Purslane is a succulent annual plant with a very cosmopolitan distribution. It grows in the humblest of places — along roadsides, in sidewalk cracks and abandoned lots. Often looked as a troublesome weed, it is full of delightful surprises and has a long and wide medicinal and culinary history. Cultivated and used in ancient Egypt and classical Greece and Rome, Purslane was known as the “blessed vegetable”. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is used for healing snake bites and bee stings as well as sores on broken skin. It is listed by the World Health Organization as one of the most used medicinal plants, and it has been given the term “Global Panacea”.
Purslane is a powerhouse of nutrition. It is rich in flavonoids, phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, and it has the highest omega-3 fatty acids concentration (alpha-linolenic and gamma-linolenic) ever found in leafy vegetables. The human body can’t synthesize essential fatty acids, which means we can only get them from dietary sources. Omega 3 fatty acids play an important role in the enhancement of immune function and prevention and treatment of several diseases. They are also known for having wound healing and anti-inflammatory properties on the skin (when ingested and applied topically).
Purslane contains high levels of vitamin C, E and beta-carotene, all natural antioxidants. Carotenes are pigment substances found in plants from which the human body produces vitamin A - essential for healthy immune system, skin and vision.
Antioxidants are known to neutralise free radicals, waste substances produced by the cells as the body processes food and reacts to environmental stresses, like pollution and UV radiation. If the body can’t process and remove free radicals efficiently, oxidative stress can happen, which harms cells and body functions. Antioxidants also protect your skin against free-radicals, preventing inflammation processes.
Purslane is also rich in B-complex vitamins, minerals and a variety of amino acids.
In Europe’s ancient times, Purslane was said to protect against evil spirits and to attract love and luck. It was carried by soldiers to protect themselves on the battlefields. If put on the bed, it was believed to protect against nightmares.
Purslane is under the dominion of the moon and is supposed to work on the psychic senses and, taken regularly, to help develop clairvoyant faculties. The Chinese believed that it contained a "vegetable mercury".
In Ghana it is an emblem of peace and is mixed with oil to protect against evil spirits, being used in religious ceremonies. It is a children’s charm for good luck. In Yoruba folklore, the plant features in an incantation for the recovery of owed money, and its name means ‘stick pays’.