It all started when I noticed one of my colleagues in Canton (Guangzhou), China was depressed. The usually happy and chipper girl was quiet and anti-social. I approached her a few times and finally she opened up and told me that her son has been sick with an unusually strange and bad cough for weeks. He had gone to numerous doctors and took all kinds of medicine to no avail, as a result he has been absent from school in order to rest at home. She said: “No one gets to me like my son does. He is the only person who can make me sad.”
The next week, when I was about to offer her some information on Hong Kong doctors that I researched over the weekend, she told me excitedly that her son had recovered and even played basketball without any problems. I was surprised at the sudden recovery and had to ask how!? She explained that she got hold of a human placenta and concocted a placenta soup for him and he miraculously recovered!
Human placenta? How gross!? Does it taste good? Does it really work? Is it legal? Where do you get one? My mind was filled with placenta questions so I quietly launched my own “placenta investigation”. Hours of internet research and snuck in placenta related topics whenever chatting with people, made me realize that eating placenta is actually quite common in many cultures. So here is what I found out:
- According to Wikipedia: The Placenta is an organ that connects the developing fetus to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake, waste elimination, and gas exchange via the mother’s blood supply.
- Placenta is obtained during childbirth. Soon after the baby comes out, the mother then delivers the placenta. It’s like a “2nd delivery”. Apparently it’s painful but much easier than delivering the actual baby. Honestly, I was shocked to find out about this “2nd delivery”, why did none of my “mother” friends ever talk about it? This just made giving birth that much sexier and rewarding to me…not!!!! (Why couldn’t I have been a man????? I blame you, mom and dad!)
- My friend told me his sister in the USA ate her own placenta after giving birth. She made her placenta into a powder form and sprinkled on her food. She believes eating placenta is healthy, and is a natural behavior as most mammals eat their own placenta after giving birth.
- In Korea, placenta is used in the cosmetic industry. It is believed to have anti-aging effect on the body. People inject placenta shots into their body, mostly from their belly button.
- In China it is illegal to trade placenta. However, in the black market it can go up to a few thousand RMB (Chinese currency) or more per piece. People who have connection to doctors and nurses may get them for free. Most people will prefer to get it through a relative, a friend or a friend’s friend. A trusted source is key because the placenta needs to be from a healthy mother without disease.
- It is quite common in southern China to eat placenta (I don’t know about the rest of China as my “investigation” did not cover that region). It is mostly among people in the medical industry who has easy access to placentae, or among people who really believe in its benefits and who can afford it.
- There are many ways to cook a placenta. Some use it for soup making. Apparently it tastes very “fishy” or “fleshy” without adding other material, such as the pork bones my colleague used, but along with the pork bones the dish tastes sweet. You can also stir-fry it, steam it with different sauces, or chop it up as minced meat. Basically it’s like how you would cook any other piece of meat.
By the end of my “investigation”, I was offered a placenta as a gift. “You want one? I can get one for you by this afternoon!” my source said enthusiastically. Understand what a big favor and expensive gift this is, I had to kindly refuse. The truth is that I don’t want to be arrested by the Hong Kong Immigration on smuggling a human placenta across the border, nor do I have the stomach to wash away the blood of some girl’s “womb” and cook it up with passion. That being said…if someone cooked it for me, I will definitely try it.
Next time when you give birth in southern China and wonder what happened to your placenta? Rest assure it would most likely be digesting in someone else’s stomach.