Placenta Consumption: The Cultural Context Series 1

The consumption of placenta is not a new habit but has been practised for many centuries in various cultures. In China, Emperor Qin ShiHuang, the first emperor of a unified China, has proclaimed placenta as having health properties about 2,200 years ago. Even Empress Dowager CiXi was believed to consume placenta to keep herself young.

This is not surprising as placenta encapsulation is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques, where the placenta is considered as a powerful and sacred health supplement full of “life force” to boost health.

The classical medical text from Ming Dynasty (1,368 – 1,644) described placenta as highly nutritional and if taken for a longer period, it can help achieve longevity. The consumption of placenta has become obvious as pills containing placenta powder are legally available in Chinese pharmacies. Even in maternity hospital in eastern Nanjing, it was reported that 10 percent of new parents consumed their own placenta after childbirth.

Apart from China, Vietnam also views placenta as a life-giving force of good health. Placenta is dried and made into unique formulation to increase a person’s energy and vitality. In fact, TCM practitioners believe placenta is a tonic to fortify the “qi” or life force and enrich the blood.

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