Botanical Name: Portulaca sativa
Species: P. oleracea
Synonyms:Garden Purslane. Pigweed.
Common Names: Common purslane, Verdolaga, Pigweed, Little hogweed, Red root, Pursley, and Moss rose
Parts Used: Herb, juice, seeds.
Habitat: Purslane is native to S. Europe. A not infrequent casual in Britain. It grows in fields, waste ground, roadside verges, cultivated ground and by the sea.
Now it is distributed all over the world. Portulaca oleracea, the Garden, or Green Purslane, is a herbaceous annual, native of many parts of Europe, found in the East and West Indies, China, Japan and Ascension Island, and though found also in the British Isles is not indigenous there.
Professor Hulme, in Familiar Wild Flowers, speaks of a variety which he calls the SEA PURSLANE (Atriplex portulacoides), common enough on the sea-shores of England and Ireland, though much less so in Scotland. It grows in saline marshes and muddy foreshores. It is a shrubby and much-branching plant, attaining to no great height, usually a foot to 18 inches – though occasionally to 2 feet. The lower portion of the stem is often somewhat creeping and rooting, which gives it a greater grip of the ground in view of fierce gales. The stems are often of a delicate purple colour, more or less covered with a grey bloom. The foliage is of pointed, lancehead form, thick and fleshy, and entirely silvery white in colour. The minute flowers are in little clusters that succeed one another at intervals on the short branches near the top of the plant and form a terminal head. The flowers are of two kinds: one is stamen-bearing, these stamens being five in number and within a five-cleft perianth; the other is pistilbearing and consists of two flattened segments, closing somewhat like the leaves of a book, and contained within the ovary. After the flowering is over, this flattened perianth considerably enlarges. This construction of the seed-bearing flower is of some specific importance, for in the present species and the A. pedunculata the two segments are united nearly to the top, while in another species, the A. rosea, these segments are not joined above their centres; and in a third, the A. hortensis, they are not joined at all.
An entirely different plant, one of the great Pink family, the Houckenya peploides, is sometimes called the ‘ovate-leaved Sea Purslane.’ It is a common plant on seabeaches, with large white five-petalled blossoms. Another name for it is ‘ovate Sandwort.’
The generic title of the Sea Purslane, Atriplex, is one of Pliny’s plant names. It is derived from two Greek words signifying ‘not to flourish,’ the meaning of the word applied to the plant is obscure. The specific name, Potrulacoides, signifies ‘resembling the purslane plant,’ the portulaca. Another name for the Sea Purslane is ‘Shrubby Orache.’
The origin of the name ‘Purslane’ is unknown. Turner calls the plant ‘purcellaine,’ and in the Grete Herball, 1516, it is ‘procelayne.’
In the North American prairies Purslane is called ‘Pussly.’
Description: Purslane is an annual plant growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in) at a fast rate.
It is frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects, self.The plant is self-fertile.
It has a round, smooth, procumbent, succulent stem, growing about 6 inches high, with small, oblong, wedgeshaped, dark-green leaves, thick and stalked, clustered together, destitute of the bristle in their axils which others of the genus have. The flowers are small, yellow, solitary or clustered, stalkless, placed above the last leaves on the branches, blooming in June and July, and opening only for a short time towards noon.
The growth of the plant somewhat resembles Samphire, and the rich red colour of the stems is very striking and most decorative in herb borders. The Golden Purslane (Portulaca sativa) is a variety of Purslane with yellow leaves, less hardy than the Green Purslane, but possessing the same qualities. The seeds of an individual plant have been known to produce both green and goldenleaved plants.
Purslane is a pleasant salad herb, and excellent for scorbutic troubles. The succulent leaves and young shoots are cooling in spring salads, the older shoots are used as a pot-herb and the thick stems of plants that have run to seed are pickled in salt and vinegar to form winter salads. Purslane is largely cultivated in Holland and other countries for these purposes. It is used in equal proportion with Sorrel to make the well-known French soup bonne femme. Gerard said of this herb: ‘Raw Purslane is much used in sallads, with oil, salt and vinegar. It cools the blood and causes appetite;’ and Evelyn tells us that, ‘familiarly eaten alone with Oyl and Vinegar,’ moderation should be used, adding that it is eminently moist and cooling, ‘especially the golden,’ and is ‘generally entertained in all our sallets. Some eate of it cold, after it has been boiled, which Dr. Muffit would have in wine for nourishment.’
Most of the plants in this order are mucilaginous. The root of one species, Lewisia rediviva, the Tobacco root, a native of North America, so called from its odour when cooked, possesses great nutritive properties. It is boiled and eaten by the Indians, and Hogg tells us that it proves most sustaining on long journeys, and that 2 or 3 OZ. a day are quite sufficient for a man, even while undergoing great fatigue. Claytonia tuberosa, another plant belonging to the same order as the Purslanes, likewise a native of North America, has also an edible root.
Purslane in ancient times was looked upon as one of the anti-magic herbs, and strewn round a bed was said to afford protection against evil spirits. We are told that it was a sure cure for ‘blastings by lightening or planets and burning of gunpowder.’
Portulaca oleracea (Common Purslane, also known as Verdolaga, Pigweed, Little Hogweed or Pusley), is an annual succulent in the family Portulacaceae, which can reach 40 cm in height.. It is a native of India and the Middle East, but is naturalised elsewhere and in some regions is considered an invasive weed, but there is evidence that the species was in Crawford Lake deposits (Ontario) in 1430-89, suggesting that it reached North America in the pre-columbian era. It has smooth, reddish, mostly prostrate stems and alternate leaves clustered at stem joints and ends. The yellow flowers have five regular parts and are up to 6 mm wide. The flowers first appear in late spring and continue into mid fall. The flowers open singly at the center of the leaf cluster for only a few hours on sunny mornings. Seeds are formed in a tiny pod, which opens when the seeds are ready. Purslane has a taproot with fibrous secondary roots and is able to tolerate poor, compacted soils and drought
Widely used in Greece, archaeobotanical finds are common at many prehistoric sites. In historic contexts, seeds have been retrieved from a protogeometric layer in Kastanas, as well as from the Samian Heraion dating to 7th century BC. Theophrastus in the 4th century BC names purslane, andrÃ¡khne, as one of the several summer pot herbs that must be sown in April (H.P 7.12).
Known as “Sanhti or Punarva” in North India it is known to act as a liver tonic and is used in diseases of the liver.
Although purslane is considered a weed in the United States, it can be eaten as a leaf vegetable. It has a slightly sour and salty taste and is eaten throughout much of Europe and Asia. It can be used fresh as a salad, or cooked like spinach, and because of its mucilaginous quality it is also suitable for soups and stews. Australian Aborigines used to use the seeds to make seedcakes.
Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant. It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin C, and some vitamin B and carotenoids), as well as dietary minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. Also present are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish betacyanins (visible in the coloration of the stems) and the yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves). Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties in laboratory studies.
Cultivation: Sow the seeds in drills, on a bed of rich light earth, during any of the summer months, from May onwards. To have it early in the season, it should be sown upon a hot bed, at the end of March and planted out in a warm border in May. The Green Purslane is quite hardy, the Golden Purslane less so.
Keep the plants clear from weeds, and in dry weather water them two or three times a week. The Purslanes need rather more watering than most herbs.
In warm weather, they will be fit for use in six weeks. When the leaves are gathered, the plants must be cut low and then a fresh crop will appear.
To continue a succession, sow three or four times, at an interval of a fortnight or three weeks.
If the seeds are to be saved, leave some of the earliest plants for that purpose.
* April to August is the ideal season to sow the seeds when frost does not pose a threat.
*Press the seeds into the surface of the soil and leave uncovered. Roots can also develop on parts of existing plants that are inserted into the soil. In fairly moist soil, two or three successive plantings can be made.
*Keep the herb well watered always. Thin the seedlings to 10cm apart and when they reach 5-7cm in height cut them back close to the ground. The seeds germinate very quickly.
* Purslane can also be grown in a container. Purslane prefers the sun and sandy soil for growth. One must water these herbs during dry spells and feed lightly once in a while.
*It is important to note that it is ideal to consume Purslane when it is young. The flavor apparently deteriorates as it starts to bloom.
* Purslane grows well at day or night temperatures of 27 or 22oC and when days are long (16 hours).
* Purslane can also be used as rotation crop when gardening as they bring up subsoil minerals and protect against many insects.
*Because of its inherent ability to tolerate different light intensities, temperature ranges and soil types. Purslane is ideal for home gardens and provides a ready supply of greens for the salad.
Medicinal Action and Uses: It was highly recommended for many complaints. The expressed juice, taken while fresh, was said to be good for strangury, and taken with sugar and honey to afford relief for dry coughs, shortness of breath and immoderate thirst, as well as for external application in inflammation and sores.
It was supposed to cool ‘heat in the liver’ and to be excellent for ‘hot agues,’ and all pains in the head ‘proceeding from the heat, want of sleep or the frenzy,’ and also to stop haemorrhages.
The herb, bruised and applied to the forehead and temple, was said to allay excessive heat, and applied to the eyes to remove inflammation. Culpepper says: ‘The herb if placed under the tongue assuayeth thirst. Applied to the gout, it easeth pains thereof, and helps the hardness of the sinews, if it come not of the cramp, or a cold cause.’
The juice, with oil of Roses, was recommended for sore mouths and swollen gums and also to fasten loose teeth. Another authority declared that the distilled water took away pains in the teeth, both Gerard and Turner telling us too, that the leaves eaten raw are good for teeth that are ‘set on edge with eating of sharpe and soure things.’
The seeds, bruised and boiled in wine, were given to children as a vermifuge.
In Greek popular medicine, purslane is used as a remedy for constipation and inflammation of the urinary system. In antiquity its healing properties were thought so reliable that Pliny advised wearing the plant as an amulet to expel all evil (Natural History 20.120).
Benefits and Uses of Purslane Herb:
Purslane herb presents a wide variety of therapeutic uses and each part of the herb is consumable and beneficial. Here is a compilation of the known benefits and uses of Purslane herb that is widely used the world over:
*Purslane is known as an excellent source of vitamins A, C and E and the essential amino acids. Reports describe Purslane as a â€œpower food of the futureâ€ because of its high nutritive and antioxidant properties.
* Purslane leaves contain Omega-3 fatty acid which regulate the bodyâ€™s metabolic activities. Purslane herb is known to have one of the highest known concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acid in any plant.
*The stems of Purslane herb are known to be high in vitamin C.
*Purslane is widely used as a potherb in Mediterranean, central European and Asian countries.
* Purslane is also widely used as an ingredient in a green salad. Tender stems and leaves are usually eaten raw, alone or with other greens. They are also cooked or pickled for consumption.
* Purslane is used in various parts of the world to treat burns, headaches, stomach, intestinal and liver ailments, cough, shortness of breath and arthritis.
*Purslane herb has also been used as a purgative, cardiac tonic, emollient, muscle relaxant, and in anti-inflammatory and diuretic treatments.
* Purslane is popularly preserved for winter by pickling Purslane in apple cider vinegar with garlic cloves and peppercorns.
* Purslane appears among a list of herbs considered to help benefit conditions such as osteoporosis and psoriasis.
The sticky, broken leaves of fresh purslane sooth burns, stings and swellings. The juice was once used for treating earaches and to “fasten” teeth and soothe sore gums. Purslane has been considered valuable in the treatment of urinary and digestive problems. The diuretic effect of the juice makes it useful in the alleviation of bladder ailments-for example, difficulty in passing urine. The plant’s mucilaginous properties also make it a soothing remedy for gastrointestinal problems such as dysentery and diarrhea. In Chinese herbal medicine, purslane is employed for similar problems and for appendicitis. The Chinese also use the plant as an antidote for wasp stings and snake bite. Clinical trials in China indicate that purslane has a mild antibiotic effect. In one study, the juice was shown to be effective in treating hookworms. Other studies suggest that it is valuable against bacillary dysentery. When injected, extracts of the herb induce powerful contractions of the uterus. Taken orally, purslane juice weakens uterine contractions. In Europe it’s been turned into a cough syrup for sore throats. Purslane is the richest known plant source of Omega-3 acids, found mostly in fish oils. These fatty acids reduce blood cholesterol and pressure, clotting, and inflammation and may increase immunity. Recommended medicinal dosage is 15-30 grams. Use for scours in goats.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.