Barker describes purslane as a creeping annual which can spread from 10-30 cm. The end of the stems are much leafier. Here you may find a few yellow flowers. The leaves are waxy and smooth.
It is often an escape of vineyards in France especially in the south and east. Easily tolerates poor soils and drought.
The name is believed to derive from the word ‘porcelain’.
Culpeper advised it could be used as a salad herb. Good for cooling heat in the liver, blood and stomach. He described the seeds as more effective than the leaves particularly where there was heat and sharpness in the urine. The seeds he advised, should be bruised and boiled in wine and given to children to expel worms.
Purslane seemed also to be considered a contraceptive! Culpeper added it would extinguish the heat and virtue of natural procreation.
Bruised herb was applied to the forehead for any excessive heat hindering rest and sleep. Application to the eyes, or any wheals and pimples, reduced redness and inflammation. Bruised leaves mixed with honey and laid on the neck would take away pains and a crick!
The juice too was used. This Culpeper particularly recommended to stop vomiting or, mixed with a little honey, for an old, dry cough. Juice was advised for inflammations of secret parts of man or woman!
Finally he advised application on gout where it would ease pain so long as the gout was not caused by cold.
The leaves contain high amounts of Vitamin C. Used as a remedy against scurvy (Barker).
Holmes notes appreciated for millenniums and traditionally used in Europe for thickening soups and stews and hot-pots. He believes it the Western equivalent of okra, or lady’s fingers.
Holmes quotes two historical sources, Jean Fernel
“…it has the unique property of tempering and containing burning and flaming bile, resisting toxin to prevent its further spread”
Jean Fernel (1508)
and the Book of Experiences.
“It quenches thirst caused by stomach, heart, liver and kidney fire.”
Book of Experiences (1225)
Barker notes purslane is used as a salad herb around the world. He also describes it as cooling. As an emollient it has a vulnerary action on the skin. The leaves are mucilaginous and diuretic providing a soothing action on both digestive and urinary tracts. Like Culpeper, Barker too describes the seeds as vermifuge though gentle enough for children.
Holmes, like Barker, notes the Vitamin C content. He adds some minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.
Holmes lists several indications for purslane. He describes it a moist, cooling, demulcent herb. His indications include painful boils, carbuncles, localised purulent infections, chronic loose stools with blood and pus, frequent burning bowel movements, intestinal parasites, burning urination and thirst.
As a vegetable he recommends eating raw, lightly steamed or pickled.
and some energetics…
Not surprisingly, due to the obvious cool nature of purslane, Culpeper ascribed it a herb of the Moon. He recommended purslane for all hot, choleric conditions.
Holmes discusses it energetically as clearing toxic heat, blood heat, intestinal damp heat and bladder damp heat.