Herbs are powerhouses of nutrition. Used wisely and regularly, herbs can replace costly pills and supplements, and even some drugs. For example, if you currently take fish oil capsules, omega-3 oil capsules, flax oil, or anti-depressants, a switch to purslane could improve your health and save you lots of money, too.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea
) is a common weed in cultivated soils throughout the United States. You won't find purslane in the supermarket or health food store (yet); you'll have to discover it in the wild, which is very easy to do if you look during the summer. In the country, look in gardens. In the city, look in flower beds and planters.
With its thick red recumbent (laying on the ground) stalks and its small fleshy green leaves, purslane looks like a tender succulent, not a hardy annual whose seeds find it easy to survive long cold winters. When you find purslane, harvest it by cutting the tender tips -- as little as one inch or as much as eight inches, depending on the size of the plant.
Eat fresh purslane alone dressed with olive oil and vinegar or lightly sauteed in butter, or add it to salads and soups. Try Purslane Pickles
(recipe below). Or cool off with Purslane Gazpacho
Herbalist James Duke says purslane contains up to 4000 ppm of the omega-3 fatty-acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA); that means a 100 gram serving (between 3 and 4 ounces) contains 400 mg of ALA. Purslane-fed chickens lay eggs that have twenty times more omega-3's than regular eggs. Eating purslane is tastier, safer, and more effective than taking omega-3 supplements. To increase the effect, Duke suggests adding walnut oil to your purslane.
Purslane counters depression.
It is one of the five herbs -- lettuce, amaranth greens, lamb's quarters greens, and watercress are the other four -- richest in antidepressant substances. Purslane is a superior source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phenylalanine, and tryptophan, all of which are known to moderate the effects of depressive brain chemicals.
Purslane is loaded with nutrients. A single one-cup serving contains all the vitamin E you need in a day, as well as significant amounts of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A. Purslane is one of the very best sources of magnesium. One cup supplies your minimum daily need of 450 mg. Lack of magnesium is associated with diabetes, migraines, osteoporosis, hypertension, and asthma.
And, that one cup of fresh purslane gives you over 2000 mg of calcium and 8000 mg of potassium. Women who take calcium supplements do nothing to strengthen their bones. Women who eat foods rich in calcium -- such as yogurt, stinging nettles, and purslane -- have flexible bones which resist breaking.
Purslane seeds have been found in caves in Greece that were inhabited 16,000 years ago.
Does purslane have a place in your life? Remember that herbs are not drugs and they don't work in drug-like ways. Herbs nourish, strengthen, and tonify. Their effects are deep-rooted and may be slow to become visible. Because purslane is a food, it is generally considered safe to use it even if you are taking multiple drugs. As the effects of the purslane become apparent, and if your medical advisor agrees, you may wish to slowly lessen the amount and number of drugs and supplements you take.