SE YOUR FAVOURITE LASAGNE RECIPE and substitute this mixture for one layer of cheese,’ reads the online recipe. And there’s nothing at all surprising about that until, in the same blithe and matter-of-fact way, it continues: ‘In two tablespoons olive oil, quickly sauté meat of three-quarters of placenta, ground or minced, plus two sliced cloves of garlic, half a teaspoon oregano, half a diced onion and two tablespoons of tomato paste, or one whole tomato.’
Yes, that’s right. The crucial ingredient in this dish is indeed placenta. And like placenta chilli and roast placenta, it’s just one of the more popular and severally posted such recipes easily found online and in the smorgasbord of placenta-dedicated cookery books.
If it sounds a little, um, Hannibal Lecter to you, your options don’t stop there. When it comes to placentophagy (as placenta consumption is more correctly called), there’s a vast menu that includes smoothies, raw versions and capsules.
‘Some women have mixed it into a smoothie or even taken it raw to tap into its powerful e ects,’ says Cape Town midwife Sister Sandy Standish. ‘For many who feel squeamish about this or want to reap the bene ts of placenta for more than just a day or two, there is another option: encapsulation (the process through which the placenta is dried, powdered and then put into tablet form).’
Sandy says the reported bene ts include ‘helping to stop the baby blues’ and ‘diminishing postpartum fatigue’. Among the other advantages listed by proponents are the prevention of anaemia in the mother; increasing and lengthening the ow of the bonding hormone, oxytocin; stabilising of the mother’s hormones; aiding breastfeeding; topping up levels of B vitamins; and protection against infections that can occur as a result of ‘retained placenta tissue or membranes’.
Add to this the centuries-long tradition of powdered placenta use in traditional Chinese medicine and the current Western embrace of alternative health and medicine practices, and it’s not hard to see why placentophagy is catching on, its momentum fuelled by a wave of widely publicised and highly visible A-list celebrity endorsements. Alicia Silverstone, Jennifer Lopez, Holly Madison and Gaby Ho mann are rmly in the afterbirth-eating camp, and January Jones of Mad Men fame has been vocal about taking placenta pills after giving birth to son Xander.
But perhaps the most enthusiastic and in uential endorsement has come from the Kardashian sisters Kim and Kourtney. The eldest Kardashian, Kourtney, took to Instagram after the birth of her son, Reign, in January last year with a picture of her placenta pills. ‘Yummy… Placenta pills!’ read the accompanying caption. ‘No joke… I will be sad when my placenta pills run out. They are life-changing! bene ts lookitup’.
And ‘look it up’ is what expectant mothers have done, from California to Cape Town. Though there are no available statistics for the numbers of placentophagists either locally or worldwide, the number of websites and ‘placenta specialists’ o ering their services in South Africa suggests not merely a mid-2016 trend but a fullblown culture of placenta ingestion that’s been gestating for years.