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Why You Should be Eating More Edible Weeds like Purslane
Some people feel that for every illness or ailment man has, there is something growing under the sun that can either heal it or prevent it from occurring. Thanks to modern science, some of this is proven to be true. We now know that many of the things we have been taught about nature and plants simply aren’t true. For example, many of the plants we pull and poison out of our yards and gardens aren’t useless “weeds” at all, but instead are beneficial herbs that we should be eating. Perhaps this is why Mother Nature refuses to back down. Ever notice that, no matter how many times you pull a weed out, even when you think you have gotten all the roots, it grows right back again? Mother Nature is trying to get us to pay attention! She has a surprising way to showing us things we didn’t know or things we have forgotten in favor of toxic pharmaceuticals and pesticide filled cultivated crops.
Dandelion is one example of a weed that has gotten a great deal of attention lately, but there’s another common weed called purslane that has just as many health benefits, but hasn’t captured the attention of America. Not yet, anyway. That might be all about to change.
In China, purslane has been used both as food and for medicinal purposes of eons. There are probably a great many more medicinal purposes to purslane that have been forgotten, but as of today, purslane is still used for all types of insect bites, snake bites, and indigestion.
Since the time of Hippocrates, this weed has been used across the world for its anti-parasitic, diuretic, and bowel moving properties. Ancient Egyptians used it to treat heart conditions, such as heart disease or heart attacks. Purslane can also add some really distinctive flavor to your favorite salad or vegetable dish.
If you plant any type of garden, or a lawn with a bald patch, you have probably pulled purslane from your yard, thinking it was a plain old weed. It grows almost everywhere and usually in the warm summer months. If your lawn has thin or bald patches, you often find purslane popping out of those spots. Purslane is usually easily identified by its leaves. They are thick and fleshy, and will look very much like a small jade plant, just not as green. The leaves are oval and very smooth, like a succulent plant. Purslane has a reddish-brown stem that grows straight out of a thick taproot. It can grow as high as 12 inches, if left alone.
You might have heard of purslane (portulaca oleracea) by a common folk name: cat’s tongue. It has a terrific combination of many important vitamins and minerals, not to mention things you never imagined a green plant could contain. If you eat a vegan diet, you will want to keep reading as this “weed” could become very important to you.
Check out the amazing health benefits of one of our most common garden weeds, purslane.
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1. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid
Now this is something no one really expects to find in a plant. However, like flax seed, you can find ALA in purslane, and plenty of it, too. Our bodies convert ALA (alpha linoleic acid) into omega-3 fatty acid. Most vegetarians miss out on this because they don’t eat fish. Well, here is some good news for all you vegans (and those of you who don’t like fish). Purslane is a super-rich source of ALA, so even the strictest vegans can still benefit from the omega-3’s that this weed contains.
Scientists don’t know exactly how much of the ALA we eat gets changed into omega-3s, but ALA also offers us anti-inflammatory effects as well as protection for our heart function, so it’s all good. The omega-3 we do get helps our body make compounds that regulate and support our immune system, help control our weight, and regulate our blood pressure and clotting abilities, as well as prevent certain types of cancer.
2. Vitamins and Minerals
On top of the ALA, purslane offers us plenty of minerals including coper, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. It’s loaded with beneficial nutrients such as vitamin E, riboflavin, beta carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin A, which has shown to have significant tumor-fighting ability, especially in the areas of lung cancer and oral cancer.
Purslane also contains pectin, which is known to reduce the “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, dopamine, and Co-Q10, a substance that is found in every living cell and supplies them with energy. It’s also a great source of all the B-complex vitamins. Read more how to fight with vitamin B12 deficiency.
3. Super Rich in Melatonin
University of Texas researchers have shown that purslane has as much as 20 times more melatonin than any other green. Melatonin can help to regulate our sleep cycles. It’s also been shown in other studies to be a powerful, cancer-growth-inhibiting force. Purslane has more melatonin than any other fruit or vegetable in the world, so why would you want to pull it out of your garden and throw it away?
Make your own purslane tincture
Many people like tinctures, as they can get all the health benefits without actually having to consume the entire plant. Although purslane is super low in calories (only 16 tiny calories in 100 grams) perhaps you don’t care for the taste, or you want to continue to get the health benefits even in the winter when purslane is dormant. You can still get all the benefits and make it easy for your body to absorb all the nutrients by using a tincture. Make your own! It’s so easy.
- Harvest some purslane from your garden or yard. If you can’t find any, go to a field, park, or even alongside the road, it grows just about everywhere. The leaves should be fresh and green. Don’t pick any leaves that are yellow, wilted, or rotten. Take a good quantity as you will be chopping it up into smaller pieces.
- Once you have enough, sterilize a Mason jar and its lid by submerging them in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
- Chop your purslane into very small pieces. Fill the cooled Mason jar about ¾ of the way full.
- Add unflavored vodka (it can be the cheap stuff!) until the liquid covers the purslane completely. Shake gently to remove air bubbles. Top it off if necessary.
- Seal the jar and give it a few more good shakes. Place it in a cool, dark spot, like a kitchen cupboard away from the stove.
- Shake the jar once per day. Allow to sit for 2 months. This allows the medicinal compounds and essential oils in the purslane to transfer to the liquid.
- After 2 months, get another sterilized jar and wash your hands well. You don’t want to contaminate your tincture with any type of bacteria. Strain the liquid into the new jar using a cheese cloth. Squeeze the cheese cloth so that you get out as much liquid as you can.
- Throw out the purslane. Shake your new purslane tincture before each use!
You can always eat purslane raw, put it in a salad, or try it in a sandwich in place of lettuce. You can chop it and use it in omelets, casseroles, or soups. Don’t overcook purslane or it tends to get a bit slimy. If you are adding it to a cooked dish, add it in the last 10 minutes of cooking time, to avoid overcooking it.
Enjoy your newfound “weed”!