Cooking with Joel Stein: How to Eat a Placenta

By Melissa Lafsky | July 6, 2009 12:14 pm

placentaPlacentophagy, or the practice of ingesting the placenta after giving birth, has been inching its way into the mainstream. Animals do it, and mothers have been offering testimony that eating the nutrient-rich placenta can have health benefits, including regulating hormones that may cause postpartum depression. Granted, no empirical data exists to prove that this is true—but that hasn’t stopped some mothers from adopting the “what does science know about my body/my child” approach (a philosophy that has yielded less-than-stellar results in other health debates).

Still, no evidence has surfaced showing that placenta-eating causes any harm, so for now it remains a harmless endeavor—and one ripe for media commentary. Take a fringe health pseudo-trend and add a journalist’s personal experience, and you have Joel Stein’s witty Time magazine account of just how the mechanics of eating a placenta go down. Writes Stein:

When the placenta did come out, Cassandra, dazed from 21 hours of labor, somehow made sure the nurses delivered it to us in a flat plastic container, which I put into an ice-filled Monsters vs Aliens cooler I brought….

In a fog, I drove the placenta home, where I wrapped the container in a bag and wrapped that bag in a bag and wrapped that bag in every remaining bag we had in the house.

The next day I drove back to the house to meet the placenta lady, Sara Pereira…By law, Sara has to cook the placenta at the placenta owner’s home. But to my great relief, she brought her own equipment, gloves, sponges and even more detergent than I’d hoped, scrubbing constantly as she worked….

As she steamed the placenta with some herbs, the kitchen got that ironlike smell of cooked organ meat, with vague undertones of a consciousness-raising group and a Betty Friedan rally. Sara said Cassandra had a particularly robust placenta, and she hoped to get 120 pills out of it. As she sliced the cooked organ and put it on parchment paper in a dehydrator, she told me that some people drink the placenta raw as a smoothie. “I do this for a living, and I couldn’t do that,” she said. The pills, she explained, were superior, since Cassandra could stretch their hormone-rich benefits much further, perhaps even freezing some for menopause.

And, of course, such arch details could only be printed under the following headline (which we’re just bummed we didn’t think of ourselves): “Afterbirth: It’s What’s For Dinner.”

Related Content:
DISCOVER: How Often Do Animals Get STDs?
Discoblog: Uncontroversial Stem Cells Are Just a Used Tampon Away

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food
  • MartyM

    Going on the idea that animals do it so there must be some health benefit, could one say that animals suffer from postpartum depression?

    Did anyone consider these hormones are for the child not the mother? It seems logical since the hormones may not be present (or in such concentration) in a woman who’s not pregnant. Any data on that?

    And, if the body expels them after childbirth, what does that tell you?

    Wouldn’t eating well and maybe taking a vitamin help as much?

  • Jeff

    Don’t knock it till you try it MartyM. Eating well, exercising and taking vitamins is unimportant unless you also ingest afterbirth. You can’t have any pudding unless you eat your placenta.

    It almost seems like cannibalism, doesn’t it?

  • Sweets says

    We’ll I Can honestly say that I’ve read it all how nasty is that I have two kids and, I can’t c Myself eating the bag that they came out of. my best friends mom uses it for her hair and, I asked how could she do that? But just like Mr. Jeff said you cant knock it till you try it now thats one thing that i wont try………………………………………….

  • Pingback: Cooking with Joel Stein: How to Eat a Placenta | Cure Insomnia And Get Rid Of Sleepless Nights()

  • Isembard

    Mmm, my rabbit eats his own waste sometimes (a normal and apparently healthful thing…for rabbits), and my dogs will eat cat poo if they can. Does that mean we should too? While I’ve heard about this placenta-eating stuff before, I can’t say that anyone has ever written an article that I could read without gagging until Stein’s. Yarf, the idea is just too revolting. And you know that you’d NEVER forget the smell of that cooking up in the kitchen.

  • Brian


    Please, please tell me this is an April Fool’s joke 3 months late.

  • Esther

    uh, ok Joel, you know about how in nature the female praying mantis eats the male after sex. How about she does that. I wonder if she could BBQ your head or does she have to eat it raw? You wouldn’t want to go against natural habits of any species would you? LOLOLOLOL
    or I could have just said EEEEEEEEEEWWWWWW like Brian to the whole idea.

  • Marie

    I think that most animals ingest it as protection from predators. If predators smelled it, they’d come and find a weakened mama as well as a young and tender meal that couldn’t run away. Last time I looked, the only predator we have is the tax man.

  • Sara

    Why so much sarcasm towards a unique and largely unexplored topic? I admit that I probably won’t be dining on herb encrusted placenta anytime soon, but that’s in large part due to the lack of scientific evidence supporting any health benefits. I would encourage this type of research which begins with conversation and articles like Joel’s. I guarantee if science can somehow show that eating placenta helps people lose weight, or rubbing into your face reduces wrinkles people will be buying it by the pound for thousands.

  • Sara

    Well, it has been used in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, with amazing results. It’s even been used in many cosmetics that many of you have probably put on your face, as it works as an anti-aging remedy. I’ve prepared over 50 women’s placentas in the year and a half since I started, and all have had excellent results, that’s proof enough for me. Jodi Selander is currently working with researcher’s so that there is more scientific research out there. And although I don’t believe that animals suffer from postpartum depression, they did just give birth and can’t go out to find food for their young, so they ingest their placenta, insticutally knowing that it is filled with vitamins and minerals that are vital to her and her young’s survival. As humans, even though we are eating a “balanced diet”, which most of us aren’t, we are still not getting enough vitamins and minerals because our soils are so depleted. Research the known facts that are actually out there regarding this before you knock it with such intensity.

  • Sara

    Oh, and, most animals do not eat their placenta to protect from predators, that’s a myth. They will ingest their placenta, sometimes before they even acknowledge their young, but they do not leave their nest site that is still full of blood and fluids from the birth. So, if they were so worried about predators, they would leave the site entirely. There is even a youtube video out there of a new chimp mother holding her newborn in one hand and trying to eat her placenta in the other, while other monkeys are chasing her through the trees. The other’s could care less about her baby, they are all aggressively trying to get her placenta, as the mother tries to scarf it down before they get it.

  • http://yahoo lulu

    live your life 2 the fullest an eat wat u want 2 eat eventhough it may seem gross an disssssgussssting

  • Pingback: The Ultimate in Sustainable Toys: A Placenta Teddy Bear | Discoblog | Discover Magazine()


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar