Portulaca Oleracea (Common Purslane, also known as Verdolaga, Pigweed, Little Hogweed, Pusley, Rigla, and Pourpier) is found on every populated continent and is one of the eight most common plants in the world. Much research has been done on this wondrous plant and yet its benefits are relatively unknown to the average individual. The wide range of nutritional and medicinal benefits should become conventional knowledge, allowing purslane to be utilized more often.
The Power of One
Purslane is a rich source of vitamins and minerals with vitamins A, B, C, and E, along with iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, folate, and lithium being found in the plant (Chevallier, 1996; Bremness, L., 1994).
Studies conducted at the POS Pilot Plant Laboratory, located on the University of Saskatchewan , concluded that purslane is high in minerals including phosphorous, zinc, silicon, manganese, chromium, selenium, and copper (Project #00781A, 2000). It was also confirmed that purslane is high in tocophenals (alpha, gamma, and delta), and riboflavin, and that it contains two times higher levels of antioxidants than equal serving sizes of commercial cranberry and grape seed extract (Project #00781A, 2000).
Another study found that purslane contains seven times higher levels of Vitamin E, ascorbic acid and glutathione (antioxidants) than leaves of spinach (Simopoulos, A., Norman, H., Gillaspy, J., Duke, J., 1992).
Purslane is also the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids of any vegetable yet examined (Simopoulos et al., 1992). It is also a great source of beta-carotene (Liu, L., Howe, P., Zhou, Y., Xu, Z., Hocart, C. and Zhang, R., 2000), essential amino acids, and alpha-linolenic acid (omega 6), (Simopoulos et al., 1992).
Chemical investigations of purslane revealed the presence of flavonoids, monoterpene glycoside, several nitrogenous compounds such as N-trans-feruloyltyramine, dopamine, dopa, and a high concentration of norepinephrine, in addition to several alkaloidal compounds (Ehab, S., Sabrin, R., Mohamed, A., 2008; Hagnauer, 1969).
The use of purslane as a medicinal plant has been recorded at least since the time of the ancient Egyptians and has been popular in many cultures since then. In Greek popular medicine, purslane was used as a remedy for constipation and inflammation of the urinary system (Megaloudi, 2005). Ancient Romans used it to treat dysentery, intestinal worms, headache, and stomachache (Chevallier, 1996; Low et al, 1994). Known as Ma Chi Xian in Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is also used to treat dysentery as well as a treatment for infections or bleeding of the urinary tract, and applied topically to relieve sores and insect or snake bites on the skin (Bensky, D., Clavey, S., Stoger, E., 2004).
Purslane has been used as a folk medicine in many countries to treat scurvy, liver complaints, pulmonary (lung) diseases, mouth ulcers, dry cough, burns, and skin diseases (Liu et al, 2000; Skelly, J., 1994). Traditionally Purslane has been used to treat headache, stomachache, painful urination, dysentery, enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine), mastitis (inflammation of the breast tissue), hemorrhoids, and abnormal uterine bleeding (Leung, 2007). Traditional external uses include the treatment of burns, earache, insect stings, skin sores, ulcers, pruritus (itch), eczema, and abscesses (Leung, 2007). Other, more modern, uses include colitis (inflammation of the colon), acute appendicitis, diabetes, dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), and shingles (Leung, 2007).
The Plant that Heals
Several biological properties have been attributed to purslane: it is an antiseptic (infection reducing), febrifuge (fever reducing), antispasmodic (suppresses spasms), diuretic (increases urination), vermifuge (expels parasitic worms) (Radhakrishnan, R., Zakaria, M., Islam, M., Chen, H., Kamil, M., Chan, K., Al-Attas, A., 2001; Xiang, L., Xing, D., Wang, W., Wang, R., Ding, Y., Du, L., 2005; Malek, F., Boskabady, M., Borushaki, M., Tohidi, M., 2004), anti-scorbutic, bronchodilator (Malek et al, 2004), anti-ascorbic, antipyretic (fever reducing), anti-asthmatic, and antitussive (cough suppressant) (Xiang et al, 2005; Malek et al, 2004; Islam, M., Zakaria, M., Radhakrishnan, R., Habibullah, M., Chan, K., 1998). Research has also revealed that purslane has an antifungal effect (Chang,K., Hwang, K., Mar, W., 2000; Oh, K., Chang, I., Hwang, K., 2000).
Purslane exhibits a wide range of pharmacological effects, including antibacterial (Zhang, X., Ji, Y., Qu, Z., Xia, J., Wang L., 2002), analgesic (pain reliever), anti-inflammatory (Chan, K., Islam, M., Kamil, M., Radhakrishnan, R., Zakaria, M., Habibullah, M., Attas, A., 2000), skeletal muscle- relaxant (Parry, O., Marks, J., Okwuasaba, F., 1993) and wound healing activities (Rashed, A., Afifi, F., Disi, A., 2003). One study indicated that Purslane accelerates the wound healing process by decreasing the surface area of the wound and increasing the tensile strength (Rashed et al, 2002). It has also been used on the treatment of dysentery, cancer and heart disease (Xu, X., Yu, L., Chen, G., 2006). As previously noted, purslane is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial in treating congenital heart disease (CHD) and certain cancers (Low, T., Rodd, T., 1994; Ezekwe, M., Omara-Alwala, T., Membrahtu, T., 1999; Liu et al, 2000). Another study showed purslane has a bioactive ingredient that has tumoricidal activity (William, G., 1991). Purslane may also be used to treat Parkinson’s disease because of its dopa content (Hegnauer, 1969).