Dr. Weil recently posted about using placenta for postpartum recovery on his site, in response to the TIME magazine article on placenta encapsulation. He holds a rather dim view of its effectiveness – his main argument is that even if placenta does hold beneficial properties, they will be removed through the process that occurs to create the capsules.
I have heard this very argument numerous times. For one thing, I would like to clarify that the placenta is not “freeze-dried” as Dr. Weil erroneously describes. The PBi method of placenta encapsulation uses timeless techniques perfected over centuries of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Dried placenta, or Zî hé chē, is one of TCM’s most powerful tonifying medicines. It is used for a variety of issues, and is only used when a very strong medicine is needed. Two of these issues, which are relevant to postpartum recovery, is insufficient lactation and fatigue.
The efficacy of increasing milk production with dried placenta has been backed up with scientific research, which gave women dried human placenta vs. placebo (dried beef). The results were that the dried placenta significantly increased milk supply.
Fatigue is a major indicator for the development of postpartum depression. There is a strong correlation between iron deficiency anemia, which affects many postpartum women, and fatigue. The placenta is an incredible source of natural iron, which has a much greater bio-availability than a manufactured supplement. Research has shown that increasing iron levels through supplementation lowers the risk for postpartum depression. So by providing adequate iron via a natural source, such as the placenta, we can keep women from becoming iron deficient, which can help avoid postpartum depression.
Dr. Weil suggests a quality fish oil, which provides high levels of Omega-3. Omega-3 has been shown to help with depression, and I agree that this is a beneficial supplement for postpartum women. However, to discount a whole spectrum of beneficial nutrients from the placenta in favor of a single supplement is irresponsible. To suggest that Omega-3’s alone will do just as much good as placenta is oversimplifying the problem and suggesting that the issue of postpartum depression is easily solved.
I acknowledge that there is a lack of research in this field. To remedy that problem, I have teamed up with researchers at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). We are conducting research into this very issue at this moment. I am excited to see what nutrients are present in the placenta in its natural state, and at what levels they remain after our method of preparation is concluded.
However, despite the lack of scientific studies, the fact remains that the placenta *works*. It has worked for centuries in TCM, and it has helped hundreds of women have a more positive experience as new mothers.
Pregnancy and birth are extremely taxing on a woman’s system. Besides the potential loss of essential nutrients, such as iron, there is a huge hormonal fluctuation that occurs after the birth. The placenta contains the very elements that the mother’s body is lacking. By reintroducing these elements into her system, her body more readily returns to balance and homeostasis. Beyond the benefits of hormonal balancing and mood enhancement, the placenta is worth its weight in gold for the increase in energy alone.
Mothers need all the help they can get to keep pace with the demands of our society as women and mothers. The placenta is one way to help. To have an M.D. discount all the beneficial properties of placenta is doing women a huge dis-service and perpetuating the myth that women can do it all – just with the help of a little fish oil.