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Ronnie Falcao, LM MS, a homebirth midwife in Mountain View, CA
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The placenta is an invaluable part of postpartum healing process
for both mother & child. For thousands of years, the Chinese
have revered this powerful substance in their Materia Medica as regenerative
to the essence and the breath. Full of Qi (life force), the placenta
aids in the recovery from childbirth, restoring lost hormones, augmenting
lactation, shortening bleeding time, preventing mood jags, and ultimately
helping your child in this vital time of bonding and nurturance.
The placenta is prepared fresh - freezing is not recommended - with rice
wine, precious herbs and fresh ginger to disperse the medicine deeply into
the body. It is cleaned, steamed, and cut into very thin slices,
then placed in a dehydrator until thoroughly dry. Then it is ground
finely and encapsulated. It is believed that the state of mind one
carries while working with the placenta will be absorbed into the medicine,
so the healing focus is maintained throughout. The whole process
takes 12 to 16 hours, definitely a labor of live! The typical dosage
is two capsules three times a day for the first two to three weeks or until
strength has been restored. It can then be called upon during the
stages of your child's development where separation from Mommy is difficult,
e.g. weaning, first steps, day care, etc.
We had a lecture from a wonderful German midwife named Cornelia Enning.
She told us how German mothers make placenta butter after the birth.
They first make a "ghee" (clarified butter), then pour off the foam.
They add two Tablespoons of powdered dry placenta to this and then reheat
it. This mixture is poured in little jars and kept in case the baby
gets eczema or other skin ailments. It clears it up quick, apparently.
This is what I did with my placenta, and it worked out fine.
Take the raw placenta, cut off the cord and membranes. Use a sharp knife;
it's tough! Cut the placenta into two or three pieces, and put them in
the blender. Blenderize the placenta. It will look like ground meat, or
spam. It won't be soupy! Spread the placenta mush into the fruit roll tray
of a food dehydrator and dehydrate for most of a day. I put my dehydrator
out on the porch because it *can* get a little uh, aromatic. ;o)
Take the dehydrated placenta out of the dehydrator and put it back into the (washed and dried) blender. Powder it like you would to make cracker crumbs. The end result will look very much like instant coffee granules. You can now 'cap it up', or fill empty capsules with it. The average placenta will fill 60-100 capsules. (Mine filled 100)
Now you may take the capsules, and 'eating' your placenta will not seem
nearly as disgusting.
I have had some interesting private posts last month on the subject of making the placenta into a medicine postpartum. I have cooked the placenta for a client who really wanted it ( she lived on a farm, raised all her own meat, liked organ meats in general and was thrilled with the idea of eating a meat that did not require a butcher first). I have, at times, done the tomato juice, blender thing, and NOT seen miraculous results. But my favorite placenta preparation is now to make it into an herb for use postpartum.
If you've never read my posts before, you should know that in addition to midwifery, I practice Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM, many substances, plant, mineral, and animal are used for medicine. Human placenta is one of them. The placenta distributed through TCM supply from China looks nothing like the placenta as I have prepared it (recipe below); and I am told that it is probably from pigs. Human placenta is known as Zi he che in Pinyin (Chinese). It tonifies the (TCM concept of) Liver and Kidneys, and augments the essence. It augments the qi (energy) and nourishes the blood. It tonifies the (TCM concept of) Lung qi and augments Kidney essence. It is widely used for debilitating chronic diseases. In one study, 57 women with insufficient lactation were given Human placenta. Within 4 days, 48 had a marked increase in milk production, and the others followed suit in the next three days. Since breastmilk, in TCM theory is made from qi and blood, human placenta used to augment qi and blood will help augment lactation.
I first heard of making placenta into medicine from Raven Lang at a MANA convention in 1984. I have been making it for all my clients since. I do it as a routine, and have only had one client not want it. For all you who are ROFL right now, let me say that the placenta is prepared into a powder and encapsulated, so it's not so undesirable. To prepare, it must be cooked. Cooking in TCM is an integral part of the formation and action of the medicine. Raw is generally considered cooling, so raw placenta is cooling, and I wouldn't recommend it as a general rule. Also, none of the actions of human placenta as I am describing it can be attributed to the raw placenta. Cooking it is part of making it what it is.
To cook, wash excess blood from the placenta. Place it in a steamer over water. Place with it fresh ginger slices, half a lemon and a hot pepper. Steam for 15 minutes, turn, and steam 15 more minutes until no juice comes out when pricked with a fork. (Steam over low heat, it has a tendency to boil over and that's a mess.) The membranes and cord may be cooked with the placenta. It is helpful to turn the placenta to "Schultze", i.e, wrapped inside the membrane when you cook it. It will shrink tremendously, and wrapped in the membranes makes it easy to deal with for the next step. After steaming, slice the placenta in 1/8" strips, similar to making jerky. Slice as thin as possible. Place the strips on a cookie sheet (over alum foil if you're squeamish) and place it in a oven on the lowest possible setting for several hours until completely brittle-dry. (Again like jerky) Using a food dehydrator is even better, but will take longer. Powder the strips in a coffee grinder, and encapsulate. I advise clients to take two capsules three times a day for two weeks postpartum. It can be kept indefinitely, but is best kept in a freezer long term (like any meat). I tell clients that they can take two capsules any time they are fatigued EXCEPT as noted below.
Contraindications: placenta should not be taken alone if there is heat from yin deficiency. This would be characterized as flushed cheeks, hot palms and feet, afternoon fever, nightsweats (yes, these are common menopausal sx- many of which are caused by yin deficiency). Because in TCM many acute illnesses, esp. those characterized by fever, chills, aches, sneezing are seen as the invasion of a pathogenic evil, placenta should NEVER be taken with these symptoms. Placenta is a powerful tonifier and cannot differentiate between the body's defensive qi and the invading pathogen. Taking it while fighting off, say, a common cold, or more to the point, a breast infection (which sx are fever, aches, chills, etc.) can make the pathogen stronger and go deeper. (This is the same reason ginseng--a tonifier--is not to be taken with a common cold.) Watch those ladies right now who get influenza after delivery--they should avoid any tonifiers (placenta or otherwise) as well.
I offer this because I thought with the placentaphagia posts, you might
find it interesting, and because I find it a powerful medicine, certainly
accessible and easy to make. Obviously, I have a small homebirth practice,
and am not offering this service in a big teaching hospital where I would
be instantly sanctioned for ever bringing it up. I would appreciate it
this information staying on this newsletter for now. I don't think sci.med
midwifery has the readership/background for it.
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