Post by Contributing Writer, Beth
Throughout history, the placenta has been respected and revered for its powerful healing abilities and function. Medieval people believed that the placenta nurtured an unborn child in both body and soul. Indonesians call it the brother or sister of the newborn, and the Balinese believe that it will meet them in the afterlife (source: Placenta: The Gift of Life, by C. Enning).
Today, though much understanding of midwifery and the traditional healing arts has been lost in the last few centuries, our culture is slowly seeing a long-awaited increase in popularity of these things. It is growing more and more common to hear of natural-minded parents using the placenta in various ways. I personally have friends that have buried their child’s placenta under a tree and those that have consumed their dehydrated placenta in the postpartum period to assist in hormone regulation, among other things.
Plans for My Own Child’s Placenta
I am currently 34 weeks pregnant, and I plan to dehydrate the placenta from my upcoming birth, and encapsulate it. I will be putting small amounts of the powdered placenta into a capsule in order to take as a daily supplement. I will probably be doing it myself since we already own a dehydrator, and I plan to check into encapsulation at our local health food store. If not I can surely do it myself, since they sell the empty capsules.
Now if you’ve never even heard of consuming your own placenta, you may be thinking I’ve gone off the crazy-hippie deep end! Before you write me off as totally nuts though, let me tell you a bit about the benefits.
Medical Uses of the Placenta
Scientists have discovered that the placenta contains hormones that inhibit stress and trigger the release of endorphins (pg.17). It is also believed that placenta remedies after birth cause women to heal faster, feel stronger and happier (less mood swings due to the hormone regulation), and easier breastfeeding. Other conditions it can help include edema (swelling), elevated blood pressure, kidney issues, and toxemia in the mother, as well as colic in the newborn.
Enning writes that “a mature placenta contains a high level of oxytocin (often called the love hormone). Women whose milk lacks ocytocin because of toxemia, gallbladder disease or a stressful birth, can make up for it by using a placenta remedy.” (pg.22).
Other medical uses of the placenta are wide and far-reaching, and not limited to the mother. It can also be given to others suffering from a variety of conditions, such as whooping cough and other childhood ailments, skin conditions, diseases of the heart and circulatory system, such as heart attack and stroke, and menopause and midlife conditions such as dementia and osteoporosis.
There are regulations surrounding the medical use of placenta in counties around the world such as China, the EU, Japan, Cuba, Russia, and Mexico. There are numerous uses that scientists and medical professionals employ – from the more common hormone regulation to the treatment of cancer, AIDS, and MS, and many things in between. The United States (and Canada), however, have no recognition whatsoever of placenta medicine, either in pop culture or in law.
Numerous Methods to Prepare the Placenta
There are many different ways that traditional cultures have utilized their placenta for medical purposes – from an ointment, bath, or compress, to a drink or smoothie, powdered capsule, or soup. There are even recipes for using it as a hair conditioner or facial mask. For those of us in North American culture who may be “icked out” by the very thought of consuming or using the placenta for any reason, the dehydrated and encapsulated form is probably easiest. That is what I plan to do.
There is some controversy among Christian circles claiming that consuming your own placenta amounts to cannibalism and is therefore forbidden by scripture, however when I did my own research into both sides of this issue I found that to be a completely uncompelling argument.
For one thing, cannibalism is defined as consuming human flesh from a dead person. The placenta is not medically considered to be flesh (which is usually defined as muscle and fat, of which the placenta is neither), and more importantly does not involve murder. For an excellent discussion of the theological and philosophical considerations of this practice, see this post from another blogger that I found during my research.
Have you ever heard of the medical benefits of the placenta? Would you ever consider trying it?
Beth is a natural redhead, wife to a pilot husband and mama to (almost) 3 little ones. She is passionate about missions, motherhood, and finding the beauty in everyday life. She blogs from the Canadian prairies about the art and soul of audacious homemaking at Red & Honey.