Health Benefits of Purslane
Some of the health benefits of purslane include its ability to help lose weight, boost heart health, help in the proper development of children, treat certain gastrointestinal diseases, prevent certain cancers, protect the skin, boost vision, strengthen the immune system, build strong bones, and increase circulation.
Although this may come as a surprise to many vegetable lovers, purslane may be the most important vegetable that hasn’t made its way into your diet! The main reason for this is that for many years, purslane has been considered little more than an annoying weed. In fact, it is scientifically known as an annual succulent and is widely eaten throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In the United States, it is usually ignored or pulled up and treated like any other invasive greenery in gardens and yards. The scientific name of purslane is Portulaca oleracea, and it has a slightly sour and salty taste that makes it an interesting addition to the palate. The entire plant, including the leaves, stem, flowers, and seeds, are edible and have been used for thousands of years in different variations.
Purslane most likely originated in the Mediterranean region, but it 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! In culinary usage, purslane is commonly used in soups, salads, and stews, added to meat dishes as a flavorful element, and is also mixed with dough to make certain delicious bread varieties in various cultures. Overall, the unique flavor and extremely beneficial nutrients contained in purslane make it one of the best-kept secrets in the vegetable world, but the secret is definitely out, and people are beginning to cultivate purslane in greater numbers around the world. Aside from culinary usages, purslane has also been used in traditional medicine in China and parts of India. Let’s take a closer look at what nutrients make purslane such a powerhouse of human health.
Nutritional Value of Purslane
When this unusual “weed” became the subject of scientific study, researchers were shocked at what they found. This 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.
Health Benefits of Purslane
Heart Health: In terms of boosting the strength of your cardiovascular system, purslane can help in a variety of ways. Most notably, researchers were shocked when they saw the very high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in purslane, at levels higher than in some fish oils, which are widely considered the best source for these beneficial fatty acids. Omega-3s help to reduce the amount of “bad” cholesterol in the body and promote a healthier cholesterol balance in our bloodstream. Consuming foods that are high in omega-3s has been shown to significantly reduce cardiovascular disease, as well as atherosclerosis, thereby preventing heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, the potassium found in purslane can reduce blood pressure due to its behavior as a vasodilator, meaning that it relaxes blood vessels and reduces strain on the heart.
Weight Loss Aid: Purslane is very low in calories, but it is nutrient-rich and packed with dietary fiber. This means that people can feel full after a meal of purslane, but they won’t necessarily up their calorie intake by very much, thereby helping people who are struggling to lose weight or maintain their diets.
Child Development: Although research is still ongoing, early studies have shown that high levels of omega-3s in young children have resulted in a decrease in certain developmental disorders, including autism, ADHD, and other issues that affect millions of children across the world.
Gastrointestinal Diseases: Some people may shy away from alternative medicine treatments for their various health conditions, but in traditional Chinese medicine, purslane was widely used to treat everything from diarrhea and intestinal bleeding to hemorrhoids and dysentery. While most Western medicine wouldn’t confirm these findings, purslane (known as Ma Chi Xian in Chinese medicine) is still used to this day for a wide variety of intestinal conditions. These benefits are mainly attributed to the presence of so many beneficial organic compounds found in purslane, including dopamine, malic acid, citric acid, alanine, glucose, and many others.
Skin Conditions: Along with gastrointestinal issues, purslane can treat a wide variety of skin conditions as well. The high levels of vitamin A, combined with the cocktail of compounds found in this “weed” mean that it can help to reduce inflammation on bee stings and snake bites when applied topically, but can also boost the healthy appearance of the skin, reduce wrinkles, and stimulate healing of skin cells to remove scars and blemishes when consumed.
Cancer Prevention: One of the most widespread and tragic diseases in the world today is cancer, so any anti-carcinogenic food item is highly praised. Purslane has significant levels of vitamin C and vitamin A, both of which act as antioxidants to prevent certain cancers, specifically lung and oral cancers. However, purslane also contains betalain pigment compounds, which give the plant its distinctive yellow and red coloring. Beta-cyanins and beta-xanthins have been directly connected with anti-mutagenic effects in the body, meaning that they prevent free radicals from causing mutations in healthy cells, thereby helping to prevent the development of cancer.
Vision Booster: Vitamin A and beta-carotene have both been connected to eye health and vision for many years. Purslane can help to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts by eliminating free radicals that attack the cells of the eye and cause these commonly age-related diseases.
Strong Bones: The range of minerals present in purslane make it a healthy choice for people who want to protect their bones. 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 you prevent osteoporosis, a common age-related condition that affects millions of people.
Improved Circulation: The high content of iron and copper in purslane mean that it will stimulate the production of red blood cells. Both of these minerals are essential for boosting circulation, which means more oxygen being delivered to essential parts of the body, increased healing speed of cells and organs, increased hair growth, and a general improvement of metabolic efficiency!
A Final Word of Caution: The only potential downside that researchers have found about purslane is the relatively high content of oxalic acid, which can exacerbate the formation of oxalates in the body, which are what make kidney stones. If you already suffer from kidney stones, avoiding purslane might be a good idea. However, boiling purslane down in water causes a great deal of oxalic acid to be eliminated, without losing many of the other beneficial nutrients.