fatty acid from over the counter fish oil supplements, you have to take two or three capsules daily. The average price for a 150 count bottle of fish oil supplements is around $8.00. Purslane on the other hand can be had for nothing since it is wildly grown.
There is a prescription supplement, Lovaza, which has 90% of Omega-3 in a dose of one capsule per day. The disadvantage to Lovaza is the cost. One bottle of Lovaza costs at least three times more than a bottle of over the counter fish oil supplements.
When considering the amount of purslane to consume, keep in mind the health of the person being treated. A common guideline is to consume between 9 and 15 grams purslane in dried form. If it is fresh purslane, between 30 and 60 grams is recommended. There are options to use larger amounts if the purslane is being applied to the skin by making it into a paste. Both dried and fresh forms of purslane are commonly available in markets that specialize in herbs and specialty plants.
It is thought at this time that there are no risks of adverse side effects from consuming purslane, either in recommended or higher doses. A general rule of thumb is to always check with a health care professional before taking any supplements or herbal remedies.
On the other hand, there are certain side effects and risks associated with fish oil supplements. When taken in large doses, omega-3 can increase bleeding risks. This type of bleeding could include nosebleeds and possibly stroke. Some common side effects associated with taking fish oil supplements include upset stomach and diarrhea. These conditions normally occur when the supplements are taken at high doses. In addition to upset stomach and diarrhea, heartburn, bloating, and stomach pains have been reported as possible side effects.
Also, most people have problems with the fish taste that accompanies taking the fish oil supplements. Usually these side effects can be avoided by taking the supplements with meals and start with doses that are lower in the beginning and increased over time. Lastly, effects on blood pressure must be monitored as well. It has been shown that in high doses, blood pressure can actually be reduced.
Purslane is becoming accepted more as an important source of nutrients in the United States. In addition to the significant source of omega-3 fatty acids, purslane is also a very good source of magnesium, calcium, and Vitamin C.
Purslane also has antioxidant properties and contains high levels of amino acids. In addition, purslane is very easy to grow and maintain. This makes purslane a cheaper, more readily available alternative to fish oil supplements for omega-3 fatty acids.
In other countries around the world, purslane is grown and sold commercially just like other vegetables. It appears that purslane is finally gaining the acceptance in the United States that has been seen around the world for many years. Thoreau mentions using purslane in his book "Walden Pond", saying he made a "satisfactory dinner of a dish of purslane".
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