Saturday, February 13, 2010

Placentophagy is the term commonly given when a mammal eats its placenta shortly after birthing it. Traditional Western medicine eschews this practice in humans, and I wasn't able to find any hard, empirical evidence that spoke of its benefits. Many people contend however, that eating the placenta provides the mother with rich nutrients that enhance post-partum uterine health, decreases the likelihood of post-partum depression, and increases the quantity and quality of the incoming breast milk. Everyone seems to agree that if only the mother ingests the placenta, no harm will come of it.

When their little girl was born, a 16 year-old client of mine was shocked at the emergence of his girlfriend’s placenta: “And then, and then," he recalled, "all of a sudden, this great, big Meat-Heart came out!” I always liked that he called it a Meat-Heart.

I decided to dehydrate Lanie’s placenta and collect it for her in pill form. What follows is a photo essay and some commentary about the experience. I tend to get a little squeamish around blood and guts, however the placenta was an integral part of one of the holiest events of my life. As a result, I think, I found it remarkably easy to handle and prepare. But please be forewarned, some of these photos are most definitely NSFW and I wouldn’t begrudge a soul for turning back now.

Step 1, Preparation

The placenta spent the day on top of the refrigerator thawing out.

Step 2, Draining The Blood

I put the placenta in the sink, drained the blood, and rinsed it off thoroughly -- it never tried to escape.

Step 3, The Flavoring

The recipe calls for a sliced up lime, some ginger and a hot pepper. They were all put in the pot to steam.

Step 4, The Steaming

This pot was purchased at a thrift store in Colorado in 2004. It played a lovely role during the labor, and this turned out to be its final culinary mission. The placenta was steamed on each side for 15 minutes.

Step 5, Meat-Heart!

I could not help myself: The 15 year-old boy in me was wildly bemused by photographing the placenta with other food stuffs commonly found in the kitchen. (The photo with the slice of pizza has been deleted.)

Step 6, Cutting it into jerky strips, and then panning it up

Step 7, Into the oven you go

Proud Papa

I cooked it for about 10 hours on the lowest setting on the oven. I got up every two hours all night long to check on it, walking by Lanie and Endy, who were usually awake anyway, on my way to the kitchen. At around 3 am I realized I had cut the pieces too thick, so I sliced them all in half a second time.

Step 8, Appraising the jerky

At this point, around 9 am, I was cranky and had no coffee in me, and frankly the whole project was starting to gross me out a little.

Step 10, Enter the coffee grinder

The Krups will never be the same again

Step 11, Voilá!

Step 12, Encapsulation

I spent most of the day feeding the powder into little capsules I bought at the health food store. At one point Lanie and I watched the movie "Heat" on instant Netflix. I will not lie, it was strange watching the movie "Heat" while encapsulating a placenta.

Step 13, The Final Product is Here!!

I ended up filling about 280 capsules. Thanks to Sarah P. for the recipe, Lana D. for answering some questions, Lanie for her heroism, and finally, to the placenta, for so thoroughly and unconditionally nourishing our dear little Endy for nine, long months.


  1. I've experienced cheap Chinese placenta as purchased through acupuncture supply companies specifically for supreme toning Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas - BUT THIS. I am So grateful for this photo essay! This is a fine and important piece. Thanks so much! That's a mighty fine baby, too. :D

  2. what did it smell like when it was steaming?

  3. Oh wow. Hm. Yeah I have no other words for this, no questions yet. All I can do is go back up and re-read and stare and go, "Are you serious?" Not in a bad way, of course! I had never heard of this, is all.

    Now... I want information on this. Where did you find all yours?

  4. Hey Cyn, This is not meant to be pejorative: it smelled a little like the meat we used to get at Pesquero.

  5. Happyface, I googled "placenta encapsulation" and read what came up.

  6. How to Dry the Placenta for Making Capsules

    preparation instructions found at the Virtual Birth Center
    ( )

    1. Wash excess blood from the placenta

    2. Steam the placenta over low heat for 15 minutes, turn over and continue to steam for
    another 15 minutes

    3. While steaming, place in the water a hot pepper, some fresh ginger and a slice of lime

    4. After steaming, slice the placenta into thin strips like jerky (~1/8”)

    5. Lay the strips on a cookie sheet and place them in the oven on warm (lowest setting)

    6. Dry the membrane strips until they are dry enough to snap (about 8 to 10 hours)

    7. Break the dry strips into smaller pieces and then grind them to powder in a coffee
    grinder, food processor or with a mortar and pestle

    8. Keep the placenta powder in capped jar in a cool dark place

    9. You can use the powder to fill capsules and take them in the days following the birth

  7. I just posted the recipe but be forewarned that I am not a medical professional, i.e., if something goes wrong, please don't sue me!

  8. Question - why do you flavor the placenta if you end up putting it in a capsule?

  9. Awesome recipe - just did this (minus the ginger/jalapeno part). Quite an experience I'm glad we did it.

  10. Great news Darius! Congratulations on your baby. (I'm not too sure about the flavoring. I got the recipe from someone else and just followed the directions).

  11. I am confused about the steaming. Steaming is usually done over high heat, covered. But you say low heat, and the photo is of an uncovered pan. Can't see if the placenta is raised above the water, either.

  12. Hi Peter,

    I did this in the haze of having a newborn now 9 months ago - I followed a recipe. I don't think I covered the pot, but I may have, then removed the cover for the photo. The placenta was raised in a steamer and did not touch the water.

  13. Hi - I just linked here from your comment on the BrooklynBased article that featured my placenta encapsulation business. Looks like you did a good job, Pablo :) your wife is lucky to have had someone to prepare her placenta. I love to see dads supporting mothers who want to consume their placenta!