Some believe eating human placenta — raw, cooked, or dried out, pulverized and encapsulated — has health benefits. But a review of the handful of studies on the subject has found no evidence that eating placenta is good for you.
Placenta consumption has been recommended for pain reduction, strengthening the immune system, better maternal bonding, faster uterine recovery, and for the prevention of postpartum depression, sleep disorders and menstrual disorders.
Researchers, writing in Archives of Women’s Mental Health, reviewed 10 studies, four human and six animal. One examined the claim that consuming encapsulated placenta improves lactation, but the study did not adhere to current scientific standards, and no conclusions could be drawn. Neither animal nor human studies found good evidence for pain relief. There are no randomized, placebo-controlled trials of placenta consumption.
Although the potential adverse effects of eating placenta are not known, the placenta is not sterile, and several studies found that the organ was contaminated with bacteria as well as selenium, cadmium, mercury and lead.
“This is an unregulated practice with no evidence-based research about its risks and benefits,” said the lead author, Dr. Crystal T. Clark, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Northwestern. “It should certainly not be used in place of other treatments for postpartum depression or other postpartum complications until we have further research about its benefits.”