Placentas definitely take the cake for the most miraculous organ in my opinion. The placenta is the only organ we form in union with another being. A mother and her child work together to create this profound point of connection that is the basis of a lifelong Mother-Child bond. Through this placenta- nutrients, waste and vital life force is exchanged, nurturing and growing a fetus into a viable and sentient life. The placenta, with vascular networks resembling the tree of life, holds poetic symbolism in cultures and time periods across human existence and for centuries has been revered as a sacred organ and a nutritive medicine for Mothers and their Children.
The energetic and symbolic medicine of the placenta reaches into depths of the spiritual significance of pregnancy and birth and yet there is more. Modern day research is showing actual biochemical benefits of using the placenta medicinally during the postpartum period. By combining these two very different yet complimentary world views, we can further understand why placentophagy ( the act of eating the placenta of one's young after birth) is consistently seen across all mammal species (with very few exceptions) and has been a common ritual in many human cultures across the span of time.
All known mammals with the exception of seals, whales and camels, participate in placentophagy. There are many theories about why this is, such as hiding evidence of their new young from predators, or the need for a meal after many hours of labor. I believe it is an act of intuition for catalyzed bonding and promoting protective instincts and also an act of nourishment from the nutritive quality of this organ which we are finding today has biochemical plausibility.
One of the most fascinating indications for placentophagy is postpartum hemorrhage. It is an ancient tool of Midwives to place a small piece of the placenta in the highly vascularized gums of the hemorrhaging mother to stop bleeding almost immediately. (I have met several midwives who swear by this.) This brings up the theory of homeopathy which states that like cures like. Another theory seen in Herbalism and Naturopathy applies here as well. The Doctrine of Signatures refers to the fact that Nature produces plants (or organs in this case) to resemble body parts or pathologies that they are beneficial in treating. Both Homeopathy and the Doctrine of Signatures helps us to understand why a small piece of placenta could help stop postpartum hemorrhaging- and just as many animals in the wild have shown instinctual knowledge in the herbs and plants they choose to eat based on the Doctrine of Signatures, I believe innate wisdom of the benefits of placentophagy also continues to exist in the Wild Women Archetype.
When looking at the biochemistry of a newly passed placenta, one discovers it contains extremely elevated levels of oxytocin. This miracle hormone plays a vital role in constricting blood vessels in the uterus after labor to prevent and stop uterine hemorrhaging. This hormone is able to be absorbed through the highly permeable and vascularized gums and circulates from the placenta, back into the mothers blood stream and proves more effective than post partum shots of Pitocin- a synthetic drug used to induce labor as well as to stop and prevent postpartum hemorrhaging. Preventing and halting an otherwise emergency situation is just one of the many miracles the placenta brings to the scene of Birth and postpartum recovery.
As placentophagy continues to grow in main stream medicine, more and more research is conducted looking at the composition of placentas. It has been found that placentas contain hormones like serotonin, an important hormone that regulates mood, sense of well being, sleep, learning, appetite and has also been found to promote wound healing in many cell types. Other hormones that are found circulating in the placenta after birth include estrogen, progesterone, prolactin and oxytocin. Oxytocin is the potent love hormone that paves the way in labor and delivery and is released in massive quantities during birth, sex, orgasm and other bonding activities. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates milk let down and allows a mother to effectively breast feed her new born baby.
Many other vitamins and minerals have also been found in the placenta after birth and most of them prove to be heat stable, lasting at significant concentrations after cooking and preparation, including Ferratin, Iron, Zinc and Vitamin B12 . The fact that Iron and Ferratin are found at significant levels (1272 micrograms/gand 473.6 ppm respectively) alone is extremely significant.
Studies have shown that one of the primary benefits to placentophagy is decreased incidence or severity of post partum mood disorders. It has been found that postpartum anemia is directly correlated to postpartum mood disorder and depression, thus treating anemia with bio-identical iron and ferratin from the placenta makes sense and in my opinion, illuminates the profound wisdom within the processes of nature and instinctual desire.
Other benefits of placentophagy include promoting both quality and quantity of lactation for breast feeding moms, alleviating lingering postpartum bleeding as aforementioned, improving energy levels, restoring hormonal and nutritional balance and aiding in the overall recovering process which, because of the presence of embryonic stem cells, also includes wound repair of Cesarean scars and perineal tears.
Medicine made from the placenta can also be saved and used for the child. Again, because of the presence of embryonic stem cells, the placenta can be used to craft a wound repairing salve for the child as he or she grows up, surely acquiring a fair share of cuts and scratches. Small portions of the placenta can also be used to craft homeopathic remedies for the Child that can serve as a life long constitutional remedy to bring balance and sustained vitality. Some individuals choose to save more concentrated placenta tincture for their daughters when they goes through their first Blood Mystery of Menses during puberty. This can be a profound way to restore hormonal, energetic and constitutional balance during those rather chaotic years.
Using placenta medicine is proven effective by several published studies, has low cost burden and has few to no negative side effects. Some Mothers have complained of hormonal acne, an unappetizing smell of their placental preparations, excessive milk supply and rarely rashes have occurred. However, as proved in a study on 189 Women in 2010, only 1% of participants rated their placentophagy experience as "Not Positive" and 100% of the participants said they would partake in placentophagy again.
The ways that placenta medicine can be used is as profound as the implications and significance behind it. I strongly believe that consuming one's placenta after birth is a profound amplifier of the life long bond a Mother and Child create upon conception. The placenta holds Qi, Prana and vital life force of nourishment and connection, as well as many bio-chemical compounds that are well known in facilitating a more positive postpartum period for both the Mother and her child.
If you are interested in using Placenta Medicine during your sacred transition into Motherhood, I am beyond happy to answer any more questions, share details about my OSHA approved procedure, share peer reviewed research articles and hopefullyshare my skills as a trained placenta encapsulator and preparer.
Bowing deeply to you and wherever you might be on this sacred journey +
Bowing in gratitude for you joining me on mine.