Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Several varieties of Portulaca oleracea, more often known as common purslane or pigweed, are found across North Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Additionally, a North American subspecies is found throughout most of the continent south of the Arctic Circle.

Portulaca oleracea is most often found on poor, compacted soil in areas with little rainfall. Its long, fleshy taproot helps the plant take advantage of available moisture. This low-growing plant has leaves that are flat, green, and shiny, clustering near the ends of the reddish, glossy stems. The flowers are small, yellow, and star-shaped. The plant has a general “green” smell, with a distinctive sour and salty flavor.
Purslane contains the highest amount of Omega 3 fatty acids of any leafy green plant used as a food, as well as significant amounts of vitamins A ,C, B1, B 2, E, and carotenoids. It contains calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium and betalain compounds, which are found to have antimutagenic and antioxidant properties. Malic acid, dopamine, coumarins, saponins, flavonoids, and other constituents are also found in purslane in smaller amounts.
In modern medicine, Portulaca oleracea has seen little use until recently. In India, researchers have steeped the dried whole plant in cold water, then distilled it. The resulting distillate has been tested in treating liver disease in rats. Further, the active purslane constituents have been proposed as a treatment for human cirrhosis resulting from metabolites of anti-malarial drugs.

The leaves have been used by both Asian and Western traditional healers. In China, it is called Ma Chi Xian, “horse tooth amaranth,” and is used for treating infections, genitourinary bleeding and dysentery. In Western traditional medicine purslane has been used for the treatment of burns and autoimmune oral disorders.