Why the Health-Boosting Purslane Is More Vegetable Than Weed

7 minute read

There is more going on in your garden than you realize. Often, there are many plants or shrubs that you pay little attention to if any at all. Some plants even get ignored completely, because they are thought to be useless weeds.  

It shocks most people to learn this is a big mistake; getting to know the plants in your garden could save your life. Certain plant species, like the purslane, possess medicinal properties and can be beneficial to your health.

Getting to know purslane

Purslane is a leafy vegetable that originated in the Mediterranean regions of the world and is widely eaten across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. It is an annual succulent and the entire plant includes leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds, all of which are edible.  

This plant has been used for thousands of years in a variety of forms. Since prehistoric times, purslane has been part of ancient Chinese medicine and an integral part of aboriginal cultures.  

Here in the United States, we pull the plant up and throw it away.

But the leaves of the purslane offer amazing health benefits, so you need to think twice before pulling it out and throwing it away!  It has spread throughout the world as an edible plant and as a weed and some cultures even embrace purslane as a food.  

It contains antioxidant properties and vitamins. If you are worried about eating a garden plant, fear not. The leaves have a pleasant lemon-like taste and a crunchy texture, making purslane perfect to add to any meal.  

Purslane is used across the globe in soups, salads, and stews. It is added to meat dishes to provide a dash of exotic flavor and can be mixed in the dough to produce several unique bread varieties.  

Up until recently, purslane was one of the best-kept secrets of the vegetation world. But now it is cultivated all over the world for culinary usage as well as traditional medicines.

Purslane food with tomato sauce in a pan

The Health Benefits of Purslane

Once people caught onto the purslane hype, scientists began to research the unusual weed. They found that it contains very high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which is strange for a land vegetable.  

Additionally, it was found to contain significant amounts of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, B-family vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, and calcium. Each of these is a valuable nutrient and helps meet the essential needs of the human body.  

On top of all this, purslane also contains betalain pigments, which are powerful antioxidants and carotenoids. Essentially, purslane is a treasure chest full of human health goodness.

1. Improves heart health: Purslane has the ability to boost the strength of your cardiovascular system. The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids exceed those found in fish oils, which are often considered to be the best source of these fatty acids.  

Omega-3s are responsible for reducing bad cholesterol and promoting a healthier blood cholesterol balance. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids show a significant reduction in risks of cardiovascular diseases and atherosclerosis, meaning a lower likelihood of heart attacks and strokes.

The potassium in purslane also reduces blood pressure because it acts as a vasodilator, i.e., it relaxes blood vessels and thereby reduces strain on the heart.

2. Promotes weight loss: Purslane is exceptionally low in calories while being rich in nutrients and packed with fiber.

What this means for your waistline is that you can feel fuller after a meal containing purslane, helping you reduce your overall food intake and desire to snack. This overall reduction in caloric intake means you can have an easier time losing weight and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.

3. Treats gastrointestinal diseases: While a lot of people will turn their noses up at alternative medicines for various health conditions, the Chinese have been using purslane for several gastrointestinal disorders for centuries.

A senior woman checking her new seeing glasses in the mirror

4. Treats various skin conditions: The vitamin A in purslane, along with several other beneficial compounds in the weed, helps to reduce inflammation. In fact, it has been successful in the specific treatment of swelling from bee stings and snake bites when applied topically.

Purslane also helps improve skin appearance by reducing wrinkles, and it stimulates the healing of skin cells to remove scars and blemishes.

5. Promotes child development: Early studies have shown that the high levels of omega-3 in purslane have been linked to the decrease in certain developmental disorders like autism and ADHD.  Research still continues in this area, but the findings thus far have been promising.

6. Prevents cancer: Cancer is one of the most widespread diseases we face today, and it impacts people across the world regardless of age, race, and gender. Purslane’s levels of vitamin C and vitamin A both act as antioxidants, which contain anticarcinogenic properties and may help prevent certain cancers, specifically lung and oral cancers.

Additionally, it contains betalain pigment compounds, themselves beneficial in the fight against cancer. The beta-cyanns and beta-xanthins are directly connected with anti-mutagenic effects in your body, which means they prevent free radicals from causing mutations in your healthy cells that may lead to cancer.

Older man looking at his seeing glasses

7. Improves vision: Vitamin A and beta-carotene in purslane are both connected to improved eye health and lowered risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Removing the free radicals that damage eye cells can combat many age-related diseases.

| Related: 8 Things Your Eyes Are Trying to Tell You About Your Health |

8. Strengthens bones: Purslane contains calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese. This mineral content helps prevent bone loss, is necessary to develop bone tissue, and speeds up the healing process of bones, which can also help prevent the onset of osteoporosis.

9. Improves circulation: The high content of iron and copper in purslane helps to stimulate red blood cell production. Both minerals deliver more oxygen to the body and increase the healing speed of cells and organs, so they are an essential component for boosting circulation.  

Iron and copper are also both great for improving hair growth and boosting metabolic efficiency.

The Bottom Line

Purslane can help maintain variety in your diet. In order to stick to healthy long-term eating habits, it's important to keep yourself from getting bored.

Adding purslane to your menu opens up lots of opportunities for new dishes or exciting twists on old favorites. Considering all the possible benefits of this humble vegetable, purslane is really worth another look.

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