Comparing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Method and Raw Method Placenta Encapsulation


In my years as a placenta preparation specialist, I find that of all the placenta services I offer, placenta encapsulation is most popular by far. It makes great sense—placenta encapsulation creates an easy-to-take, easy-to-store preparation that is ready just days after birth and lasts many weeks. (A bottle of 100 capsules, if taken according to the suggested guidelines, will last for 5 weeks, for example).

There are two primary methods that one can use to encapsulate a placenta. The first is called the Traditional Chinese Medicine Method, or TCM Method. The second is called the Raw Method (not to be confused with a fresh preparation, which is not a method of encapsulation, but rather a way to consume the placenta without steaming, dehydrating or encapsulating it). Both of these methods has unique benefits. Below, I discuss what each method involves and their perks.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Method or TCM Method

The Traditional Chinese Medicine method of placenta encapsulation is one of the oldest-known and most commonly used recipes. It is based on and inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine principles and the specific needs of women in the postpartum period. According to Chinese Medicine, labor and birth create a yin or cold condition in a woman’s body, since birth leaves lots of open, empty space in the womb prior to uterus involution (the process of the uterus returning to its non-pregnant state) and because the body often losses a lot of blood in the life-giving process. According to TCM theory, childbirth depletes the wei chi, which is the body’s protective immune capacity. Heat in the postpartum is a vital component to restoring the wei chi.

In light of this, the TCM method of placenta encapsulation seeks to warm, nourish and tone the body tissues (adding yang energy or heat), to augment the nutrients and hormones the placenta already provides and further support postpartum wellness.

In the TCM method of placenta encapsulation, once the placenta is cleaned, it is steamed (i.e. warmed) gently on both sides before it is dehydrated. During the steaming step, the water used to steam is enhanced with the use of warming herbs. Lemon and ginger are most commonly used because they are both warming and aid in distributing the healing properties of the placenta throughout the body. I add myrrh, as a well-respected herbalist and midwife recommends it, and because it is known for its blood moving, pain relieving, circulation supporting, immune boosting, and antibacterial properties. Others use jalapeno or cayenne pepper for their warming properties.

With the TCM method, the placenta is not cooked so it still retains all of its nutrients. The placenta pills produced via the TCM method provide a steady release of energy in the postpartum, which helps mama to balance and stabilize. This method usually produces fewer pills and may require that mom take more pills for a longer period of time. (Please note that I am not a TCM practitioner. This encapsulation process is inspired by TCM methods.)

The Raw Method of Placenta Encapsulation

During the raw method of placenta encapsulation the placenta is not steamed at all. It is cleaned, sliced and dehydrated. There are no herbs added to this preparation.

The Raw Method is often preferred by proponents of a Raw Diet, based on the idea that heat destroys vital nutrients in food. In this placenta encapsulation method, the placenta is never heated above 118 degrees, which in theory, may help it to retain most of the benefits it possesses prior to processing.

Proponents of the Raw Method suggest that this method of placenta encapsulation yields a more potent medicine with more hormones and nutrients, compared to the TCM method of placenta encapsulation. Those using this option report a greater a burst of energy upfront and great hormone stabilization. This method typically provides mamas with a greater amount of pills and she may require fewer pills each day.

The potential drawbacks to this method are that it takes longer to complete this process of placenta encapsulation (the dehydration step of the process is about 8-10 hours for TCM and at least 24 hours for Raw). Traditional Chinese Medicine theory would say that raw placenta is cold and thus not appropriate to use in the first weeks after birth.

My Practice and Perspective

In my placenta encapsulation practice, I have employed the TCM method for most of the placentas I have encapsulated. I am also fully trained in and able to do the Raw Method for anyone interested in this method. I offer clients the choice and if they do not have a preference, I will generally use the TCM method.

Some people are quickly drawn to one method of placenta preparation. I believe fully in, and wholly respect, a woman’s ability to make the best, informed choice for herself.

For those who are undecided, my top recommendation is to choose fresh placenta for smoothie cubes, the TCM Method for encapsulation, and a tincture. This recommendation is based on the intended time during which each form of placenta medicine is taken. This is what I would choose if I were to have another child.  (I’d probably also get a placenta print because they are rad~ but you might also call me a placenta enthusiast.

Raw placenta prepared into smoothie cubes is typically used immediately after the birth and in the first few days, especially if there was a large amount of blood loss. Raw placenta is perfectly indicated for this intense, short-term blood building. Here, you retain all the nutrients of the placenta in its most potent form.

Placenta capsules are usually taken within the first 6 months postpartum (often in the first month or two, though some women extend their use out longer). The tonifying, nourishing qualities of TCM method placenta capsules are best suited to this long-term use, when the goal is to reduce postpartum mood issues (including postpartum depression), improve milk supply, and replenish the body after birth.

Placenta tinctures are well preserved, and are great for later use, such as menstrual difficulties, weaning, menopause, or any other time of stress, depletion, or hormonal change. Because it will generally not be used until after the postpartum period, the focus on warming, yang energy isn’t as important.

These are my current thoughts on the different methods of placenta encapsulation, though they are subject to change should new information present itself. If you have any questions or if you are a care provider with additional insight, please feel free to contact me.

If you live within 15 miles of Saint Paul, in Minneapolis or the surrounding Twin Cities area and would like Jaime to encapsulate your placenta or prepare it in any other manner listed on my services page, please fill out the form here to connect with me.  Thanks so much for reading!

If you have encapsulated your placenta before, what method did you opt for and what was your experience?