Milton mum explains power of eating the placenta
IT IS believed that in 1578, Chinese pharmacologist Li Shizhen said the placenta was a powerful and sacred organ. He is thought to have claimed the placenta was a ‘full life force’, packed with nutrients and minerals that would support the mother after birth.
But despite the extensive medical research into placentophagy – the formal name for eating the placenta for health benefits – it is still a taboo subject.
However, placenta specialist Lucy Schorn, from Milton, Portsmouth, is hoping to change that.
Lucy, 36, says: ‘It’s an incredible organ – it’s amazing that women grow an entire new organ as well as a baby.
Lucy is the proud owner of Southsea Placenta Remedies – the Milton-based company which transforms a placenta into capsules, smoothie cubes, tinctures, essences and oils based on what the mother desires.
And for Lucy her interest in placentophagy was sparked when she was pregnant with her son Oshan, who is now five.
‘I was told I would need a planned Caesarean so I was really nervous about the recovery. I started doing research into everything I could do to support my body after birth and that’s how I found out about placenta remedies,' explains Lucy.
‘I thought I would give the remedies a go and I didn’t really research it that much, which is unusual for me.
‘But I was pregnant and couldn’t really be bothered so now I try to make it really clear for women because you don’t have the energy to read studies.’
Lucy says she was aware of some health benefits such as producing more breast milk, staving off post-natal depression and higher energy levels. However, she says at first she read mostly anecdotal evidence.
‘I didn’t look into the science, I just took it from anecdotes,’ she said.
Lucy decided to have the remedies, which were encapsulated by a woman in Winchester, and says she thought they were very beneficial.
‘I do remember thinking it would be so great to have someone local encapsulating. I had the Chinese-medicine capsules and I was amazed,’ says Lucy.
‘I felt better than before I was pregnant. I had more energy and I healed amazingly.
‘Obviously there is no study on me and I can’t guarantee those benefits were from the capsules but I felt great.’
There are two main ways to encapsulate a placenta: raw dehydrated and steamed.
‘Raw dehydrated is when the placenta is just dehydrated, ground into a fine powder and then put into vegetarian capsules,’ explains Lucy.
‘Or it can be steamed, which is based on traditional Chinese medicine practices. It’s steamed in ginger, chilli and lemon to balance the heat and damp in the body.
‘It’s then dehydrated, ground into powder and put into capsules too.’
Remedies can vary in price, starting at £60 up to £170.
Lucy said she took her capsules for six weeks after birth but has now frozen them because some anecdotal evidence has proved it’s supported women through the menopause.
‘I knew it was safe for me but obviously everybody is different,’ she added.
Placentophagy will not be conducted if the mother has HIV, hepatitis or is a smoker.
Lucy says: ‘It’s very personal depending on the mum and the circumstance.
‘The nutritional content will be completely personal as well. A woman who has a very iron-rich diet will probably have more iron in her placenta.’
Studies on placentophagy date back to the 16th century, however during the past nine years, research teams in Germany and the USA have made particular progress in the field.
‘We know it’s safe – the levels of toxins such as zinc are all below EU food standards,’ explains Lucy.
‘Most of the studies have looked at iron because anecdotal evidence of women who have consumed their placenta says they feel great and iron is known to boost your energy and mood.’
Studies have found the most important nutrients in rich supply in the placenta include iron, vitamin E, oxytocin, progesterone and estrogen, as well as many more.
‘We are actually one of the only cultures who don’t do anything with our placenta,’ added Lucy.
‘It’s almost seen as this other being and sacred thing which needs to be treated with respect regardless of what you do with it.’
Tribes in Nigeria and Ghana treat the placenta as the dead twin of the living child and give it a full burial. A belief held by many Arabs is the future fertility of a woman is connected to the disposition of the placenta, therefore should something unpleasant happen to it, the woman may become sterile.
In some cultures such as Vietnam and China, the placenta is viewed as a life-giving force. Some Filipino mothers are known to bury the placenta with books, in hope of a clever child.
‘Some people want to do something ceremonial with it, which a lot of cultures do,’ explained Lucy.
‘In terms of keeping your placenta for consumption, there are strict guidelines for hygiene and food safety reasons.
‘It’s basically treated as a fresh meat product so it needs to be below 8C within 30 minutes after birth, then kept at that temperature and processed three days after birth.
‘This information is all given to the parents, who then hand it to their midwife and the appropriate labels to ensure it’s not lost.’
Lucy, who used to work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, trained with the International Placenta Encapsulation Network, which adheres to government laws for food businesses. She is also registered with the city council and therefore has been inspected and approved by an environmental health officer.
‘I started in September 2018 with the online training which goes into all the science involved and the culture.
‘After the online theory, there are three health and safety qualifications – health and safety, food hygiene and infection control – because legally it’s a food business so you need to have the relevant qualifications.
‘The placenta is considered as a food by the Food Standards Agency but it’s ongoing whether or not they consider it a novel food.
‘I then went to London to be taught the practical and I finished my training in April this year.’
Lucy paid more than £200 for her remedies and said she opened her business so it was accessible for women in Portsmouth.
‘The reason I started it was that I wanted to be able to offer the benefits to women locally at the most affordable prices,’ she adds.
‘I don’t want women to feel any shame around it because it’s still quite radical. I hope people will be open-minded and the most important thing is to let women make up their own minds.
‘Although this has been going on for hundreds of years, it’s still quite a radical practice in the country.
‘It feels like an incredible honour to be working with mums because it’s a sacred organ which enabled their baby’s life to begin. As a specialist, I am just offering them a service.’
What nutrients are found in the placenta?
Extensive clinical research has found the placenta is rich in some beneficial nutrients, which varies depending on the individual. The most significant nutrients include:
Stem cells and growth factors:
Known to repair damaged cells and
replace dead cells.
Iron: Essential for oxygen absorption into cells and is known to increase energy levels.
Vitamin B6: It’s significant to the creation of red blood cells, neurotransmitters and antibodies.
Vitamin E: Enables healing damaged skin cells.
Oxytocin: Plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, childbirth and the period after childbirth.
Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH): Known to reduce stress levels.
Cytokines Fibroblasts: Triggers healing and replacing damaged cells or tissue.
Progesterone and estrogen: Eases the sudden hormone drop after childbirth which can contribute to low mood.
Southsea Placenta Remedies covers St Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth; Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, and home births in Portsmouth.
For more information on studies or to get in contact with Lucy, go to southseaplacentaremedies.com.