Support Through the Ebb and Flow of the Childbearing Year

Placenta Encapsulation:
TCM vs Raw Method

It's no wonder encapsulation is the most common preparation for placenta medicine: capsules are simple to take, store well, and can be ready fairly quickly after birth. These qualities make them perfect for several weeks of postpartum nourishment.

There are two primary methods of preparation for encapsulating placenta: the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) method and the Raw method. Each method is appropriate for and preferred by different folks. I would like to discuss the differences between these approaches, as well as outline the steps I take, for those who are curious about my process and for do-it-yourselfers who would like a "how to" guide.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Method

This is the preparation method developed by Raven Lang, a midwife and TCM practitioner, in accordance with TCM principles and the specific needs of the postpartum period. It is the oldest-known and most commonly-used recipe for postpartum placenta preparation. The hallmark of this method is the steaming step. In TCM theory, the process of labor and birth leaves a lot of open, empty space, which is considered very yin, or cold. Therefore, one major way we can promote healing during the postpartum period is to add yang energy via heat. Raw placenta is considered extremely cold, and therefore inappropriate for extended use during the first few months after birth. We therefore incorporate steam and warming herbs into the remedy, and the final result is warming, tonifying, and nourishing for the postpartum.
  1. Both methods start with gently rinsing the placenta of blood clots, removing the membranes and cord, and draining excess blood from the vessels. If you would like the cord and membranes to be saved for a ritual, I will gladly do so.
  2. If I am also creating a tincture or smoothie cubes, I will choose and remove a section of the still-raw placenta for this purpose.
  3. Next, the placenta is steamed lightly over boiling water and fresh, organic warming herbs: lemongrass, ginger, and a spicy green pepper per the principles of Chinese Medicine. The placenta is pierced occasionally with a carving fork to allow excess blood to drain out. This step usually takes about 15-20 minutes on each side.
  4. Once steamed, I slice the placenta into thin strips.
  5. I place the strips in my placenta-specific dehydrator and dry them on low heat, typically between 105-115 degrees F. This step takes 7-10 hours.
  6. After the placenta strips are dry, I grind them finely using either an electric herb grinder or a mortar and pestle. Though the electric grinder is much quicker, some people believe that it adds frantic, anxious or metal energy to the remedy. To suit the various needs of my clients, I offer both methods of grinding. At this step I can also add herbs to supplement the remedy.
  7. Once the placenta is finely ground, I put the powder into vegetarian capsules, the capsules into a glass jar, and the jar into your hand. The whole process, including pickup and delivery, is usually done by the end of the third day postpartum. If you need a faster turnaround, we can negotiate having at least some of the capsules by about 24 hours.

Raw Method

The Raw method is often used for clients who adhere to a Raw diet, which is based around the idea that heat destroys vital enzymes in food. All food preparation is restricted to temperatures less than 118 degrees F. In the case of placenta, some argue that the Raw method also yields a medicine with more hormones and nutrients than the TCM method.
  1. Both methods start with gently rinsing the placenta of blood clots, removing the membranes and cord, and draining excess blood from the vessels. If you would like the cord and membranes to be saved for a ritual, I will gladly do so.
  2. At this point, I also select a portion to be tinctured or frozen for smoothie cubes, if applicable.
  3. Next, I slice the placenta into thin strips and place them in a single layer on a rack in my dehydrator.
  4. I dehydrate my clients' placentas on low heat. My dehydrator has a temperature gauge, and I make a point of using temperatures below 115. Please let me know if you require lower temperatures. Also, for DIYers, note that lower temperatures require longer drying times; at 105, this usually takes about 8 hours.
  5. After the placenta strips are dry, I grind them finely using either an electric herb grinder or a mortar and pestle. Though the electric grinder is much quicker, some people believe that it adds frantic, anxious or metal energy to the remedy. To suit the various needs of my clients, I offer both methods of grinding. At this point I can also add herbs to supplement the remedy.
  6. Once the placenta is finely ground, I put the powder into vegetarian capsules, the capsules into a glass jar, and the jar into your hand. The whole process, including pickup and delivery, is usually done by the end of the third day postpartum. If you need a faster turnaround, we can negotiate having at least some of the capsules by about 24 hours.

How to Choose?

Some people are clearly drawn to one method of placenta preparation, or a particular form of medicine. For those who are undecided, I would recommend the TCM Method for encapsulation, and raw placenta for tinctures and smoothie cubes. My reasoning is based on the intended time period during which each form is taken.

Smoothie cubes are usually used immediately after the birth and in the first few days, especially if there was a large amount of blood loss. Raw placenta is perfectly indicated for this intense, short-term blood building. Placenta capsules are usually taken within the first 6 months postpartum; the tonifying, nourishing qualities of placenta prepared in the TCM method are best suited to this long-term use, when the goal is to reduce postpartum depression, improve milk supply, or replenish the body after birth. Placenta tinctures are well-preserved, and are therefore great for later use, such as menstrual difficulties or menopausal symptoms. Because it will generally not be used until after the postpartum period has passed, there is no longer a focus on warming yang energy.

These are my current thoughts on the different methods of preparing placenta medicine, though they are subject to change should new information present itself. If you have any questions or if you are a care provider with differing opinions, please feel free to contact me.

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