I am writing this during the spread of the ‘Corona virus – Corvid 19’ in Australia, and observing the hysteria and panic buying, reminds me of why I started learning about herbs and self-sufficiency in the first place, what will you do when these things happen?
Any form of natural disaster, or break down in the system can possibly cause massive shortages in supplies of food, water and energies.
But worst of all, what about medical supplies:
How will you survive without your medications!?
Now the purpose of this is certainly not to cause undue worry and serious concern, but to encourage us into some preparedness. The purpose is to get us all to start thinking, hmmm, it would be a good idea to start moving in this direction.
Anyway, let’s chat about our main subject today.
Purslane is an annual herb, that is a native to Australia, (nobody really knows its exact origin, some say from Greece to China), as it has been around for such a long time now, but is found in temperate regions all around the world.
Its botanical name comes from the Latin potare, which means to “carry,” and lac or “milk,” the milky like sap of the plant, which may be why so many believe it helps with lactation.
Purslane or as it is sometimes ungraciously called, ‘Pigweed” has been used as a food for thousands of years, as it was eaten by the Indians and Persians (Iran) in the Middle East, and it was used as a green to go into salads in the Mediterranean, and was probably carried into Europe through Spain due to the Saracens in the Middle Ages.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, it was first recorded to have been planted in England in 1582, and it was used as a common garden vegetable.
It was even used as a treatment for scurvy on the high seas, due to its very high Vitamin C content.
The Australian aborigines use to make a flour out of the seeds, which have the highest known source of omega-3 fatty acids* from a plant. (*Alpha linolenic acid).
They collected the seed simply by heaping the plants up side down on a smooth flat surface and allowing the seed to fall out, and found it easy to gather up.
The Australian aborigines really had an excellent, healthy and very nutritious diet, and this can be easily proven by observing the very old photos of fit and active men and women, with full sets of teeth and practically no disease to be found anywhere. We could and should learn a lot from these people.
The African Zulu used a variety called Portulaca quadrifida as an emetic.
It grows as a thick matting on the ground, but can grow up to 20cm / 8″ tall, as the branches and flowers try to reach upward towards the sun. Its leaves are generally light to dark green with green to reddish stems. Common Purslane has 2 to 3cm / 1″ long leaves, which form in clusters at the stem nodes with small yellow flowers. The seeds appear after the flowers drop off, and are black in colour and are the size of fine sand.
There are varieties that produce a whole range of bright colours and these don’t seem to be as invasive as the common Purslane, so can be used in gardens.
The Weed File
There are two other types of Purslane worth considering, and they are Golden Purslane – Portulaca oleracea var. (Sativa) and the Jade Plant – Portulacaria afra, sometimes called Elephant Food or Spekboom.
Golden Purslane is an upright (45cm / 18″) annual that has obovate fleshy yellow to lime coloured green leaves that are about 4cm / 1.5″ long. On the whole it is bigger the common Purslane in both leaf and plant size.
Jade plant is a hardy perennial, which grows much taller than both other varieties, up to 60 to 150cm / 2′ to 5′ tall. It is great for pots and other containers, as well as rock and dry gardens.
It is happy in either full sun or partial shade, and it also has succulent obovate leaves that are 1cm / 3/8″ long with red to brown stems.
Also there is a Yellow Purslane – Portulaca lutea var. Soland, which can be found in New Zealand.
How To Use Purslane
There are two main ways to use Purslane, and they are cooking and as a medicinal herb. Sadly, many people just don’t know either, all they can do is complain about some ‘weed’ in their garden or lawn and spray it with something which would harm them more then help them.
In a era of anything made with Kale, has to be good, we completely over look good ole Purslane. But all you need to do is go out and pick a handful of bright green leaves and cast them into your salad bowl with other greens etc., and voila, there you have an interesting green salad, full of nutrition.
Medicinally, it is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are very necessary for good health and especially heart and nerve health, which we all need to be aware of. Topically, it can be used on insect bites and burns, plus, sore, irritable, and inflamed skin, such as eczema for example.
Those with gout shouldn’t not eat it raw, due to its oxalic acid, but used as a poultice externally has benefits.
Purslane tea itself was once drunk as a tonic for the whole body.
Simple Purslane Tea
Being easy and simple to make, plus the benefits of its nutrition, why not have a try at making Purslane tea.
To make Purslane tea, just grab a small amount of the leaves and stems, (younger leaves are better) place them into a cup, pour in boiling hot water, allow it to steep for about 15 minutes, and drink.
You can add a little sweetener such as raw honey, or stevia if needed.
Customised Purslane Teas
Some say it has a lemony or acidic flavour, which could mean adding lemon or lime juice or herbally you could try lemon balm, or lemon grass, which could make things interesting. But don’t let yourself stop there, why not add Chamomile or Peppermint with a bit of Ginger.
So why not develop your own personal favourite?
Culinary Uses of Purslane
When picking Purslane for cooking, it is best to pick all the young and tender leaves as these are nicer than the older ones, and the best time for picking is before the flowers come on. Some actually use the flowers in salads and meals too.
So if you want to experiment with Purslane, just think of where and how you could use a green vegetable, like spinach? And most likely you have an answer, for example, any type of salad, stir-frys, coleslaw, steamed veggies, juice drinks and smoothies, soups e.g. sorrel soup, stews and broths, casseroles, dumplings, any egg dishes, and omelettes, pancakes, fritters, and you can even pickle it with apple cider vinegar.
A few more specific uses could be steaming the young shoots and serving them up in a buttery sauce with a little salt and pepper, mixing the leaves in a sandwich with cream cheese or an egg and Purslane sandwich.
Purslane is one of the traditional ingredients of the French soup called Bonne femme, and in the Middle Eastern salad called Fattoush.
Before I got married, I use to work on a farm growing various fruits and vegetables and the farmer described one day how he use to eat Pigweed soup, when growing up as a child, and I was quite surprised, as at that stage I only of thought Purslane as a ‘weed’.
Yes, Pigs love Pigweed too!
- 1 heaped cup of Purslane, chopped
- 1 large potato finely chopped
- 1 large onion chopped
- 6 cups of stock, usually chicken
- Salt and pepper for taste
- 1 cup of milk
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream (optional)
- Place all ingredients into a suitable saucepan except for the milk and cream
- Place it in low simmering water for five minutes
- Take off the heat and use a stick blender (or similar) to blend until smooth with no lumps
- Just before serving, reheat and now you can add the milk and cream
- Serve and enjoy
Health Uses of Purslane
There are two minerals that men and women generally need and that is zinc for men and iron for women, and Purslane is quite high in iron assisting them in this nutritional requirement.
It is also high in other minerals such as, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and lithium, and Vitamins such as, A – via its betacarotene, Bs such as folate, C and E, and being so rich in so many goodies makes it a wonderful tonic for the whole body. And I have found that most of humanity is deficient in magnesium.
As mentioned above it is high in Vitamin C, so if you cannot get a hold of Vitamin C, then eat plenty of Purslane.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Purslane or Ma Chi Xian – 馬齒莧 or what Chinese practitioners would call the “vegetable for long life.” and what an amazing title for what most people want to kill.
From the TCM view point, it is classified as sour and cold in treatment and is used for the organ meridians of liver, heart and large intestine.
Its actions include: Clearing heat, cools the blood, plus, clearing damp heat of skin disorders, and they use it for swelling and pain of insect and snake bites, amongst many other indications.
Purslane Health Recipes
Poultice for Inflamed Breasts
This is made by mixing an oil such as a little coconut oil, a raw egg and Purslane. Place all the ingredients into a blender, and blend until you have a thick paste, and apply thickly and cold to reduce inflammation. This poultice can be left on for several hours or overnight.
Inflammation of the Urethra
Make a decoction by bringing to a boil and then simmering low for a few minutes, 60 grams of Purslane, 6 grams of Liquorice root and a cup water. Allow to cool slightly, strain and drink.
It can be turned into a mouth wash and gargled for any infections in the mouth. For coughs and shortness of breath, crush out the juice and mix it with a little honey, and gargle.
Those with reflux can eat Purslane to assist with alleviating stomach acid issues.
Gardening Uses of Purslane
Because Purslane is frankly one of the easiest things to grow, it is a great plant for those who want a pretty garden with colour and greenery, but just don’t want to put in the effort, like no effort. There is quite a range of varieties that produce many different bright colours, sizes and shapes. Plus, it doesn’t just flower for a short period and then disappear, but stays around for quite some time, providing lots of colour.
This simplicity makes it great for rock gardens, and for example, just stick it into those gaps and holes in between the rocks or logs if you want and let it grow with splashes of colour coming out for you to enjoy.
It also makes a excellent ground cover, thickly growing up and over whatever is near, but not over very large objects, which is another reason to grow it as a ground cover or in rockeries to fill in gaps.
Other Uses of Purslane
Grazing stock just love the stuff, and if you have any in the paddock they will find it and it will be gone, so encouraging it to grow out in the meadows for animals to eat is a good thing, as it is quite nutritious for them.
How to Grow Purslane
Purslane is just so simply to grow, and probably the best plan to grow it is to neglect it, and you’ll find that you can love it to death. But if you must, a little organic composting or fertilising (nitrogen) will give you thicker and more succulent leaves.
The black seeds of Purslane are quite small and can lay dormant for up to seven years or more, so even if it dies down, and disappears, it may just as easily pop up next year. Each plant can produce thousands more of its own kind.
The best season to plant Purslane is in early spring, or once there are no more frosts, but if you are in tropical regions then you would be best to plant in Autumn.
Simply spread out the seed into a seed container filled with equal parts of sand and potting mix, and lightly water in. In a short while you should have germination, and just transplant these into pots, to get established and harden up a bit, then plant them into your garden etc. They should be ready to harvest in about 6 to 8 weeks.
You can propagate Purslane directly from the leaves, like most succulents, but it can be a bit of a ‘hit and miss’ affair. Just carefully break off whole leaves from the variety you want, and place these onto the soil/seed raising mix and just keep the soil slightly damp. Eventually, it will put down roots and grow.
From about the middle of spring, take your cuttings of about 5cm / 2″ long, remove any bottom leaves, and place these into a sandy potting mix, keeping the mix slightly damp and warmish. Keep the container out of direct sunlight, and once growing roots, you can transplant these out into your pots or garden.
Purslane as it spreads out and touches the ground will put down roots all on its own, and from these, you are able to propagate more plants, just follow what you would do if you were normally transplanting, and water in.
Purslane, is one of the most easiest plants to grow, in fact, if you just leave it alone, it will just keep coming back, this is why so many people consider it, dare I say, a ‘weed’. So neglect is the order of the day, as it grows in both sun and partial shade, in any soil type, and you can forget fertilising it and can often have no water given to it for ages.
Probably the only thing to be concerned about is the fact that it can spread quite easily, I guess this is why most people consider it a weed, as it can be propagated by both seed and its leaves, so if you bump it and some of the leaves fall off, most likely the plant will regrow.
So, I have not bothered with adding my usual extras on pests and diseases, soil and fertilisers etc., and apart from the occasional slug, as it just doesn’t matter.
If you really want to keep it under control due to its ability to spread, then just eat it, don’t poison it.
When collecting it fresh, it is best to wait at least until the plant is about 10cm / 4″ wide, that way you can get enough for at least a salad or meal and it helps you not to strip the plant too much, then it should quickly recover supplying you with even more free food.
If you are harvesting for a future meal soon, then you can leave it with its whole stems, and keep them fresh in the fridge for a few days.
Always make sure that you only collect clean and healthy leaves and stems, free from damage, grubs and insects and their eggs and any other foreign matter and dust.
To dry Purslane you can do this in either an oven or a dehydrator keeping it at about 46C / 115F, but it is just as simple to dry it in the open air, say, on dry paper towelling or cloth towelling or on a tray of fine mesh. Just keep the leaves and stems apart so that they don’t come in contact with each other or you’ll need to move them around regularly to help them dry evenly and prevent mould.
Place your Purslane in a dry and airy room away from bugs and dust etc. They usually only take 2 to 3 days to dry, depending on your weather conditions. They will need to be dry, crispy and crunchy to touch and should have kept the basic shape, colour and flavour.
Once fully dried, it can be turned into a powder and put into a huge range of meals, teas and drinks, and although you don’t have to, it is better to turn it into powder just before using it as this holds in the goodness in slowing down oxidation.
Properly dried and stored Purslane can keep for 1 to 2 years. Always store your dried herbs in dark coloured glass jars or bottles, out of the sunlight and in a dark, cool dry place.
Fresh Purslane does not store well, due to its high water content, so you should use it fairly quickly, or you can store it in the fridge for a few days in the crisper.
The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.
Wild Purslane, Pig weed, Common Purslane, Pussley, Horse Coin, Horse Money, Green Purslane, Kitchen or Garden Purslane, Yellow Portulaca
Portulaca oleracea, P, sativa
Ma Chi Xian – 馬齒莧
Leaf, stems, juice (The entire plant is edible)
Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 6.0 – 12.0 grams
Refrigerant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antibiotic, tonic, alterative, mild antispasmodic, diuretic, emollient, mucilage, and emmenagogue
Headaches – nervous excitability, sore throat, sore gums, gingivitis, mouth wash, urethra pain, dry cough, muscular rheumatism, jaundice, gout – poultice, skin ulcers and sores. Plus, Dysentery, post partum bleeding, anti tumour, parasites, and promotes contraction of uterus
Extremely rich in n-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, carotenoids, alkaloids, sitosterol, volatile oils, resin, galacturonic acid, tannins, lupeol, glycoside, sterols, oxalic, citric, malic and glutamic acids, dopamine, B – Amyrin, noradrenaline, sacchariferoid, and protein
Do not use during pregnancy. Those with rheumatism and gout should avoid raw Purslane.
Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in any way. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.
Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda
“Our misunderstanding about ‘weeds’ is that we haven’t come to use them correctly, then they will cease to remain weeds”Herbal Panda