Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.
Other Common Name:
Garden purslane, beldroega, children’s spinach, jump up and kiss me, little hogweed, money plant, pot purslane, ma chi xian (Quattrocchi, 2012; Kays, 2011).
Common names in Spanish:
Verdolaga, flor de un día, bredo, bledo, lágrimas de San José (Berdonces, 2009).
Where is it found?
Purslane is a cosmopolitan annual succulent plant found growing in all continents except Antarctica. Although considered an aggressive weed in the some countries, it has very important nutritional and medicinal properties (Berdonces, 2009; Duke et al., 2009; Mabberley, 2008).
Parts of the plant used:
Leaves, stems, and seeds.
How is it used?
The plant can be eaten cooked as a potherb and the juice can be ingested to treat diverse ailments. The seeds have important medicinal value, since they can lower blood glucose as well as show cyto-toxicity toward certain cancer cell lines (Al Sheddi et al, 2015; Quattrochi, 2012; Duke et al., 2009).
What is it used for?
Purslane is used in the main traditional medical systems of India (Siddha, Ayurveda, and Unani Tibb). The juice made from the whole plant is given to children against gastrointestinal worms (hookworms). Purslane is a source of various vitamins as well as the highest source of Omega-3 fatty acids in the vegetable kingdom. The plant is eaten to treat scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), as an antioxidant, and to treat diseases of the lungs, kidneys and liver. The leaves are eaten against scurvy, to treat urinary problems and against gonorrhea. Teas made from the whole plant are taken against parasites. The seeds are astringent, demulcent, diuretic, and vermicide (kill gastrointestinal worms). The leaves are applied externally for skin problems and mastitis (Quattrocchi, 2012; Berdonces, 2009; Van Wyk, 2006; Duke et al., 2009; Mabberley, 2008).
Uddin et al. (2014) reviewed the nutritional properties of purslane and found that the plant possesses mucilaginous substances that have medicinal applications. Additionally, purslane’s content of omega 3 fatty acids is the highest of any vegetable. It is also a good source of gamma-linolenic acid and various minerals, especially potassium, magnesium, and calcium. With regard to fat-soluble and water- soluble vitamins, it contains a very high amount of alpha-tocopherol and ascorbic acid, respectively. Its oxalate content is also appreciable. The researchers mentioned that both the antioxidant content as well as the nutritional value of purslane are very important for human nutrition.
A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial was undertaken to assess the efficacy and safety of a purslane extract in improving blood sugar (glucose) control, blood pressure, and lipid profile in type 2 diabetic patients treated with a single oral anti-diabetic medication at baseline. The authors of the study concluded that the purslane extract was a safe and efficacious adjunct treatment for type 2 diabetes, since it significantly reduced systolic blood pressure, as well as the levels of blood glucose, measured as HbA1c (Wainstein et al., 2016). The anti-diabetic potential of a purslane extract was also demonstrated by Stadlbauer et al. (2016).
Meng et al (2016) used laboratory rats to study the anti-inflammatory capability of a recently discovered alkaloid isolated from purslane, known as oleracone. The researchers concluded that oleracone showed a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, which demonstrated high bioavailability and was rapidly distributed in the rats.
A study undertaken by Al Sheddi et al. (2015) was designed to study the possible cytotoxic effects of the oil obtained from purslane seeds on HepG2 and A-549 cancer cell lines. Both cancer cell lines were exposed to various concentrations of purslane seed oil for a period of 24 hours. The results of the study showed that purslane seed oil demonstrated significant cytotoxicity and growth inhibition of both human liver cancer (HepG2) as well as human lung cancer (A-549) cell lines. Another study by Farshori et al., (2014) also showed the anticancer activity of purslane extracts against HepG2 cells.
A study by Ji et al. (2015) evaluated the effects of portulacerebroside A (PCA), a new cerebroside compound isolated from purslane, on metastasis and invasion in human liver cancer HCCLM3 cells. The results of the study showed that PCA inhibits the invasion and metastasis of HCCLM3 cells possibly via the modulation of the mRNA and protein expression. The authors concluded that PCA possesses potential therapeutic application in antimetastatic therapy against hepatic cancer.
A study assessed the anticancer efficacy and associated mechanisms of a polysaccharide compound (POL-P), extracted from purslane, on cervical cancer both in vitro and in vivo. The results showed that the treatment of HeLa cells with the POL-P inhibited cell proliferation. Additionally, POL-P significantly inhibited tumor growth in mice. The authors concluded that POL-P inhibited cervical cancer cell growth in vitro and in vivo at a concentration- and time-dependent manner by inducing apoptosis, among other mechanisms (Zhao et al., 2013).
Safety / Precautions
- The plant is nutritious and generally considered safe for human consumption.
- Due its content of oxalic acid, purslane should not be consumed by people with kidney disease or that have high uric acid (Gardner and McGuffin, 2012; Berdonces, 2009; Duke et al., 2009).
- The safety of consuming purslane during pregnancy and lactation has not been established (Gardner and McGuffin, 2013).
Al-Sheddi ES et al. Portulaca oleracea Seed Oil Exerts Cytotoxic Effects on Human Liver Cancer (HepG2) and Human Lung Cancer (A-549) Cell Lines. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2015;16(8):3383-7.
Berdonces JL. Gran Diccionario de las Plantas Medicinales.
Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Oceano; 2009; pp. 1143-1144.
Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, Ottensen R. Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2009; pp. 571-575.
Farshori NN et al. Cytotoxicity assessments of Portulaca oleracea and Petroselinum sativum seed extracts on human hepatocellular carcinoma cells (HepG2).
Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014; 15(16):6633-8.
Gardner Z, McGuffin M (Editors). Botanical Safety Handbook 2nd ed.
Boca Raton, FL; CRC Press; 2013; pp. 697-698.
Ji Q et al. Inhibition of invasion and metastasis of human liver cancer HCCLM3 cells by portulacerebroside A. Pharm Biol. 2015;53(5):773-80.
Kays S. Cultivated vegetables of the world: a multilingual onomasticon.
Wageningen, The Netherlands: Wageningen Academic Publishers; 2011; pp. 192-194.
Mabberley D. Mabberley’s Plant Book 3rd ed.
London: Cambridge University Press; 2008; p. 694.
Meng Y et al. The anti-inflammation and pharmacokinetics of a novel alkaloid from Portulaca oleracea L. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2016 Feb 17.
Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants, Vol 5.
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; pp. 692-693.
Stadlbauer V et al. Biomolecular Characterization of Putative Antidiabetic Herbal Extracts.
PLoS One. 2016 ;11(1):e0148109.
Uddin MK, et al. Purslane weed (Portulaca oleracea): a prospective plant source of nutrition, omega-3 fatty acid, and antioxidant attributes. Scientific World Journal. 2014:951019.
Van Wyk E. Food Pants of the World.
Portland OR: Timber Press: 2006; p. 303.
Wainstein J et al. Purslane Extract and Glucose Homeostasis in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial of Efficacy and Safety.
J Med Food. 2016; 19(2):133-40.
Zhao R et al. Antitumor activity of Portulaca oleracea L. polysaccharides against cervical carcinoma in vitro and in vivo. Carbohydr Polym. 2013; 96(2):376-83.