(Health Secrets) A top European sportsman initially turned to placenta therapy to help him recover from an ankle injury, leading to many questions about the placenta’s health benefits. Can the placenta really be used as a natural method of healing injuries, curing infection, and warding off depression?
Footballer Robin Van Persie, a Dutch national playing for the English team Arsenal, was told it would take him at least six weeks to recover from torn ankle ligaments, but he hoped placenta treatment would help him heal more quickly. However it was discovered that he had torn rather than sprained the ankle ligaments, so his recovery time was much longer.
Nevertheless, the interest generated by Persie’s original idea remained. It is thought that the placenta fluid, which has a high protein content, will pass through the skin into the injured area, speeding up the healing process.
Use of the placenta, or afterbirth, has always been a controversial topic. Tom Cruise caused a media storm when he said he would eat the placenta when his baby girl Suri was born in back in 2006. However, both human and animal placentas have long been thought to have wide ranging health benefits as well as personal significance, and a small percentage of women do eat their placentas in the belief that it helps them to recover from giving birth.
The placenta explained
The placenta is an organ that is only present in mammals. It connects a developing fetus with the uterine wall of its mother during pregnancy. The placenta develops from the same sperm and egg cells as the fetus and grows throughout the duration of the pregnancy. In humans, the placenta is fully functional at around 12 weeks, the end of the first trimester, when its blood supply is complete.
The placenta serves a variety of functions. It passes oxygen and nutrients to the developing fetus, and removes waste products to be disposed of via the mother’s kidneys. The placenta is crucial to keep the blood of the mother and the blood of the fetus from meeting during these processes. The placenta also produces hormones that are necessary for a healthy full term pregnancy. The placenta is naturally expelled after the birth along with the umbilical cord.
Possible uses for the placenta
Animal placentas are already used for a variety of medical and cosmetic purposes around the world. Here are some of the ways placentas are currently used or could be used in the future, along with some of the traditions related to the human placenta:
- In the animal kingdom, mothers often eat their placentas when they are expelled after births. This is thought to be because it is packed with nutrients that will help them to recover from the births. However, it may also be to hide the evidence of a vulnerable newborn mammal from predators that may be nearby.
- In the U.S. animal placentas, particularly from horses, are often used in the manufacturing of skin creams and anti-aging products. Placenta extract is thought to promote cell renewal, improve elasticity and nourish the skin.
- In Peru it is believed that dried animal placentas can help to heal infections. Children in Peru are often given dried placenta to help them recover when they are sick.
- In Europe research has been done to determine whether eating the placenta can reduce a woman’s risk of post natal depression. This is because the placenta makes a hormone called corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH), and the sudden decrease in this hormone after birth is thought to contribute to post natal depression. However, there is currently no scientific evidence to suggest that eating the placenta will stabilize CRH levels.
- In Turkey scientists have observed that injecting rabbits with placenta cells seemed to aid their recovery from bone fractures.
- In Hawaii the human placenta is seen as part of the child. Traditionally it is ritually buried, and a small tree planted on top of it that will grow with the child. No matter where the child goes, she will always be at home wherever her tree is.
Photo by cowbite