TCM Placenta Recipe History

July 13, 2014

Li Shi-Zhen published placenta (zi he chi) as a medicine in materia medica in 1578. However, it was not used in midwifery until 1984, when Raven Lang presented her recipe at a MANA convention. Today, hers seems to be by far the most commonly used TCM recipe today.

I think there is a confusion around this. The general (mis?)conception is that the lemon/ginger/pepper recipe comes from a long history of TCM use. Perhaps it is the “t” in TCM—“the TCM method” implies that the recipe itself is traditional, in accordance with generations of Chinese herbalists. Rather, the TCM method of placenta preparation is a modern recipe created in accordance with TCM principles.

However, it seems that Raven Lang’s lemon/ginger/pepper recipe is her interpretation of TCM theory, specifically that postpartum clients need warming treatments, and raw placenta is cooling. As a TCM practitioner and a midwife, she combined her knowledge to create this recipe, turning the placenta into a warming remedy, so that postpartum placenta would comply with the tenets of TCM.

In other words, when we say “TCM Method,” this means the principles are traditional, the use of placenta is traditional, but the method and recipe themselves are not. This partly explains why the peppers most encapsulators use is a jalepeño, which is certainly not listed amongst the known Chinese herbs. Neither is lemon. However, these herbs are easily accessible to Western midwives.

In fact, there is no TCM history of placenta as a postpartum remedy at all! Though human placenta has many historical uses in TCM, I wasn’t able to find any evidence for historical use during the childbearing cycle.

[Insert list of indications later]

This is not to say that TCM would consider placenta contraindicated during the postpartum. Many of placenta’s properties do fit nicely with TCM’s interpretation of what a postpartum client needs.

[Add Properties vs Needs?]


Author Bio: Jasper Moon, CPM LMT (they/ them)

Perinatal care specialist. Spouse and parent. Vegan; drinks a lot of tea. Birthed our kid and also carried a surrogacy. Board game (and generally) geeky. Goat hugger extraordinaire.

Read more about Jay here.