When I was pregnant with my first child I also happened to be nearly half way through earning my graduate degree in Acupuncture. At school, I met a mom in her 40s who asked me which stroller I was planning to buy and if I planned to eat my placenta? One of these questions was not like the other.
While this mom hadn’t eaten her placenta, she wished she had. She told me it would keep my hair shiny and my nails strong. She suggested that after my baby was born I cook up a placenta stew. To which I said, ewwww.
As months went on I did some more research on the placenta thing. Turns out there are more benefits than just cosmetic ones. Dried human placenta has long been part of Chinese medicine and is believed to aid in post partum recovery. Modern studies show human placenta is helpful in producing breast milk. So I was leaning towards maybe possibly thinking about it.
But then I called the rabbi to ask if eating placenta is kosher. The answer was: no answer. “Esther, no one does this. You don’t have to do it.” So I didn’t do it.
My post partum recovery was difficult, nothing out of the ordinary, but it was clear that my emotional and physical state could have used help.
When I was pregnant the second time, I sought out an Orthodox rabbi who would actually answer my question about placenta encapsulation (you can turn it into pills instead of stew, which I found much more palatable).
I contacted Rabbi Dovid Kornreich, a close family member from Jerusalem. He and his family are routine recipients of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, so I believed he would be sympathetic to the cause. I asked if I could cook, dry, and crush my placenta, put the powder in capsules, and swallow the capsules. Off the bat he said, “Not a problem, but use separate kielim (cooking utensils).”
After my daughter was born, I accompanied her home from the birthing center with a red biohazard bag filled with my placenta. I was too busy to think about what to do with it, so in it went to the freezer.
One day soon after that, when I could no longer handle the post partum emotional ride, I remembered the placenta. I put it in the fridge to thaw and thought out the process. My oven! Was I allowed to use my oven to dehydrate it? Would I have to put it through a self clean cycle to use it for food again? I had a bunch more questions for Rabbi Kornreich.
I left the rabbi a message and when he called back the next day he sounded excited and exhausted. He had spent all night writing an eight page dissertation about the process of ingesting placenta pills. He said I could use my oven and don’t need to clean it to cook food. Apparently because it is proven as medicinal and I am swallowing it, not tasting it, he gave the whole process a heter (approval). He was excited because he got to present to his Talmud students a question and answer which he was sure no one had researched before (a real chiddush!).
So me and Bubby cooked, sliced (she sliced it seriously thin, which is good) and dried the placenta. We crushed it and since I had no sophisticated equipment, we all took turns filling the tiny vegetarian gel caps by hand.
In pill form there was actually no ick factor left for me. Plus I felt a strong sense of calm and relaxed focus while handling and preparing the placenta. I felt the effects by the end of the first day. My milk was never the best, and I saw a serious increase in volume. I was starting to be able to keep calm under increasingly stressful situations.
Soon, I began working with referrals from my midwife to process other moms’ placentas. It sounds campy, but each placenta holds so much beauty and potential.
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