Jena University Reviews Placentophagy Literature
By Christi Trimble, APPAC
Placenta studies are finally starting to pop up thanks to the great work going on at The Placenta Lab of Jena University in Germany. While Dr. Sophia Johnson’s research began in 2015 her first study wasn’t published until this year. Now we have a new literature review from the team at Jena University related to the possible benefits and risks of placentophagia.
Before we get into their findings, let’s chat for a minute about literature reviews. Not all ‘research’ is created equal. We’re all familiar with blog posts where someone has ‘researched’ a topic and presents their findings. These should be filed under ‘opinion pieces’ and are usually rife with bias. A step above that you’ll run into Case Studies. This is where a few cases are cherry-picked for discussion. They tend to be polarizing and focus on either a benefit or an issue with a lot of opinion on yes or no. The author cherry picks a few examples to state their position with supposed proof. If you follow placenta studies, you’ll have noticed a number of lactation and placenta encapsulation blogs/reports in the last year that fit this description. They have a narrow opinion-based focus and thus have little to no authority scientifically, no matter how many clicks or shares they gather. The gold standard of research is actual research studies. These can break down some issues like small sample sizes, lack of or a bad placebo, not being a double-blind study, and a few other things regarding research procedures.
The new article from Jena University is a literature review. One thing that’s great about research and reviews from universities is that they are, typically, without big money or big business funding, which as you might imagine can create a conflict of interest for researchers when the money behind a study has an agenda. Sometimes opinion can come through in literature reviews. You can create a narrow focus so only certain studies make it into the review. Again though, at a university, this is much less likely. Literature reviews are a great way to get a pulse on what current research has found, which is an important stepping stone in determining what future research is still needed.
‘The risk of intoxication from individual intake appears to be low in terms of microbiological contamination and the content of potentially toxic trace elements.’
After reviewing English-language studies from the last 100 years on placenta encapsulation and placentophagia, Jena University reviewed 38 studies. One of the massively awesome finds in this review was that ‘the risk of intoxication from individual intake appears to be low in terms of microbiological contamination and the content of potentially toxic trace elements.’ In layman’s terms, although there may be a risk of infection transmission or toxic trace elements like heavy metals in the placenta, it’s a very small risk. The other great find was that since ‘placental tissue is a source of natural hormones, trace elements, and essential amino acids–the ingestion of raw or dehydrated placenta could influence postpartum convalescence, lactation, mood and recovery.’ Confirming the anecdotal reports we’ve seen for years now–placentophagia in postpartum could be beneficial for the birthing person. Postpartum is a time of new hormone regulation for the body. There is a lot going on in the body trying to find a new normal while balancing lactation, healing, and psychological mood.
“The ingestion of raw or dehydrated placenta could influence postpartum convalescence, lactation, mood, and recovery.”
As usually seen, the end of the literature review was a suggestion for more studies, but this time with a focus on looking into the bioavailability of hormones found in the placenta. This would be of tremendous value to help placenta encapsulators make the best suggestions for clients regarding use of their encapsulated placenta. One of the great mysteries of how placentophagia works relates to the hormones a placenta contains and how they work within a body when taken orally. When we know better, we do better. The Association of Placenta Preparation Arts (APPA) is constantly reviewing standards, adjusting as needed, to best serve clients while keeping encapsulators safe, as well. Here’s to hoping Jena University will tackle bioavailability of hormones in placentas in future research!
The full study is available online in both English and German. It’s a fascinating read that starts with the development of the placenta through evolutionary aspects of placentophagia, placenta composition, and more. If the idea of research and how to look through and digest it still leaves you feeling uneasy there’s a solution. Reading placenta research doesn’t have to be overwhelming, APPA is here to help! When you take the APPA Placenta Arts Training Program, we walk you through a whole learning module on research! You’ll learn what current, valuable research is out there, how to discuss it with clients and medical professionals, and how to review future research as it comes out. It’s a fascinating time scientifically for placenta encapsulation. We at APPA will continue to keep our eyes peeled for new and exciting information!
Here is a link to the referenced article – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6138470/