Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea): The Weed with Extraordinary Benefits (Science Based)

Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea): The Weed with Many Benefits

Purslane (also known as common purslane, verdolaga, red root, pursley or portulaca oleracea) is an edible plant that is packed full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Although purslane is referred to as a weed, this succulent broadleaf plant has many health benefits. Eating purslane leaves can help to improve digestion, strengthen your immune system, and promote good heart health. You can also use purslane as a topical remedy for irritated skin and help wounds heal faster.

Many people are surprised that purslane weed can be so good for you that it is considered as a beneficial herb. Studies have shown that purslane contains antimicrobial, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. This herbaceous succulent plant is used in cooking, salads, and traditional medicine for its many health benefits.

Although purslane is a healthy edible “weed”, you have to take care when picking the plant. Hairy-stemmed spurge is a poisonous plant that looks like purslane. Also, due to its oxalate levels, purslane may not be good if you are at risk of having kidney stones.

In this article, you will learn about the many science-based reasons to add purslane leaves to your diet. You will find out how to use this succulent weed to address a number of health issues.

Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) is a Weed with Many Benefits

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a common annual plant that thrives in warm, dry climates. Researchers say that the common purslane has succulent foliage and yellow blossoms when it flowers. (1)

Other names for purslane plant include verdolaga, pursley, or red root.

The edible leaves of the purslane plant are oval-shaped and can grow up to just over an inch long (3 cm). Purslane leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in soups, stews or other dishes to give them a crunchy texture.

Some people say that purslane plant leaves taste similar to spinach or watercress.

Purslane vs. hairy-stemmed spurge

One of the reasons to grow your own purslane plant in your backyard is to prevent confusing it with hairy-stemmed spurge.

Hairy stemmed spurge has been described as a purslane poisonous look alike. Spurge plants contain a milky sap that is a contact irritant.

How can you tell the difference between purslane and spurge? Scientists say that the leaves and stems of hairy-stemmed spurge are not a succulent as purslane leaves. Also, purslane doesn’t excrete a milky-white sap when the leaves or stems are broken. (2)

Purslane Pictures

Find below purslane images for easier identification:

purslane pictures

Purslane pictures

Purslane (Weed) Nutrition

The nutritional value of purslane plant is so good for you that the World Health Organization (WHO) described the plant as one of the “most used medicinal plants.”

What is it about purslane weed that makes it so healthy?

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that a 1-oz. (28 g) serving of purslane only contains 6 calories and 1 gram of carbs. This serving of purslane has almost 6 g of vitamin C which is 10% of your recommended daily intake. Purslane leaves also contain vitamin A and B-group vitamins. (3)

More of the nutritional benefits of purslane come from minerals. Studies have shown that purslane is a good source of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These are important minerals for your blood pressure, a healthy heart, and having strong bones. (4, 5)

One of the health benefits of purslane is the fact that it is a good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Purslane contains ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) omega-3 which researchers say is necessary for good health and disease prevention. (6)

In order to fully benefit from taking purslane, some people use purslane supplements that come as powder (like this one), capsules (like this one) and tincture. These supplements can be found in health stores or online and contain all the antioxidants such as ascorbic acid, carotenoids, and omega-3 that is found in purslane leaf.

One of the precautions with eating a lot of purslane is its oxalate content. A diet rich in vegetables with high oxalate content such as spinach and purslane can increase your risk of kidney stones. High levels of oxalates can also affect mineral absorption. (7, 8)

At the end of the article, you will learn what to do to reduce the level of oxalates in purslane.

Purslane Benefits

Let’s look in more detail at how to use purslane and how this healthy weed can help boost your health.

You will find out how science backs up the benefits of purslane compounds for treating inflammatory diseases, diabetes, and many other health concerns. (9)

Purslane Plant is a Good Source of Antioxidants

Many of the benefits of including purslane leaves in your diet are due to the fact they contain a number of antioxidants to boost your health.

A 2017 study found that wild Portulaca oleracea (purslane plant) contains a number of phenolic compounds with antioxidant activity. Extracts from purslane have strong free radical activity. (10)

Purslane contains antioxidants such as alpha-Tocopherol (vitamin E), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta-carotene, and glutathione. In fact, apart from beta-carotene, purslane has more of these antioxidants than spinach! (11)

To help give your health a boost and benefit from purslane leaves, thoroughly wash some freshly picked leaves. Roughly chop them and mix them with some tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a delicious health-boosting purslane salad.

Learn about more antioxidant-rich foods that are good to include in your diet.

Purslane Plant Strengthens Your Immune System

Because leaves from purslane “weed” are rich in antioxidants, purslane has immune-boosting potential.

Research has found that compounds in purslane can help to increase the number of white blood cells that help fight infection. Purslane also contains polysaccharides that have free radical scavenging activity which help to prevent various serious diseases from developing. (12)

Other studies have suggested that certain compounds in purslane may stimulate your immune system to help protect against various types of cancer. (13)

A great way to eat purslane is to add chopped purslane leaves to a pot of soup. Remove the thick stems from the purslane plant, roughly chop the leaves, and add along with the other veggies when cooking your soup.

Further reading: Foods, Vitamins and Supplements for Boosting the Immune System.

Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) Promotes Good Cardiovascular Health

Common purslane is a good natural herb to help reduce your risk of coronary heart disease thanks to its levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

As already mentioned, purslane is a good source of antioxidants such as vitamin C which are good for your heart health.

Purslane is also one of the few plants that contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of ALA. When compared with spinach, purslane has 5 times more ALA and is the best plant-based source of this healthy fatty acid. (14)

Scientists say that the best type of omega-3 for a healthy heart is fish oil as it contains good concentrations of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). However, some studies indicate that ALA omega-3 can also help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. (15)

You can add purslane to the list of foods that are good for promoting a healthy heart and vascular system.

Purslane Can Help Improve Gastrointestinal Health

Eating fresh purslane leaves could help improve your digestive system and result in fewer gastrointestinal complaints.

A 2018 study on the gastroprotective effect of purslane extracts in mice found that they helped to reduce muscle spasms effect. (16)

Other scientific studies have confirmed the traditional use of purslane extracts for treating digestive disorders. One study found that extracts from the purslane plant help lower gastric acid and can reduce the severity of gastric ulcers. (17)

Studies involving animal subjects found that purslane can help reduce diarrhea in cases of ulcerative colitis. (18)

Some health practitioners also recommend purslane supplements to help resolve digestive complaints.

Learn about more natural remedies to get your digestive system working as it should.

Purslane Weed Can Help Manage Diabetes Symptoms

Taking purslane plant extract regularly could benefit you if you have type 2 diabetes.

Many studies have shown that purslane weed can help to address many of type 2 diabetes symptoms.

For example, a 2019 systematic review of trials found that purslane herb can help regulate blood glucose levels. (19)

One study involving rats found that purslane herb is a potential anti-diabetic remedy. Purslane helped to increase antioxidant levels and reduce diabetes-related inflammation. (20)

There are also studies involving humans showing the potential for the purslane plant to manage diabetes symptoms. For example, consuming purslane seeds could help prevent a buildup of plaque in the arteries. The study showed that taking 2.7 g of purslane seed daily could help improve overall blood markers in people with diabetes. (21)

A 2016 study involving adults with type 2 diabetes found that taking purslane supplements 3 times a day helped to lower blood pressure in adults with type 2 diabetes. (22)

If you have symptoms of type 2 diabetes, it is extremely important to avoid blood sugar spikes. Learn about the best foods to help control symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

Purslane Helps Soothe Skin Inflammation, Wounds and Burns

One of the many benefits of growing purslane in your garden is that you can use it to treat cuts, grazes, sunburn, or damaged skin. The cooling and healing properties of purslane mean that it is a good plant to use for soothing irritated and inflamed skin.

Purslane weed is good for wound healing because it is a rich source of antioxidants. Some studies show that purslane extracts also have specific wound healing activity. In some cases, applying extracts from the purslane plant helped wounds to heal faster. (23)

Extracts from purslane also has good anti-inflammatory activity, and there is some evidence to suggest that eating purslane leaves or applying them topically can help to reduce skin allergies. (25)

Other research into the dermal benefits of purslane has found that it has a cooling and soothing effect on the skin to reduce skin inflammation and redness. A fresh-leaf purslane poultice can help to treat insect bites, burns, eczema, itchy skin, and skin abscesses. Common purslane leaves may also be good to relieve atopic dermatitis. (24)

To help treat a sunburn, small cuts, or minor wounds, make a fresh leaf poultice by crushing up some purslane leaves, or make purslane leaf juice by putting fresh purslane leaves through a juicer. Apply to the sore, red skin, and loosely cover with a gauze and bandage. Change the purslane poultice twice a day and continue applying until the wound heals.

To help nourish your skin from the inside, you could eat purslane leaves by adding them to your favorite green smoothie.

To help prevent secondary skin infections, it is important to care for wounds properly. Learn about the do’s and don’ts of caring for wounds. Proper wound care can help you prevent scars from forming on the wound.

Purslane Can Help Treat Inflammatory Diseases

Eating succulent purslane leaves can benefit your health due its anti-inflammatory effect.

Although short-term (acute) inflammation is essential to fight infections, long-term (chronic) inflammation can lead to a number of serious health diseases. (26)

Extracts of purslane stems and leaves can help to inhibit the release of enzymes that cause inflammation. One small study involving humans found that purslane extracts have the potential to be used therapeutically in helping to treat inflammatory diseases. (27)

Consuming a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as purslane can help manage pain and reduce the effects of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Purslane Weed is Good for Bone Health

If you suffer from, or are at risk from osteoporosis, increasing the amount of purslane leaves you eat could benefit your bones.

One of the reasons why purslane plant benefits bone health is because it contains many important minerals. Purslane has calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus which promote healthy bones. (28, 29)

Other studies have found that antioxidant compounds in purslane help to boost bone mineral density. Trials on animal subjects found that purslane compounds stimulated bone cells that help to build bone tissue. The researchers concluded that purslane has potential use in treating disease related to loss of bone mass. (30)

To keep your bones healthy and reduce your risk of a fracture, it’s important to consume foods that increase bone density. You may also be interested to find out about sources of calcium that are dairy-free.

Purslane Weed has Anticancer Properties

Purslane contains a number of phytochemicals and antioxidants that have potential use in treating cancer.

A 2019 pharmacological review of studies found that purslane extracts have the potential to help suppress tumors. Other compounds in purslane help to strengthen the immune system and can protect cells from DNA damage. (25)

Of course, more research needs to be done on how purslane can be used in cancer therapy.

Learn how you can help to lower your risk of developing cancer by following the anti-cancer diet.

Growing Purslane

The best way to get purslane is to grow it yourself. Purslane plants thrive well in gardens and in pots, so even if space is limited, you should be able to grow this nutritious medicinal plant.

You can grow purslane plants from seeds or by propagating stems from the plant. You can buy seeds online to plant, or you can obtain the seed pods in springtime from purslane plants.

How to grow purslane

  • Scatter some seeds on the top of the soil in a pot and put the pot in a well-light place.
  • If using stem cuttings, you can put them directly into damp soil for them to take root.
  • Keep the soil moist while the seeds are germinating. They should take about 2 weeks to sprout.

As a word of advice, purslane is called a weed because it is quite invasive and can quickly spread. You should cut a purslane plant before it starts to flower. This will help prevent your garden from becoming overrun with wild purslane, or simply grow it in a pot.

How to Eat Purslane

There are many ways to consume purslane to benefit from all its nutrients. Remember to thoroughly wash all leaves and stems before eating them raw or cooking with them.

If you are concerned about the oxalate content, you can enjoy this medicinal plant without worrying. If you are cooking with purslane leaves, then boiling them can reduce oxalate levels by up to 87%. (31)

Recipe ideas to eat purslane:

  • Toss a handful of purslane leaves into some lettuce and other greens to give the salad a tangy crunch.
  • Add purslane leaves to stews, curries, or soups to add seasoning and crunch to your meals.
  • Use purslane leaves as a health-boosting ingredient to create delicious sweet or savory smoothies.

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