(Note to self, make sure I don't accidentally post this on my food blog . . . )
SECOND WARNING: This is going to be graphic.
I've been touting the potential benefits of placenta consumption, specifically in the form of encapsulation, which is by far the most palatable means of so doing for most, myself included. Check out the site Placenta Benefits for tons of information, including articles on its benefits (such as reducing bleeding and lochia, helping to prevent postpartum depression, and aiding abundant lactation), how to get one's placenta released from the hospital if you birthed there, collected scientific research and so on. I missed out on the chance to do this with my own placenta, sadly, but I'm currently working with a postpartum client who was not only game to give this a try, but also gave me permission to both write about and share photographs of the whole process. DID I MENTION THIS WAS GOING TO BE GRAPHIC?
P.S. This is going to be graphic!
I was alerted to the happy birth of her second daughter within hours of the happy event, I hightailed it over to her house to pick up the goods as soon as possible, and set to work.
And here's the healthy specimen. I like my Culinary Institute of America logo on the cutting sheet there, don't you? Anyway, her midwives had already removed the umbilical cord and wrapped it up neatly, storing it in the refrigerator until I could get there to pick it up. (This was a home birth, so we didn't have to worry about obtaining it from the hospital.)
I donned gloves and got down to business. The process involves three major steps: steaming the placenta, then drying it either in a dehydrator or an oven on a very low setting, and then grinding it into a powder. First it was thoroughly rinsed, then cut into several pieces in order to fit manageably into the steamer.
I then steamed it with a sliced lemon and a few chunks of ginger, for both preservation and odor. The scent of this has been remarked upon; it's not unpleasant. One friend of mine found the scent disturbing specifically because she thought it actually smelled quite tasty; like, she kept thinking "Mmm, pot roast," and then remembering immediately what it actually was. Others have described it as rather gamey, like cooking elk or deer, if you have experience of that. I wonder if it might not be best described as the scent of offal cooking. Big game offal. With Asian flavor profiles, due to the citrus and ginger.
OKAY, if you're still with me, after steaming the placenta for 15 minutes on each side, I sliced it into smaller strips and placed it into my preheated low oven. There it remained overnight, and because it wasn't quite done yet in the morning and I had to depart for work, on the advice of my friend Justine (who you might remember from our placenta playdate), I cranked the oven up for just a few minutes and then turned it off altogether. Perfect.
And there it is! All that was left to do was grind it up. Lucky for me, I have a Vita-Mix blender, the Cadillac of blenders, but a good food processor would do the trick just fine. It pulverized it in about 10 seconds.
I then made the mistake of not letting the dust settle before opening. Clouds of placenta dust poofed out the top, and I couldn't help inhaling quite a bit, then having a huge coughing fit. Suddenly I knew exactly how Buffy feels when she dusts a vamp and accidentally gets a lungful.
That's all there is to it! I filled a few capsules just to get her started, but there's no need to do all of them at once, and I'm told they can actually get sticky if left too long. The rest went into a ziploc baggie along with some fenugreek and blessed thistle (not a huge amount of either), and I brought it right over to mama, who has been taking them regularly ever since!
I'm so grateful to her for allowing me to have this experience, as it's definitely something I want to be able to offer to all my clients in the future, and I'm also glad to have been able to share it with you! (If you made it to the end of this, you're officially a member of the birthgeek club. Check your inbox for the secret handshake and exclusive decoder ring.)