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BoldEat Your Weeds!

Purslane - a source of Omega 3 Oils, Glutathione, Melatonin, A, B, C, & E Vitamins,& Minerals!

Plus it is Anti-Aging!

by Sue Bennett, 6/20/2012

If you live in the United States and have a garden, chances are you are weeding purslane out of your garden every year. For years I ripped purslane out of my flower beds until I discovered its nutritive value. 

Although the FDA classifies purslane as a broad-leaved weed, it's a popular vegetable and herb in many other countries, including China, Mexico, Russia, Greece and Crete.  Fresh purslane is crisp and tangy - all parts of the plant including leaves and stalks are edible. The plant is an ingredient in Mediterranean soups and salads. In Russia, it is dried and canned, and in Mexico it is used in omelets, soups and other dishes.

Purslane has the highest amount of omega-3 fats of any edible plant, according to researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Purslane contains high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid generally found in vegetables, as well as small amounts of EPA and DHA, omega-3 fatty acids more commonly found in fish. It also contains glutathione and B vitamins.

Purslane also has 10 to 20 times more melatonin than any other fruit or vegetable tested.  According to Dr. Simopoulos et. al. in their article "Purslane: A Plant Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Melatonin" in the "Journal of Pineal Research," 2005, purslane contains a relatively high level of melatonin, a hormone also made in the brain that sets the body clock and controls sleep cycles.

Purslane is high in vitamins A, C and E, which are known for their antioxidant powers. It also contains two pigments, beta-cyanins and beta-xanthins, which act as antioxidants.  It also contains high amounts of dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese.

Inhabitants of the island of Crete, who are amongst the healthiest and long lived people, include purslane in their regular diet.  Research in purslane indicates that it extends the life of telomeres at the end of our chromosomes.  (Telomeres are a region of repetitive sequences at the end of chromosomes that prevent the degradation of genes during cell replication by allowing the chromosome ends to shorten which occurs during DNA replication that takes place when cells divide.  One theory of aging is that when cells divide, the telomeres shorten and our lifespan is determined by the length of our telomeres we are born with and how quickly deplete them.  People who exercise and do not overeat tend to may extend the life of their telomeres, reducing the rate at which they shorten, and live longer).

Consuming purslane may benefit diabetics due to the plant's compounds, including alkaloids, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids and cardiac glycosides. A study published in the March 2009 issue of the "International Journal of Molecular Science" notes that animal studies indicate that consuming this vegetable may prevent hyperglycemia, improve insulin secretion and decrease cholesterol. Researchers suggest human studies to confirm that these findings correlate to both men and women.

Think of purslane as a great alternative or addition to lettuce: The leaves and stems are crisp, chewy, and succulent, and they have a mild lemony taste. If it isn’t growing in your yard, look for it at your local farmer's market, or Chinese or Mexican market. Some Whole Foods stores also include it in their salad mixes.

Purslane can also be added to juices/smoothies for a free, nutritional boost  Another option is to create a summer green drink by pureeing these greens in a blender with distilled water, let the puree sit for a few hours, and then strain out the pulp and drink the greens infused water 2-3 times a day.   This could be a cold drink or a tea.

Other common weeds that have significant value nutritive and therapuetic value are chickweed which is high in vitamins and trace minerals, stinging nettle (which when boiled has anti-inflammatory properties and does not sting and promotes absorption of calcium), dandelion (supports detoxification) and milk thistle (supports detoxification).  Non-weed greens of note are parsley, which supports detoxification and absorption of calcium, and coriander/cilantro which supports excretion of heavy metals including mercury. 

Virtually all kids on the autism spectrum and individuals with chronic disease conditions are deficient in glutathione, our body's most powerful anti-oxidant.  Most of the glutathione in the body is manufactured in the liver.  The liver performs much of it's detoxification of the body when we are sleeping.  Sometimes sleep disturbances can be caused by a liver overburdened with toxins struggling to detoxify the body.  Supporting the liver can promote better sleep, and increase levels of glutathione in the body.  Either making your own teas infused with milk thistle and dandelion can help support the liver. 

Study indicating Purslane Slowed Telomere Shortening in Mice 24-57%

In this study, the en vivo administration of Purslane resulted in a 24%-57% slowdown in the life-long telomere shortening of mice after only two weeks of treatment.

In the study, a group of three month old mice received Purslane subcutaneously (by shot) for only two weeks. The Purslane group (with 2.5 mg/kg-day) had increased telomerase activity and the telomeres of the brain cells of the mice after that period were 27kb as opposed to 23kb in the control group1. The authors did not mention the starting length of the telomeres unfortunately. If we assume a window of 30kb-40kb for this, the typical starting lengths of lab mice, we get a 24%-57% reduction in telomere shortening 2.

In Vivo

It is worth noting that this was an in vivo study. That is, real live mice were given Purslane extract, and then their tissues were tested for telomere length afterwards. This is always more exciting than an in vitro study would be where only cells in a petri dish are tested.

Telomerase Activation

The authors found that Purslane upregulated telomerase by the amount shown in the graph below3.

Telomerase Activator

Telomerase Activity

Telomerase Activity
  • 1 - Control
  • 2 - Treated with Purslane Extract
  • Dosage

    The optimal mouse group in the study was the one that was given 2.5mg of Purlsane herb powder per day4. For a person of 150 pounds or 70 kilos, that would translate to about 200mg per day. This is a very rough baseline, but the metabolism of mice is very different than our own and also the mice in the study were given shots of the Purslane, rather than taking it orally. Depending on the bioavailability of whatever unknown compounds in Purslane that are working the magic, the equivalent oral dose could be substantially higher.

    This study was published in ScienceDirect, Chemico-Biological Interations 170 (2007) 145-152. Neuroprotective effects of purslane herb aquenous extracts
    against d-galactose induced neurotoxicity.  Zhang Hongxing a,1, Yu Nancai a,1, Huang Guofu a, Shao Jianbo c, Wu Yanxia a,  Huang Hanju b, Liu Qian a, Ma Weia, Yi Yandong a, Huang Haoa,b,∗

    Research Study on Anti-Oxidant Activity in Rats Given Purslane

    Below is a full-length research paper published in 2010 on the benefits of purslane in rats who were given water infused with mashed and strained purslane leaves for a 2 day period. Testing after 12 days resulted in increased levels of glutathione, and super oxide dismutase, and reduced oxidative stress.