Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) or also known as cat’s tongue provides many health benefits. It is good for our skin, urinary and digestive systems. It also has a perfect combination between antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, potassium, calcium, magnesium and carotene. Purslane has expanded to a lot of places around the world and used by various communities as a medicinal plant. Purslane is also edible and can be used as vegetable.
Because purslane is often considered as a weed, you may easily harvest it in your garden. Purslane is a broadleaf weed that grows in the summer and can restrict the turf grass growth. This weed usually grows on the thin or bare spots in a lawn. Lawns that are not regularly or properly are susceptible to purslane infestation. When you see the suspected weed, check the leaves. Common purslane leaves are oval in shape and smooth. They are fleshy and thick, in some ways are comparable to the jade houseplant. You should also check the leaves growth pattern. Purslane has succulent and reddish-brown stems that emerge directly from the thick taproot. The stem can grow up to 12″ long and radiate from the center of the plant.
Nutritional Contents of Purslane
Like in flaxseed, you can also find ALA (alpha linoleic acid) in purslane. It is an essential substance and can be converted by our body to become the omega 3 fatty acid. Many vegetarians miss out this beneficial substance, because they don’t eat fishes. Wild purslane is rich in the precursor of the omega 3 fatty acid, so that even the most stubborn vegetarian can get the benefit of omega 3. It’s not known how much ALA that can be converted by our body, however, it appears that ALA offers a number of benefits to our heart and has anti-inflammatory effects. In turn, omega 3 helps our body in producing compounds that are needed to regulate our immune system, blood clotting and blood pressure. Omega 3 may control coronary spasms, aid in weight control, and prevent certain types of cancer. It can improve the effectiveness of treatment for hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder and depression.
Purslane is not only a good source of fatty acid, it also offers plenty of minerals, including, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, copper, magnesium, calcium and copper, plus vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients like alpha tocopherol (vitamin E), tocophenals, riboflavin, vitamin C and beta carotene.
Purslane contains carbohydrate and protein plus amino acids which can help our body to make protein. A few other beneficial substances found in this weed is: pectin which is believed to reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein, the bad cholesterol), antioxidant, gluthatione, dopamine (a muscle relaxant agent), noradrenaline and CoQ-10 (Conenzyme Q-10), which found in every living cells and supply them with energy. Since the time of Hippocrates, purslane has been widely used in Europe for its cathartic (activates bowel evacuation), anthelintic (anti-parasitic) and deuretic properties. In ancient Egypt, purslane was used to treat heart disease and heart failure. If purslane is not available in your area, you may use lingoberry, hemp, seabuckthorn, walnuts, flax seed, perila (a poisonous herb for cattle) and chia seeds as another source of omega 3.
At only 16 calories per 100 grams, wild purslane packs plenty of nutritional punch without giving excess calories. Purslane is also rich in B-complex vitamins, which help to regulate our nervous system and carbohydrate metabolism.
How to Prepare Purslane
Tincture is a popular method to extract the beneficial compounds from a plant-based material and make them easier to be absorbed by our body. Tinctures are usually taken orally and people often mix them with plain water or fruit juice. These are a few steps to prepare purslane tincture:
1. Harvest purslane in garden, park, field or roadside. Purslane leaves shouldn’t be yellowed, rotted or wilted. You may need to take it in enough quantity.
2. Sterilize a jar and its lid, by submerging them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Set aside.
3. Chop purslane finely in very small pieces, the smaller the better. Fill a jar to about 3/4 full.
4. Add vodka to the above jar, until the liquid covers the herb completely. Shake gently to release trapped air bubbles, add more vodka if necessary. Seal the jar with the lid and shake vigorously. Place in a cool, dark place.
5. Shake the jar everyday for about a month, if possible two months. The storage and shaking process can help to release the medicinal compounds and essential oils to the alcohol.
6. When the storage period ends (1 or 2 months), sterilize another jar (and its lid) and wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap. Strain the liquid into the recently sterilized jar using cheesecloth or muslin. Squeeze as much as liquid as you can and cap the jar. Before using the tincture, shake the jar vigorously, to make sure the beneficial compounds and nutrients are distributed evenly.
Purslane can also be used simply as a green salad and eaten raw with other greens. For example, when making a salad, you can combine purslane with cherry tomatoes, baby spinach, lemon juice and olive oil. To complete the meal, add garbanzo beans, seared tunas, chicken breast and top them off with some freshly chopped herbs. You can also use raw purslane as wraps or an ingredient for sandwich. Purslane is also often used to replace spinach in dips, omelettes, casseroles and soups. You can also add purslane in pasta sauce. However, when overcooked, purslane can become quite slimy. They can also be pickled or cooked for consumption. When preserving purslane for the winter, you can use the combination of peppercorns, garlic cloves and apple cider vinegar.