Chinese: 马齿苋

Pinyin: Mǎ Chǐ Xiàn

Parts used: Dried aerial parts

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Sour

Meridian affinity: Large intestineLiver

Scientific name: Portulaca oleracea

Other names: Common purslane, Verdolaga, Red root, Pursley

Use of purslane (Mǎ Chǐ Xiàn) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, cut into sections and dry

Dosage: 15 - 60 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Heat and Cools the Blood. Clears Damp-Heat associated with skin disorders. Treats pain and swelling from insect and snake bites.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which purslane may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Dysentery Boils Sores Eczema Erysipelas Hematochezia Abnormal uterine bleeding Snake bites Insect bites Hemorrhoids

Contraindications*: This herb should be avoided by those with weak Cold Spleen and Stomach and by women during pregnancy.

Common TCM formulas in which purslane are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind purslane's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), purslane are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity treat the latter while, at the same time, removing infectious toxins from the body. As such they tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category purslane are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that purslane typically help people who have too much "heat" in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much heat in their body are said to either have a Yang excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition purslane can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Purslane also taste Sour. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sour ingredients like purslane help with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such purslane are thought to target the Large intestine and the Liver. In TCM the Large Intestine receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on purslane

Extracts of the aerial parts (dried leaves and stem) of Portulaca oleracea showed significant anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Results indicate Portulaca oleracea possesses some of the claimed traditional uses of the wild species in the relief of pain and inflammation.1

Portulaca oleracea has wound healing properties. Fresh homogenized crude aerial parts of Portulaca oleracea were applied on wounds and the results obtained indicated that they accelerated the wound healing process by decreasing the surface area of the wound and increasing the tensile strength.2


1. K Chan, MW Islam, M Kamil, R Radhakrishnan et al. (2000) "The analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of Portulaca oleracea L. subsp. sativa (Haw.) Celak". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 73, Issue 3, Pages 445-451

2. AN Rashed, FU Afifi, AM Disi (2003) "The analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of Portulaca oleracea L. subsp. sativa (Haw.) Celak". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 88, Issues 2–3, Pages 131-136

Use of purslane as food

Purslane are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Wild Purslane Salad or Stir-Fried Purslane.