Purslane (Ma Chi Xian)
Botanical Name: Portulaca oleracea
Considered a weed in many areas, it can also be eaten as a leaf vegetable and used as a medicine. Eaten raw it is crunchy with a light lemony flavor delicious in salads and sandwiches. It has long been used as food in the Mediterranean region and as a medicine in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In China, it is often described as a longevity herb.
Below is an overview of Purslane (Ma Chi Xian), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Purslane (Ma Chi Xian).
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Western Name: Purslane
Also Known As: Little Hogweed, Red Root, Purlsey, Verdolaga, Duckweed, Fatweed, Moss Rose
Organs/Systems: Heart, Immunity
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Demulcent, Antimutagenic, Antioxidant, Antibacterial, Antiscorbutic, Depurative, Diuretic, Febrifuge. Heart disease, stroke, autism, helps prevent ADHD, toothaches, strengthens immunity.
Pin Yin: Ma Chi Xian (translates as “Horse Tooth Amaranth”)
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Liver, Large Intestine
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Relieves Fire Toxins/Cools Blood: dysentery, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, postpartum bleeding, intestinal bleeding, urinary tract infections with blood in the urine, vaginal discharge, hot flashes and night sweats. Reduces Sores from Damp Heat: boils, sores. Insect and Snake Bites: bee, snake, wasp and other stings.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Stems, Leaf, Flower Buds, Seeds, Juice
Flavors/Temps: Slightly Sour, Salty
Caution: Considered safe.
History/Folklore: Evidence suggests that it may have reached North America in the pre-Columbian era. How it reached North America is uncertain as it is clear Native Americans used and spread the seeds
Purslane is widely used in East Mediterranean countries. The Roman herbalist, Pliny the Elder, advised wearing the plant as an amulet to expel all evil.
The betalain alkaloid pigments in purslane are potent antioxidants. Well known and documented for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
In juice form the herb has been used to relieve dry coughs, shortness of breath and externally to treat inflammation and sores.
Traditionally it was thought to cool the liver and be excellent for treating hot ailments such as headaches, restlessness or insomnia due to heat. The 17th century herbalist Culpepper said the herb could be “applied to gout, it easeth pains thereof, and helps the hardness of sinews, if it come not of the cramp, or a cold cause.”
The herbalist Mrs. M. Grieves, indicates that “the seeds, bruised and boiled in wine, were given to children as a vermifuge.”
Purslane seeds are often included in black tea powder granules used to make herbal drinks.
Purslane is a common plant in many parts of India. Australian Aborigines use the seeds to make seedcakes. The Greeks use the leaves and stems with feta cheese, tomato, onion, garlic, oregano and olive oil. They add it to salads, boil it, and add it to casseroled chicken. In Turkey the plant is also bake in pastries and cooked similarly to spinach. In Egypt it is cooked in a vegetable stew. In Pakistan, it is cooked in stews with lentils. The older thick stems can be pickled in salt and vinegar to save for winter salad toppings.
The common name, “Verdolaga”, associated with the plant in South Africa is a nickname for football clubs with green-white color schemes in their uniforms.
Purslane is able to tolerate poor contracted soils and drought. As a companion plant it provide ground cover to create a humid microclimate for nearby plants, helping to stabilize ground moisture. Its deep taproot helps bring up moisture and nutrients used by other plants. Purslane helps break up contracted soils allowing other plants to follow after it making it a beneficial weed in places that do not already grow it as a crop in its own right.
When purslane is harvested in the early morning it will contain 10x the malic acid content than if harvested in the afternoon, giving it a significantly tangier taste.
In ancient times it was considered an anti-magic herb and strewn about to protect against evil spirits. It was considered a cure for lightening blasts or the burning of gunpowder.
Purslane is mentioned in the Bible as a repulsive food.
Mucilage, Oxalic acid, Malic acid, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin A,C, E, B, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Iron, Betalain alkaloid pigments, Pectin, Dopamine, Fructose, Glucose, Alkaloids, Coumarins, Flavonoids, Cardiac gylcosides.
Stems, Leaves and Flower Buds
The stems, leaves and flower buds of purslane are all edible. Enjoy them in salads, stir-fried or in soups or stews.
Purslane has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant and more than some fish oils.
The hairy-stemmed spurge (Euphorbia vermiculata) is poisonous and is sometimes mistook for purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Unlike purslane, it has hairy stems, milky sap, and a red tear-shaped spot in each leaf. Be sure of your identification before eating!
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