10 Amazing Benefits of Purslane

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The health benefits of purslane include its ability to aid in weight loss, improve heart health, ensure healthy growth and development of children, and treat certain gastrointestinal diseases. It also has anti-cancer potential, protects the skin, boosts vision, strengthens the immune system, builds strong bones, and increases circulation.

What is Purslane?

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a leafy vegetable that most likely originated in the Mediterranean region. It is widely eaten throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. It is an annual succulent with a slightly sour and salty taste that makes it an interesting addition to the palate. The entire plant, including the leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds are edible and have been used for thousands of years in different variations.

Purslane has been in use since prehistoric times and is widely referred to in ancient Chinese medicine, as well as in early aboriginal culture as far away as in Australia. But in the United States, it is usually ignored or pulled up and treated like any other invasive greenery in gardens and yards.

Purslane Nutrition Facts

When this unusual ‘weed’ became the subject of scientific study, researchers were shocked at what they found. Purslane vegetable has extremely high levels of omega-3 fatty acids for a land vegetable, as well as significant amounts of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, B-family vitamins, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, and copper. Furthermore, the betalain pigments (powerful antioxidant compounds) and carotenoids round out this veritable treasure trove of nutrients and beneficial organic compounds.

A bowl of fresh purslane on a wooden table

Health Benefits of Purslane

Purslane has many benefits that help in preventing and curing diseases. Let’s discuss the benefits in detail below:

Improves Heart Health

Mr. Artemis P. Simopoulos, MD, The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Washington DC, USA, in his research has found that the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, in purslane, help to reduce the amount of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body. This helps to promote a healthier cholesterol balance in our bloodstream.

Consuming foods that are high in omega-3s has shown to significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, as well as atherosclerosis, thereby preventing heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, the potassium found in it can reduce blood pressure due to its behavior as a vasodilator, meaning that it relaxes blood vessels and reduces strain on the heart.

Nutrition Facts

Purslane, raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]92.86
Energy [kcal]20
Protein [g]2.03
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.36
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]3.39
Calcium, Ca [mg]65
Iron, Fe [mg]1.99
Magnesium, Mg [mg]68
Phosphorus, P [mg]44
Potassium, K [mg]494
Sodium, Na [mg]45
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.17
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]21
Thiamin [mg]0.05
Riboflavin [mg]0.11
Niacin [mg]0.48
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.07
Folate, DFE [µg]12
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, IU [IU]1320
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Weight Loss

Research suggests that purslane is very low in calories, but is nutrient-rich and packed with high dietary fiber. This means that people can feel full after a meal of purslane, without significantly increasing calorie intake, and thereby helping them lose weight and maintain their diet.

Promotes Child Development

Purslane contains a good amount of good fatty acids (omega-3s). Although research is still ongoing, early studies have shown that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in young children’s diet have resulted in a decrease in certain developmental disorders, including autism and ADHD.

Treats Gastrointestinal Diseases

Some people may shy away from alternative medicine treatments for their various health conditions, but in traditional Chinese medicine, purslane (known as Ma Chi Xian in Chinese medicine) was widely used to treat everything from diarrhea and intestinal bleeding to hemorrhoids and dysentery. And even today it is used to treat a wide variety of intestinal conditions. These benefits are mainly attributed to the organic compounds found in purslane, including dopamine, malic acid, citric acid, alanine, glucose, and many others.

Skin Care

Purslane can help treat a wide variety of skin conditions as well. A study published in 2004 revealed that purslane leaves contain high levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A, combined with the cocktail of compounds found in this ‘weed’ mean that it can help reduce inflammation caused by bee stings and snake bites when applied topically. It improves skin health and appearance, reduces wrinkles, and stimulates the healing of skin cells to remove scars and blemishes when consumed.

Anti-cancer Potential

2016 study by Chinese researchers suggests that purslane seed oil has antioxidant and antiproliferative properties that help reduce oxidative stress. When tested on cancerous cells, the seed oil inhibited tumor cell growth exhibiting anti-cancer potential. Further studies are required to explore its anti-cancer properties.

Health benefits of purslane - infographic

Improves Vision

Vitamin A and beta-carotene, in purslane, have both been connected to improved eye health and vision for many years. It can help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts by eliminating free radicals that attack the cells of the eye and cause these common age-related diseases.

Strengthens Bones

The minerals present in purslane make it a healthy choice for people who want to prevent bone loss. Calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese are all elements required to develop bone tissue and speed the healing process of the bones in our body. This can help in preventing osteoporosis, a common age-related condition that affects millions of people.

Improves Circulation

The high content of iron and copper in purslane means that it will stimulate the production of red blood cells. Both of these minerals are essential for boosting circulation, by delivering more oxygen to essential parts of the body and increasing the healing speed of cells and organs. Further, iron and copper also aid in improving hair growth and metabolic efficiency!

Uses of Purslane

  • In culinary usage, purslane is commonly used in soups, salads, and stews. A University of Illinois newsletter suggests that ham and purslane on rye are delicious.
  • It is added to meat dishes as a flavorful element and is also mixed with dough to make certain delicious bread varieties.
  • Aside from culinary usages, it has also been used as traditional medicine for curing various diseases in China and India.

Word of Caution: The only potential downside that researchers have found about purslane is the relatively high content of oxalic acid, which leads to the formation of kidney stones. If you already suffer from kidney stones, avoiding it might be a good idea. However, boiling it in water causes a great deal of oxalic acid to be eliminated, without losing many of the other beneficial nutrients.

About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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