Placenta: The Gift of Life
Information on the role of the placenta in different cultures, and how to prepare and use it as medicine

Reviews


Christine Klynhans for the January–March 2011 Sensitive Midwifery Magazine, an initiative of the Sister Lilian Centre, South Africa

“This booklet combines the experiences of midwives, doctors and naturopaths with ancestral traditions and saves some old recipes from extinction."”

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Gloria Overcash, prenatal yoga instructor, doula, and home birthing mother of two

“From placenta burial sites specific to the culture (sometimes involving specific species of trees), to teething bracelets made of umbilical cord, to intricate pieces of jewelry made from amniotic membrane, the historical reverence of the placenta is well documented across the world in Enning’s intriguing account of superstition and functionality.”

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Kathryn Osborne, CNM, PhD, faculty of the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing

“Midwives, doulas, and others involved with the care of women in labor and birth may be particularly interested in reading this book in order to learn about the important properties of the placenta so that they may provide guidance to patients who are interested in using their own placenta for medicinal or ritualistic purposes.”

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Sunday Tortelli, certified childbirth educator, DONA certified doula and DONA Director of Publications

“Just as the small-but-mighty placenta provides everything baby needs to grow and be healthy, this little book will infuse you with everything you need to know about placentas.”

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Hannah Gaitten, natural birth advocate and owner of the store Natural Choices

“This booklet is packed with information, but is still a quick read. This is a resource that belongs in all birth and natural care providers’ libraries.”

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Cathy Daub, PT, CCE (BWI), CD (BWI), CD (DONA), Founder and President of Birth Works International

“Placental remedies have been found to help heal a wide scope of conditions such as increasing milk supply, decreasing postpartum depression, treating newborn colic, whooping cough, and diseases of the heart and circulatory system. I found myself wondering, ‘Is there anything the placenta cannot do?’”

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Jan Robinson, Midwifery Practitioner, Australia

“It will hold a treasured spot in my professional library.”

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Jodi Selander, The Placenta Blog

“The book is a quick and easy read, but it is packed full of information pertaining to all things placenta; a brief history of placenta rituals and practices, as well as a thorough recipe guide at the back. If you are curious about placenta and all its wonders, this book will definitely give you a broad base of knowledge that you will find helpful.”

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Complete Reviews


Christine Klynhans for the January–March 2011 Sensitive Midwifery Magazine, an initiative of the Sister Lilian Centre, South Africa

The common practice in South African hospitals is to dispose of the placenta like other unwanted body parts and medical waste. However, in certain parts of the world, this practice is not followed. In fact, just the opposite is often true and this body part, instead of being treated as garbage, is treated with awe and respect. What’s more, some naturopathic therapists have come to recognize the application of remedies made from the placenta in fields like women’s health, pediatrics and geriatrics.

This booklet combines the experiences of midwives, doctors and naturopaths with ancestral traditions and saves some old recipes from extinction. It is written with the hope of reviving the traditional wisdom of the oldest remedy in history, with roots traceable over the millennia of development of the human race. The content touches on the various uses for the placenta, some based on traditions, beliefs and superstition, while others focus on the healing powers claimed for the placenta. The preservation and uses of the placenta are also explained. This booklet offers a quick and easy read to anyone who might be interested in this very unusual subject.


Gloria Overcash, prenatal yoga instructor, doula, and home birthing mother of two

As a prenatal yoga instructor, doula, and home birthing mother of two, it was with great delight that I was able to review a copy of Placenta: The Gift of Life, by Cornelia Enning.

The placenta is of great interest to me personally; with my second child, we chose “Lotus Birth,” also known as Umbilical Non-Severance. We kept that placenta as clean and dry as possible. Six days later, I witnessed my newborn baby consciously separate himself from the cord and placenta with a very obvious grasp of his little hand on the dried cord, waving it in the air in what seemed to be delight in his accomplishment. It was like a second birthing.

In reading Placenta: The Gift of Life, I learned more than I expected about the customary ways of treating placenta in cultures all around the world. It is absolutely fascinating to read about the different perspectives and traditions around the world involving the placenta. One common thread is that every culture, with few exceptions, regards the placenta as something special, not to be discarded, as in today’s modern medical system. From placenta burial sites specific to the culture (sometimes involving specific species of trees), to teething bracelets made of umbilical cord, to intricate pieces of jewelry made from amniotic membrane, the historical reverence of the placenta is well documented across the world in Enning’s intriguing account of superstition and functionality.

Recently there has been an increased interest in the natural birth community in using the placenta for medicinal purposes. Before reading Enning’s book, I knew that mothers would sometimes eat a little bit of placenta to gain energy after childbirth, or save it in various ways to combat postpartum depression. Little did I know that the placenta has been used for nearly every ailment imaginable (asthma, arthritis, heart disease, psoriasis, cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, to name a few) throughout history in many cultures—it has even been used in cosmetics! Enning describes in detail the placenta’s role in treating strokes, menopause, dementia and hair loss, and in enhancing milk supply, curing colic and soothing whooping cough.

After learning about the amazing ways the placenta has been used medicinally across the globe, one may be discouraged by the fact that placenta recipes are not recognized by the FDA in the United States.

Not to worry; you are legally allowed to process your own placenta in your home. Enning provides fifteen detailed recipes, uses and preservation procedures, from placenta ghee, to placenta tincture, to placenta hair conditioner!

In eighty pages, it seems as if the collective wisdom of thousands of years of midwives and mothers across the planet is condensed in a well-researched, thoughtfully arranged presentation on this amazing human organ. [This book] truly has been such an educational joy to find and at the same time such a celebration of this amazing Gift of Life! Thank you, Cornelia Enning, for providing this treasure of a resource for all humanity!


Jan Robinson, Midwifery Practitioner, Australia

Knowing the placenta as the largest endocrine organ in the human body with many and varied physiological properties, midwives working in hospital delivery units are usually appalled to find the afterbirth treated as trash. After routine inspection for completeness and abnormalities they are weighed, measured and unceremoniously dumped into the “placenta muncher” to be transported into the hospital’s sewer system. This approach to the management of the third stage of labour leaves many women searching for more ‘family-friendly’ ways to farewell their baby’s placenta.

Cornelia Enning has collected placental anecdotes from around the world both spiritual and practical. Historic stories from many countries and cultural recipes for placental products will supplement the meagre knowledge that most midwives glean from their student studies about the secundines. The one page left for notes at the back of this book is possibly inadequate. One would imagine this note page to be filled very quickly once readers of the book start to exchange placenta stories and recipes.

Packed with succinct information and printed in large font, the contents of this book are easily scanned. I finished reading my copy in less than an hour. A compact A5 size paperback (only 80 pages) the book does not take up too much space and stores easily in the midwife’s mobile lending library or as a reference book on the work-desk. The shiny cover of this book can be easily wiped with a cloth if spillages occur. Good value for money. It will hold a treasured spot in my professional library.


Cathy Daub, PT, CCE(BWI), CD(BWI), CD(DONA), Founder and President of Birth Works International

We need the placenta in order to be born. It is truly a gift of life. In this insightful and well-researched book, Cornelia Enning takes us through a journey from ancient times to the present describing various belief systems and practices that surround the placenta in cultures of the world. Though these beliefs and practices vary from culture to culture, they are united in their perception of the placenta as being a medicinal, healing, and spiritual organ. This is in stark contrast to western culture where placentas are thrown into the trash with complete disregard and a lack of respect for their potential healing properties.

Other countries of the world from Japan and China to Europe, Russia, and Mexico, have used the placenta for its healing properties since ancient times and consider it to be a powerful and sacred medicine, full of life force. Placental remedies have been found to help heal a wide scope of conditions such as increasing milk supply, decreasing postpartum depression, treating newborn colic, whooping cough, and diseases of the heart and circulatory system. I found myself wondering, “Is there anything the placenta cannot do?”

Enning lends credibility to the idea of preserving placentas, by bringing in a scientific perspective to balance the faith and superstition surrounding placentas. Estrogens that lower cholesterol, and prostaglandins and enzymes that influence blood vessels are all found in placental tissue along with stem cells. I was fascinated to learn that the placenta continues to be of value after birth and into adulthood for midlife conditions such as menopause, hair loss and scalp problems, and treating skin conditions.

To preserve the placenta for extended use, Ennings provides information as to how to preserve the placenta, along with placental recipes. How about some German Potato Soup that contains one teaspoon of placenta?

I wish I had known about the value of the placenta because I would have saved mine and trusted it over pharmacological medicines in many cases. However, an intuitive part of me believed in its wonder and mystery which led me to save a piece of my children’s umbilical cords in their baby books.

As there is much research in the book, I found myself craving stories from women about using placental remedies. I wish the couple stories at the end could have been moved to an earlier section of the book and that more stories could have been included. I highly recommend this book for all pregnant women.


Hannah Gaitten, natural birth advocate and owner of the store Natural Choices

Many people in today’s society are clueless to the many benefits and uses of the placenta. Throughout history the placenta has been regarded as sacred—though in modern times it is more commonly seen as trash, with no other purpose once the baby is born. Cornelia Enning has put together a comprehensive compilation of how the placenta has been used as a remedy for such things as increasing breast milk production, the treatment of burn wounds, blood circulation disorders, hair loss and postpartum recovery. She also gives an account of how the placenta has been regarded throughout the world, which is fascinating to read about.

In an effort to keep the ancient traditions of placenta preparation methods from disappearing, Enning documents 20 ways to prepare/use the placenta to treat a myriad of conditions. As someone who has used their own placenta for postpartum recovery, I was intrigued with the many other preparations and uses of the placenta. This booklet is a wonderful resource for those interested in learning more about using the placenta as a healing remedy.

I found this booklet very interesting—there are so many ways that the placenta has been regarded and used throughout history. Enning has done a wonderful job of presenting the necessary information to empower more people to benefit from the healing properties of the placenta. This booklet is packed with information, but is still a quick read. This is a resource that belongs in all birth and natural care providers’ libraries.

I think it would have been helpful to include information about the function of the placenta during pregnancy and immediately after birth as well as accounts of how animals instinctively eat their placentas. I believe that these additions would help make using the placenta for remedies more approachable to those who question the practice of using the placenta for healing.

It would be my hope that many more women would explore the use of the placenta as a remedy for speeding the recovery of postpartum healing. I can’t help but think that if more women were to use their placentas for postpartum recovery, the rates of postpartum depression would dramatically decrease while the rates of breastfeeding would increase. The placenta is an amazing organ; sustaining the life in the womb as well as providing healing once its primary job is finished. As Enning states on page 28, “Placenta medications are available as a pure remedy, as long as babies are being born.” With the information in this booklet, many more generations will be able to benefit from the healing powers of the amazing placenta.


Sunday Tortelli, certified childbirth educator, DONA certified doula and DONA Director of Publications

If you are interested in learning about different traditions and cultures and understanding folklore and ancient wisdom, as well as modern-day science, you will find Placenta: The Gift of Life by Cornelia Enning, fascinating reading. I have always been respectful of this incredible organ and have demonstrated my appreciation of placentas in my birth work, but my understanding of their value did not go much further than the care and well-being of babies in utero.

This book will take you beyond placenta prints. Discover how placentas are used in natural remedies, medicine, cosmetics and even for nourishment (recipes included!). Just as the small-but-mighty placenta provides everything baby needs to grow and be healthy, this little book will infuse you with everything you need to know about placentas.


Kathryn Osborne, CNM, PhD, faculty of the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing

First Published in the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) May Newsletter

Cornelia Enning’s book Placenta: The Gift of Life, offers readers a glimpse into the historic and present day use of the placenta by various cultures around the world. She begins with a brief description of cultural traditions surrounding the use of placenta and the significance of the tree-like structure of the placenta, conceptualizing the placenta as “The Tree of Life.” Enning goes on to describe historic and present day rituals associated with the placenta in various cultures, medicinal uses of placenta in seven countries, and the use of placenta in the cosmetics industry. The use of placenta as a medical application to treat disorders ranging from breastfeeding difficulty and newborn colic, to menopausal symptoms and alopecia is also described.

Enning also provides readers with a clear description of ways in which to preserve the placenta, which include both freezing and drying, and a collection of recipes for tinctures, ointments and capsules with which to treat a variety of health problems described in the book. It is important to note that the author includes a disclaimer on the opening page (which may be easily overlooked), in which she informs readers that the efficacy of the treatments described in the book are presented to the best of the author’s knowledge, but that they should not be substituted for medical treatment. Enning, recognized internationally as an expert on placenta use, moves beyond the disclaimer to identify several medical conditions for which treatment with placental preparations may be effective.

While Enning’s extensive experience as a midwife has no doubt provided her with a substantial body of anecdotal evidence regarding the use of placenta, missing from this handbook is the scientific evidence which supports the use of placenta in the delivery of health care in the 21st century. It is likely that this is because the use of the placenta in the treatment of common discomforts and/or serious medical conditions is missing from the scientific literature at large. In light of the relatively simple and cost-effective nature of the use of placenta, as identified by Enning, this reviewer recommends the conduct of research to document the safety and efficacy of the medicinal use of placenta.

Placenta: The Gift of Life provides readers with an easy to navigate handbook on the medicinal uses and rituals surrounding the placenta. Midwives, doulas, and others involved with the care of women in labor and birth may be particularly interested in reading this book in order to learn about the important properties of the placenta so that they may provide guidance to patients who are interested in using their own placenta for medicinal or ritualistic purposes. If readers are looking for background information to aid in an understanding of patients’ desire to use their own placenta rather than discard it, this book offers and excellent resource. However, this reviewer cautions readers to recognize the powerful properties of the placenta, described by Enning to include various proteins and hormones, and seek additional evidence regarding safe use.


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