Quelite : Verdolagas : Purslane

Portulaca oleracea,

It is commonly known as purslane in English

also called : itzmiquilitl (obsidian arrow quelite), pigweed, pursley, verdolagas (en Español), graviol (quecchi), paxlac (quiché), xukul (Maya), Mixquilit (Nahuatl), X’pul cac (Totonaco), Matac’ani (Otomí), Sa´luchi Chamo (Raramurí); (Asian names) gulasiman (Phillipines), kulfa (Hindi), ma chi xian (Chinese), (Australian aboriginal names) munyeroo (Diyari), baragilya or thibi (Wajarri),

Like many of the quelites, purslane is an agricultural weed of the milpa (1) which is also an important and valuable nutritional plant. Purslane is a common urban weed.

  1. a multi cropped field primarily centred around the maize plant but which may also include squash, beans, tomatoes, chile, jícama, amaranth or other vegetables.

The use of purslane as a vegetable stretches far back into history. It was mentioned in Pliny’s (1) “Historia Naturalis” as a vegetable used by the Romans.

  1. Pliny the Elder – Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23–79) a Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher

There is history of this plants use amongst the aboriginal peoples of Australia. Amongst the Wajarri people of Western Australia it was considered good eating (1) and it had value in survival situations as it could sustain a person without water until they could reach the next waterhole. The seeds were collected and ground into an oily flour (2) (Leyland 2002). The best plants are considered to be those found growing in the red sandplains of Wandarri country (Dann 2003).

  1. the whole plant was roasted in the ashes of the fire.
  2. this flour was usually mixed with other flours before being made into small cakes or a type of bread called damper which was cooked in the coals of the fire.


Spurge (Euphorbia maculata)


Caution must be taken when harvesting this plant from the wild. There is a plant known as spurge which has a similar leaf shape and growing habit. Spurge is poisonous. Important differences to note are that purslane is a more succulent plant, it is hairless and it does not exude a milky latex when the plant is damaged

Medicinal Use


Apigenin, kaempferol, quercetin, luteolin, myricetin, genistein, and genistin, alkaloids, coumarins, anthraquinone glycosides, cardiac glycosides, high content of ω-3 fatty acids, mucilage (1), oxalates, dopamine, dopa, l-norepinephrine, saponins, tannin, betacyanins (oleracin I and II), caffeic acid, ferulic acid, sinapic acid

  1. Mucilage – a gelatinous substance of various plants (nopal cactus, alaches, okra, marshmallow (Althea officinalis), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), flax seed, aloe vera, chia seed and others) that contains protein and polysaccharides. It forms a thick gluey slime (baba en español) that is used medicinally to relieve irritation of mucous membranes by forming a protective film. Mucilage can..
  • Lower bowel transit time by absorbing water in the colon and bulking & softening the stool.
  • Absorb toxins in the colon
  • Protect against gastric acidity
  • Regulate intestinal flora and protect against ingested toxins or bacteria
  • Relax and soothe the mucous membrane lining of the gut
  • Be relaxant & antispasmodic to the lungs and the urinary tract
  • Have a demulcent (1) and vulnerary (2) actions when taken internally
  • Soothes and protect inflamed or irritated nerve endings in mucous membranes or epithelia
  • Have an emollient (3) action when applied topically externally
  1. a substance that relieves inflammation and irritation of the mucous membranes.
  2. a medicine used in the healing of wounds.
  3. Emollients are used to soften skin. They cover the skin with a protective film to trap in moisture. Emollients are often used to help manage dry, itchy or scaly skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis.

Actions (whole plant)

analgesic, anodyne, anti-asthma, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiphlogistic (1), antipyretic, anti-scorbutic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, bronchodilator, calmative, choleretic, demulcent, depurative, diuretic, emollient, febrifuge, gastroprotective, gastric sedative, hepatoprotective, hypoglycaemic, hypolipidaemic, renoprotective, skeletal muscle relaxant, uterine stimulant, vermifuge, wound-healing (vulnerary)

  1. Reducing inflammation or fever; anti-inflammatory.

Actions (seed)

Astringent (slightly), demulcent, diuretic, emetic (when taken in high doses)

Purslane is an important plant both medicinally and as a foodstuff. The World Health Organisation lists this plant as one of the most used medicinal plants and has termed it a Global Panacea.

The main medicinal uses for this plant internally revolve around the digestive and urinary systems with some applications in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and in female complaints. It is used externally for a variety of skin complaints, infections and injuries.

Digestive System

Apart from being a highly nutritive plant purslane is an effective medicine of the GIT and has been the subject of many clinical studies/trials. The whole fresh plant has been studied for its gastroprotective effects and has demonstrated the ability to inhibit gastric lesions and prevent gastric ulcers. Purslane has been noted as a herb used in the treatment of empacho (See Post on Empacho) in in Caribbean folk medicine and has utility as an anodyne and gastric sedative. It has also shown in clinical trials to benefit to those suffering from Metabolic Syndrome by lowering both blood glucose and lipid profiles. This plant has been used as a bactericide in bacillary dysentery and for the internal bleeding that it can cause. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is also indicated for amoebic dysentery. I would however recommend that if you are suffering from either condition that you seek medical aid immediately. The benefits purslane offers to these conditions is that it is anti-inflammatory and removes the heat caused by the condition (antiphlogistic) as well as helping to protect the mucous membranes of the GIT and having an antibacterial effect on the organisms that are causing the condition. Other GIT symptoms it can aid with are haemorrhoids, bleeding haemorrhoids, diarrhoea with mucous (1), enterorrhagia (2), haematochezia (3), tormina (4), tenesmus (5) and enteritis (6). Cold decoctions or macerations (7) of the leaves can be used. In all cases the fresh herb is the best. Although not a lot of work has been done to prove its efficacy in the treatment of diabetes (there are a few studies) it is commonly used to address this condition.

  1. this can be indicative of more serious GIT conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or even cancer. Seek medical advice.
  2. bleeding from the intestine (see point 1)
  3. the passage of fresh blood through the anus, usually in or with stools (see point 1)
  4. acute pain in the abdomen; colic, griping
  5. cramping rectal pain, a feeling of being unable to empty the large bowel of stool, even if there is nothing left to expel
  6. inflammation of the intestine, especially the small intestine, usually accompanied by diarrhoea
  7. Maceration is an extractive technique that is conducted at room temperature. It consists of immersing a plant in a liquid (water, oil, alcohol, etc.) inside an airtight container, for a variable time based on the plant material and liquid used. … The plant material can be used fresh or dry. Purslane is generally macerated in water as mucilages are not extracted effectively when using alcohol. (See notes on mucilage as described in section on plant Constituents as outlined above)

Urinary System

Both the plant and its seeds are used in the treatment of the urinary tract and its supporting organs. A leaf infusion has been reported as being a cooling drink with mild diuretic effects and the seeds can help slake thirst. It is considered a general hepatoprotective and has been prescribed for strangury (1), as a diuretic in dysuria (2), for haematuria (3) and as a treatment for cystitis (4). A decoction of the plant has also been used as a treatment for gout. Purslanes diuretic effect might be responsible for this but due to its oxalate content care should be taken as oxalates may exacerbate the symptoms of gout.

  1. a condition caused by blockage or irritation at the base of the bladder, resulting in severe pain and a strong desire to urinate.
  2. painful urination, can be caused by infections in the urinary tract (urethra, bladder, or kidneys) or some sexually transmitted infections (gonorrhoea)
  3. blood in the urine
  4. an infection of the bladder that almost always follows bacterial infection in the urine


The fresh leaves and stems of purslane can be used as a poultice to address skin and joint conditions. It has been noted in studies that it accelerates wound healing when applied to excisions and it has been indicated for skin sores, burns, ulcers, erysipelas (1), oedematous (2) swelling, pruritis (3), eczema and for dispersing the inflammation from abscesses. Either the crushed fresh plant material or freshly expressed juice can be used. Topical application of an aqueous extract has been shown to have a relaxing effect on skeletal muscle and can be effective at relieving muscle spasm. It can also be used to aid in the treatment of sprains and fractures.

  1. a superficial form of cellulitis, a potentially serious bacterial infection affecting the skin
  2. an excessive accumulation of serous fluid in the intercellular spaces of tissue
  3. seriously itching skin that makes you want to scratch

Womens Health

This herb has been used medicinally for a number of womens health conditions. It has been recommended for mastitis (1), postpartum and abnormal uterine bleeding, cystitis, blennorrhagia (2) and to stimulate menses.

  1. a common condition that causes a woman’s breast tissue to become painful and inflamed. It is most common in breastfeeding women
  2. Blennorrhea is mucous discharge, especially from the urethra or vagina. Blennorrhagia is an excess of such discharge, often referring to that seen in gonorrhoea, it may accompany urethritis and sometimes occurs with acute prostatitis.

WARNING. Advice on the use of this plant can be contradictory as some traditional use has it being listed as a plant used to help prevent miscarriage. Experiments however have shown that purslane juice can have an excitatory effect on the uterus, which can increase the frequency and intensity of uterine contractions and potentially lead to miscarriage. As such the medicinal use or excess consumption of this plant during pregnancy should be avoided

Other uses.

A decoction made by macerating the fresh leaf material in cold water has traditionally been used to treat heart palpitations. Freshly pressed juice (or plant sap) has been noted as a treatment for earache (it is placed in the ear – sometimes on a cotton bud or cotton wool), the fresh sap has also been described as a treatment for painful caries (1). It is placed on cotton wool which is then pressed against the affected area. It is also traditionally used in some areas as a treatment for asthma and there are some studies that show it can affect brochodilation. Therapeutic effects of Purslane for respiratory diseases are indicated in ancient Iranian medical books. Purslane has a relatively potent but transient bronchodilatory effect on asthmatic airways. Purslane combines well with Mullein for respiratory issues.

  1. the cavities caused by tooth decay


Tincture dosages 1:2 strength (whole plant) 25-30% alc can be taken at 5ml 3xday

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine texts have been reported to use 9 to 15 g to treat fever, dysentery, diarrhea, carbuncle, eczema, and hematochezia; doses up to 30 g/day have also been noted.
  • Bronchodilation: one clinical study used 0.25 mL/kg body weight of a 5% aqueous extract.
  • Type 2 diabetes: 5 g of powdered seeds taken twice daily over 8 weeks. When 180 mg/day of purslane extract (Portusana EFLA 308), equivalent to 750 mg/day dried herb or 15 g/day fresh herb, given for 12 weeks was showed potential benefit in diabetic adults treated with biguanides (a group of oral type 2 diabetes drugs that work by preventing the production of glucose in the liver, improving the body’s sensitivity towards insulin and reducing the amount of sugar absorbed by the intestines).
  • Hyperlipidemia (adolescents): Purslane seeds – 500 mg twice daily for 1 month improved LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in obese adolescents.
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding: Powdered seeds at a dose of 5 g every 4 hours for 3 days.

This green leafy vegetable is low in calories (just 16 kcal/100g) and fats and is rich in dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals. The leaves are, thick and succulent and have a mild flavor and a mucilaginous quality. The stems, leaves and flower buds are all edible. The plant has a sour taste (attributed to its oxalic and malic acid content). Tender stems and leaves can be eaten raw, alone or with other greens. I have found references to Australian Aboriginal peoples eating the roots of young plants. Purslane seeds are also edible (although they are very small and can be difficult to gather in appreciable quantities). They can be eaten fresh or ground and added to the dish.

Purslane seed and seedpods.
Wikimedia Commons

Its Omega 3 content is particularly valuable in vegetarian or vegan diets as, apart from some nuts and oils, the primary source for omega 3 fatty acids is oily fish. Fresh leaves contain more omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid in particular) than any other leafy vegetable plant (and some fish oils – and without the cholesterol of fish oils). 100 grams of fresh purslane leaves provide about 350 mg of α-linolenic acid. Research studies show that consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and help prevent the development of ADHD, autism, and other developmental differences in children.

There is a variety of purslane called Golden purslane or French purslane (1) which is a cultivated variety. It has larger leaves than common purslane that are generally less succulent than its wild and weedy cousin. They can be used in a similar manner though.

  1. Portulaca oleracea sativa

Golden purslane

Purslane is an excellent source of Vitamin-A, (1320 IU per 100g fresh material)(Uddin etal 2014), the highest among green leafy vegetables. Vitamin-A is a known powerful natural antioxidant and an essential vitamin for vision. It is also required to maintain healthy mucosae and skin and is particularly effective in cases of acne. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin-A is known to help to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

Purslane is also a rich source of vitamin-C, and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese. Two varieties of betalain alkaloid pigments are present in purslane, the reddish β -cyanins, and the yellow β -xanthins. Both pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have anti-mutagenic properties in laboratory studies.


Purslane contains oxalic acid which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. 100 g fresh leaves contain 1.31 g of oxalic acid, more than in spinach (0.97 g/100 g) and cassava (1.26 g/100 g). People with known oxalate urinary tract stones are advised to avoid eating purslane and certain vegetables belonging to Amaranthaceae and Brassica family. Adequate intake of water is encouraged to maintain normal urine output. See also Warning outlined in Womens Health section as noted above.


Verdolagas en Salsa Verde 

(adapted from Mexico en la Cocina de Marichu, c. 1969)

Serves 4 to 6


  • 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of verdolagas 
  • 750 grams tomate verde, husked and rinsed (called tomatillos outside of México)
  • 3 serrano chiles (or to taste)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoon cilantro 
  • salt to taste

Heat a pot of water to a slow, rolling boil. Add the tomate verde, serrano chiles, garlic and whole onion. Simmer until the tomatoes and chiles have softened and turned a dull green colour.

While the vegetables cook, rinse the verdolagas thoroughly and scrub the leaves with your fingers to release any grit. Pluck the leaves and tender stems off the thicker stems. Discard the thick stems.

When the tomate verde and chile mixture has finished cooking, place the garlic and onion in a food processor or blender, and blend until well combined. Then add the tomate and serrano chiles. Add a little water if the mixture looks too thick.

Heat the oil in a pan. Pour in the salsa mixture. Fry salsa for a few minutes until warm, and then add the verdolagas and salt to taste. When the verdolagas are limp and tender, add the cilantro.

Serve with warm corn tortillas and beans.

Kulfa (Purslane) Curry

Adapted from a Hyderabadi recipe by Aakruti Mahendra


  • 1 big bunch bunch Kulfa (Purslane) approx. 500g
  • 3 oz Tomato paste or 4 medium sized tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 cup Red Onion chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh Ginger paste
  • 1 tsp fresh Garlic paste
  • 5-6 fresh curry leaves (dried can be used)
  • 2 whole dried red chilli
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp cooking oil
  • 1/4 tsp Fenugreek seeds
  • 1-2 whole Green chili cut into 1/2 inch
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • Salt to taste


Pick Kulfa leaves from stalks and chop. Wash them thoroughly to remove any sand or grit that may be lodged in the leaves and stems.

Heat oil in a medium sized non-stick pan and add curry leaves, dried red chili, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds. Fry until fragrant (30 seconds to a minute).

Now add chopped onions and cook until translucent. Add ginger and garlic paste and cook for another 30 seconds.

Next add tomato paste/ puree and a little water. Bring it to a boil. If working with fresh tomatoes, cook until you start to see oil begin to separate from the mix.

Now add Kulfa and mix. Cook until the density of the leaves reduces and oil separates.

Add green chili and salt and cook for 7-8 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl.

Enjoy with hot rotis, parathas or steaming plain rice.

Pickled Purslane


  • 1 kg purslane with stems and leaves
  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 4 cups red wine vinegar mixed with 2 cups water (you may need more or less depending on the size of your pickling jar)


Sterilize a canning jar in boiling water and dry thoroughly.

Wash the purslane thoroughly making sure there is no dirt or grit on the stems and the leaves. Drain thoroughly.

Pack the jar with the purslane. Add the garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Pour in the vinegar and water solution, enough to cover the purslane by ½ inch (12 mm). Seal the jar, and gently turn it over several times to distribute the seasoning evenly.

Store the jar in a cool place for a week before serving.
During the curing time, the purslane wilts dramatically within a few days, so it’s a good idea to have extra purslane on hand to top up the jar


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