In ancient Greece, Portulaca Oleracea or Purslane Herb was regarded as an important medicinal herb for treatment of fever, female disorders, stomach aches, hemorrhoids, and for the healing of wounds by Hippocrates, the renowned father of medicine. Purslane herb was later considered as a "cold" herb around the 17th century and was an important ingredient in a prescribed fresh salad comprising basil, rocket, cress, and garlic to combat "the common cold."
Purslane is today known as a beneficial juicy herb found as a weed throughout the world. Purslane is commonly used as a potherb or as an ingredient for salads. Purslane has been recently identified as an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid. Alpha-linolenic is an omega-3 fatty acid, also known as fish oil. This crucial content in Purslane herb plays an important role in human growth, development and preventing diseases. Moreover, this fatty acid cannot be synthesized by humans and therefore has to be ingested.
Modern medical research also claims that Purslane herb is five times richer in omega-3 fatty acids than spinach, and is high in vitamin C also.
Characteristics of Purslane Herb
This herb is a trailing annual with reddish, fleshy stems whose ends will form roots when they come in contact with the ground. Cultivated Purslane also known as Pusley & Verdolaga grows about 3 inches high and 12 to 18 inches wide.
- The fleshy leaves are long, oval or spoon shaped and about 1/2 to 2 inches long.
- Purslane has small, oblong, green leaves, which form clusters. Leaves are usually in clusters of 5 or 6 and are delicate and juicy.
- The leaf has a central fibrous channel or stem extension, without pronounced branching of side channels.
- The leaves have a mild flavor.
- The stem is round and smooth, and it trails along the ground like a small vine.
- Young plants have a green stem but as the plant matures the stems take on reddish tints. Creeping stems are reddish brown, about 10 inches long, with frequent branching.
Flowers are 1/4 inch long and a brilliant yellow in colour with 5 petals, which contain miniscule round black seeds.
Benefits and Uses of Purslane Herb:
Purslane herb presents a wide variety of therapeutic uses and each part of the herb is consumable and beneficial. Here is a compilation of the known benefits and uses of Purslane herb that is widely used the world over:
- Purslane is known as an excellent source of vitamins A, C and E and the essential amino acids. Reports describe Purslane as a "power food of the future" because of its high nutritive and antioxidant properties.
- Purslane leaves contain Omega-3 fatty acid which regulate the body's metabolic activities. Purslane herb is known to have one of the highest known concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acid in any plant.
- The stems of Purslane herb are known to be high in vitamin C.
- Purslane is widely used as a potherb in Mediterranean, central European and Asian countries.
- Purslane is also widely used as an ingredient in a green salad. Tender stems and leaves are usually eaten raw, alone or with other greens. They are also cooked or pickled for consumption.
- Purslane is used in various parts of the world to treat burns, headaches, stomach, intestinal and liver ailments, cough, shortness of breath and arthritis.
- Purslane herb has also been used as a purgative, cardiac tonic, emollient, muscle relaxant, and in anti-inflammatory and diuretic treatments.
- Purslane is popularly preserved for winter by pickling Purslane in apple cider vinegar with garlic cloves and peppercorns.
- Purslane appears among a list of herbs considered to help benefit conditions such as osteoporosis and psoriasis.
How to grow Purslane?
Here are some simple tips that may come handy to grow the Purslane herb in ideal conditions:
- April to August is the ideal season to sow the seeds when frost does not pose a threat.
- Press the seeds into the surface of the soil and leave uncovered. Roots can also develop on parts of existing plants that are inserted into the soil. In fairly moist soil, two or three successive plantings can be made.
- Keep the herb well watered always. Thin the seedlings to 10cm apart and when they reach 5-7cm in height cut them back close to the ground. The seeds germinate very quickly.
- Purslane can also be grown in a container. Purslane prefers the sun and sandy soil for growth. One must water these herbs during dry spells and feed lightly once in a while.
- It is important to note that it is ideal to consume Purslane when it is young. The flavor apparently deteriorates as it starts to bloom.
- Purslane grows well at day or night temperatures of 27 or 22oC and when days are long (16 hours).
- Purslane can also be used as rotation crop when gardening as they bring up subsoil minerals and protect against many insects.
- Because of its inherent ability to tolerate different light intensities, temperature ranges and soil types. Purslane is ideal for home gardens and provides a ready supply of greens for the salad.