Poison or Placenta? What’s YOUR Choice….

“Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.” ~Paracelsus


Luckily, my rat poison was in pill form.

Reading the fine print on some meds I had been prescribed, I come across a term that I find…interesting. “Hey Jody, what is “Porcine Intestinal Mucosa?”

“Pig gut,” comes Jody’s flat reply. Right. That’s where I know that word from. Swine.

Japan offers pill form of their unappetizing meds as well.

Japan offers pill form of their unappetizing meds as well.

I think I owe Japan an apology. I recently wrote a blog (see Placenta: Prescription or Placebo) that might have dissed, however slight, the role that placenta-based supplements play here in the Far East. Placenta, as in that gross stuff that comes out as the after-birth in us (female) mammals. But seriously, is making a drug out of that organic matter any worse than using, say, beef lung, pig intestines, or RAT POISON?

Coumadin, Warfarin, Rat Poison.  No difference!!

Coumadin, Warfarin, Rat Poison. No difference!!

Rat poison. I finally get to stop taking the rat poison…more gently referred to as Coumadin…that I’ve been taking for that last 6 months and 10 days. I’m deemed healthy enough to stop my anticoagulation treatment! (see Offshore Okinawa, A Scuba Diver’s Paradise to Lose for some background on my serious illness suffered this summer)

I really hate needles....

Lovenox must be injection. Man I really hate needles….

But that’s only the start. The previous blood thinner — an often used-misnomer for drugs that actually stop your blood from clotting — I, or more honestly mostly my caretaker-extraordinaire beautiful-nurse-wife Jody was shooting into my belly – Lovenox – was made from, no less, the intestines of pigs.


And the IV drip anticoagulant I was given during my hospital stay in June, heparin, is derived from mucosal tissues of slaughtered meat animals, such as porcine (pig) intestines or bovine (cattle) lungs. Nice how the manufacturers decide to use uncommon nomenclature for such unsavory source ingredients. Coincidence? I think not.

It's surprisingly affordable.  Why do the Rx versions cost so dang much???

It’s surprisingly affordable. Why do the Rx versions cost so dang much???

Coumadin (a name brand of Warfarin), is an anticoagulant normally used in the prevention of thrombosis, the formation of blood clots in blood vessels. But get this: it was initially introduced in 1948 as a rodent pesticide, and can still be found used for this purpose. Urban legend says that the human medicinal benefit wasn’t recognized until some poor Army sap tried to commit suicide by overdosing on the staff, but whose condition was completely reversed by mere injections of vitamin K. And the only reason I knew to even look this up was a nurse-friend of my wife’s, when she found out I was on the drug, said with a large knowing smile, “Oh, the rat poison!”

No taking aspirin to help with those raging headaches.  Wait, about that drinking....

No taking aspirin to help with those raging headaches. Wait, about that drinking….

Warfarin is both odorless and tasteless, and is effective when mixed with food bait because rodents will return to the bait and continue to feed over a period of days until a lethal dose is accumulated. In order for us humans to stay alive while we feed on a handful of pills, we just have to go for weekly blood tests to make sure a “lethal dose is NOT accumulated.”

bear facepalm

So, life comes down to relevance. One animal gives a life so that drugs can be made to save people. One culture develops a fetish for placenta-based products sold, not as the fountain of thick mucuousy-looking-goo which they feature in their commercials, but more as a fountain of youth of sorts. Other medical communities develop life-saving medical drugs, but based on other no-less appetizing parts of other sacrificed animals.

The dichotomy, though, is that relevance is not absolute and is often just two sides of the very same coin. Flipped on one side, a drug kills rodents. But tossing it upside-down and suddenly the same drug, using the exact same biological action, can save humans. Having the coin flipped the right way in my case, I sure am glad to be returned to better health.

May or may not be about Placenta (I'm rusty on reading Japanese), but it's the same idea.  I think.

May or may not be about Placenta (I’m rusty on reading Japanese), but it’s the same idea. I think.

And I’m glad to give Japan a respectful break about their placenta fetish. There actually might really be something to it….

Placenta: Prescription or Placebo?

“Thin people and fat people are the difference.”  ~ loose (machine) translation of a Facebook advertisement for Fasty Placenta

Fasty Placenta - not anything like a delicious chilled bottle of wine!

Fasty Placenta – not anything like a delicious chilled bottle of wine!

This one is hard to…uhmm…swallow:  Japanese women (and a few men, I guess) ingesting placenta to stay blemish-free and thin!

At first when seeing the commercials on our Japanese satellite TV channels months ago, I thought surely that using the word to product name containing “Placenta” was a way to differentiate and market yet another vitamin/dietary supplement, which it appears from the frequency of such commercials that the Japanese adore (and buy) on a scale I could have never imagined.


But real placenta?  Like in tissue from animals…or humans??  Sounds horrific, and let me assure you, the goo they show on TV that actually goes in the capsules being peddled, looks equally as bad.  So, it appears I may have stumbled onto the mystery of how here in the Far East, sexy young-looking women still wearing their high school sailor-girl uniforms are actually in their 40s and 50s, due to the magical life-sustaining power of pig, horse, or lamb placenta.

Placenta to the rescue!

Placenta to the rescue!

Actually, when you stop and think about it, consuming placenta, no matter from what type of mammal, is more akin to one of the horror movies where zombies roam the countryside hand out-stretched, moaning away for brains.  Or, maybe to be more culturally current and hip, conjure up an image of vampires in their tormented and undying search and constant consumption of warm, thick blood.

Maybe it can give you blue eyes as well....

Maybe it can give you blue eyes as well….

Think I’m kidding about placenta?

I’m not.  Placenta, human and animal, has been used traditional Chinese and other Asian traditional medicines for thousands of years, usually to treat infertility, impotence, or as a dietary supplement for certain wasting diseases.  Like the longevity of booze and smokes (used in moderation), we probably shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss a millennia of culturally medical knowledge; if a behavior has survived that long as part of the human condition, there is probably something beneficial to it.  Oh, and many animals do eat their placentas after giving birth.  But, as we homosapiens are generally more well-fed (and easier grossed-out) than our animal brethren, the animalistic example and reasoning of eating “after birth” (pun intended) doesn’t really apply.

I would've used GREEN apples, you know, to avoid any resemblance to blood

I would’ve used GREEN apples, you know, to avoid any resemblance to blood

Here in Japan many companies (Check out the FB page for Fasty Placenta!) are hawking a plethora of porcine (pig) placenta products, varying from jellies, to facial skin masks, to soaps, to easy-to-swallow capsules, to what I can only assume are less easy-to-swallow drinks.  Most of the claims are for weight loss and general health (for the ingested formats), and for younger, more beautifully radiant babyish skin (for the soaps and topical treatments).  There actually is some casual evidence that the hormones contained in placenta tissue can help treat postpartum depression and menopause.  Men would certainly pause (there’s a pun there too) if they knew their wives were consuming placenta!

Eating it probably shouldn't be one of them.  Neither should making a creepy stuffed bear....

Eating it probably shouldn’t be one of them. Neither should making a creepy stuffed bear….

Nihon-Sofuken offers a full array of placenta products.  What’s impressive about most of the placenta prerogatives are the numbers associated with just how much “ingredient” one derives from a dose.  Claims of 100,000, 270,000, or even 300,000 milligrams abound, which sounds impressive…as an advertising ploy.  Converting to grams, though, and the numbers come way down into the 10’s of grams, equivalent to an ounce or less.  Think of it as a shot and knock it on back.  A beer chaser is highly encouraged.

Wow 270,000 is a big, impressive number!  Too bad it's placenta.

Wow 270,000 is a big, impressive number! Too bad it’s placenta.

Why?  Because although one of the selling points online translates to something like “completely remove blood which cause bad smell and rot via a special extraction method,” you know that it just can’t be appetizing!  Although one company touts that they “erase the high-density animal smell of the pig placenta (it does not smell like ham, bacon, or pork chops!) with a peach or apple flavor,” I’d still much rather have it taste like bacon.  Bacon goes with everything!

A martini glass of horse placenta extract?

A martini glass of horse placenta extract?

In spite of the Japanese claims, I can find no real peer-reviewed and published results showing any health benefit efficacy, and in the West, such claims and treatments are best considered pseudo-science.  I have read that even here in Japan there is enough concern about adverse effects from placenta tissue that some of the more invasive treatments preclude people from donating blood as an additional safeguard to help prevent transmission of pathogens.

As a Domestic Engineer, I draw the line at cannibalism.

As a Domestic Engineer, I draw the line at cannibalism.

But of course it’s not just a Far East Fad.  Check out this placenta cookbook…available on Amazon, in English.  I’m not kidding.  At least in this form the tissue is cooked, and apparently, served with stewed vegetables…but it’s 100% human.  The FDA in the United States maintains that placenta extract may be potentially hazardous and its use is subject to restrictions and requirements of warnings.

No matter.  It appears that people ‘round the world will do – and eat most anything to remain youthful and trim.

Thank goodness no bad smell!

Thank goodness no bad smell!

How far are YOU willing to go??