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Valentine.gr  

June 2006

Did you know that Dioscorides already recognized the medicinal powers of Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) as he said that "it reduces the desire to fornicate"?

Portulaca grandiflora 

Portulaca - Portulalca spp.

Portulaca is a small group of trailing annuals. P. grandiflora, Sun Plant, is a popular kind native of Brazil. The sprawling stems grow 4 or 5 inches long and are clothed with somewhat succulent, cylindrical leaves. Several large flowers, up to an inch in diameter, grow at the ends of the stems. They come in an array of bright, beautiful colors; purple, scarlet, yellow and pink are just a few. There are both single- and double-flowered varieties. P. oleracea, the common Purslane, can grow up to 6 inches high. It is from southern Europe and can be an annoying garden weed. This and a variety of it, P. oleracea variety sativa can be grown in the vegetable garden. Even the weedy wild Purslane is good used as a potherb or in a salad, but the cultivated variety is larger and more tender. 

Purslane is a trailing annual with reddish, fleshy stems whose joints will form roots when they come in contact with the ground. The fleshy leaves are spoon shaped and up to 2 inches long and the small flowers are a brilliant yellow. Cultivated Purslane (also known as Pusley & Verdolaga) grows about 3 inches high and 12 to 18 inches wide. The plants are succulent and delicate. 

The diversity of Portulaca names and meanings already gives an idea of the age and geographical dispersion of purslane's cultivation or use. On the basis of historical, archaeological and linguistic documentation, De Candolle thought that this species was cultivated more than 4 000 years ago. Its common names come from different roots: lonica or louina (Sanskrit), koursa (Hindustani), kholza and perpehen (Persian), adrajne agria (Greek), portulaca (Latin, which means "little door", because of the way its capsule opens). 

As a medicinal plant, it is considered to have antiscorbutic, diuretic and cooling properties. Dioscorides already recognized its medicinal powers: these were anti-inflammatory (eyes) and analgesic (headache), emollient and soothing, antifebrifuge (in juice) and anthelmintic. He also says that "it reduces the desire to fornicate". In the latter sense, other authors also mention its anaphrodisiac powers (1837 Codex of the Spanish Pharmacopoeia), including this plant among the "four cold seeds", together with chicory, endive and lettuce. The anaphrodisiac effect is perhaps due to the presence of norepinephrin, a precursor of adrenalin, which causes a reduction in the blood flow through constriction of the main arteries. The juice and aqueous extracts from the plant Portulaca oleracea have been used in West Africa for a variety of medical purposes, and extracts were previously shown to have muscle relaxant properties on isolated nerve-muscle preparations.

Purslane was one of the most widespread horticultural plants in the Old World since distant times. It was taken to America where it was naturalized, as in Europe, in gardens, among rubble and at waysides. It originates from the region extending from the western Himalayas to southern Russia and Greece. In eastern Asia it does not seem to be spontaneous. In Greece it is spontaneous and cultivated. Vavilov (1951) categorizes it in the Mediterranean countries of the Near East and central Asia as a weed and vegetable.

Nowadays it is distributed over the hot temperate zones of a great part of the world. Together with other species of the genus it occurs as a weed in the majority of tropical and subtropical countries.

It is cultivated in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and other European countries. It is a popular winter vegetable in northern India. In Spain, it very frequently occurs as a volunteer, but it is very rare as a crop. In spite of Spanish disregard for this plant, it is still valued in many Latin American countries where it was introduced.

Purslane has been eaten as a vegetable, particularly fresh. In England in the seventeenth century, the cooks of Charles II used to add its leaves to all salads, perhaps to satisfy the king's taste or else for its digestive properties. 

Not only the leaves, but also the stems and rootless plantlets can be eaten raw and fresh. Columela mentions their being eaten pickled with salt and vinegar. Purslane has a pleasant acidic flavour and is very juicy. In Spain, it is usually eaten at a more advanced stage of growth, after cooking. It is also delicious boiled and in omelettes. Sauteed in butter or fried, it is used in soups, broths, salads and sauces. Together with sorrel, it forms part of the French soup bonne femme. Recipes are also known for purslane and pea soups. In Greece a deliciously simple salad is a few lettuce leaves, fresh stalks of Purslane drizzled with olive oil.

To complete the range of its applications, one could mention its use as an insecticide, in which case its juice is poured on to anthills.

Source:
http://www.botany.com/portulaca.html
http://www.herbcollege.com/herbofthemonth.asp?id=63

http://www.fao.org/docrep/t0646e/T0646E0t.htm

 

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Madagascar ocotillo - Alluaudia procera
Water Banana - Typhonodorum lindleyanum
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Java Apple - Syzygium samarangense
Screwpine - Pandanus utilis
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Achocha/Caigua - Inca cucumber - Cyclanthera pedata
Rubber Tree - Hevea brasiliensis
Sugar cane - Saccharum officinarum
Sacha inchi - Plukenetia volubilis
Coffea - Coffee Tree - Coffea arabica
Liquorice - Licorice - Glycyrrhiza glabra
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Rose Cactus - Pereskia grandifolia
Durian - Durio zibethinus
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Cassabanana - Sicana odorifera
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Kurrajong - Brachychiton populneus
Rice-paper Plant -Tetrapanax papyrifer
Shell Ginger - Alpinia zerumbet
Harlequin Glorybower - Clerodendrum trichotomum
Coco de Mer - Lodoicea maldivica
Silver Tree - Leucadendron argenteum
Buffaloberry - Shepherdia argentea
Himalayan Honeysuckle - Leycesteria formosa
Raisin Tree - Hovenia dulcis
Borojo - Alibertia patinoi - Borojoa patinoi
Butterfly Pea - Clitoria ternatea
Honey Flower - Melianthus major
Ombu - Phytolacca dioica
Lion's Ear - Wild Dagga - Leonotis leonurus
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Sea Daffodil - Pancratium maritimum
Spear Lily - Gymea - Doryanthes
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Waterwheel - Aldrovanda vesiculosa
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Dead Manís Fingers - Decaisnea
Bitter Melon - Momordica charantia
Shoapnuts Tree - Shoapberry - Sapindus
Acerola - Malpighia
Monkey Ladder - Sea Heart - Entada gigas
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Caper - Capparis spinosa
Lithops - Living Stones
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Guaiac Tree - Guaiacum officinale - Lignum-vitae
Mickey Mouse bush - Ochna serrulata
Cow's Udder - Solanum mammosum
Miracle fruit - Synsepalum dulcificum
Akebia - Akebia quinata
Chilean Firebush - Embothrium coccineum
Caesalpinia - Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Welwitschia - Welwitschia mirabilis
Saguaro - Carnegiea gigantea
Schisandra - Schisandra chinensis
Monarda - Bee balm - Bergamot
Tamarind - Tamarindus indica
Neomarica - Walking Iris
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Reseda - Mignonette
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Sansevieria - Snake Plant
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Yareta - Azorella compacta
African tulip tree - Spathodea campanulata
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Achiote - Annato - Bixa orellana
Sausage Tree - Kigelia pinnata
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Firewheel Tree - Stenocarpus sinuatus
Bat Flower - Tacca
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Astilbe - False Goats Beard
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Sweet Box - Sarcococca
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Foxtail Lily - Eremurus
Rue - Ruta graveolens
Pittosporum
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Rose of Jericho - Anastatica hierochuntica
Gunnera
Waterlily - Nymphaea
Calico Flower - Aristolochia
Daylily - Hemerocallis
Contorted hazel - Corylus avellana Contorta
Torch Ginger - Etlingera elatior
Mistletoe - Viscum album
Devil´s claw - Harpagophytum procumbens
Teasel - Dipsacus
Pampas grass - Gynerium argenteum - Cortaderia Selloanna
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Coral Tree - Erythrina crista-galli
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Canna - Indian Shot
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Clivia - Clivia Miniata
Dipladenia - Dipladenia sanderii
Date palm - Phoenix dactylifera
Peach - Prunus persica
Almond - Prunus amygdalus
Willow - Salix
Pomegranate - Punica granatum
Protea cynaroides
Colchicum autumnale
Bird of Paradise - Strelitzia reginae
Cardon - Pachycereus pringlei
Wolffia arrhiza
Puya raimondii
Fuchsia
Asphodelus - Asphodel
Primula - Primerose
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Edelweiss - Leontopodium alpinum
Helleborus Niger - Christmas Rose
Zantedeschia - Calla Lily
Fritillaria imperialis - Crown imperial
Aster
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Bee Orchid - Orphys apifera
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Syringa Vurgaris - Lilac
Viola
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Snowdrop - Galanthus
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