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Besides overall health benefiting properties, studies have shown that purslane contains phytochemicals and nutrients associated with anticarcinogenic properties, namely1,5:

  • ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
  • α and β-carotene
  • chlorophyll
  • polyphenols
  • phenolic compounds such as kaempferol and apigenin
  • homoisoflavonoids
  • polysaccharides
  • cerebroside compound – portulacerebroside A
  • alkaloids

Anti-cancer Activities of Purslane

Purslane has been studied for its anti-cancer activities in a diversity of cancers1, such as pancreatic cancer16, glioblastoma multiforme17, colon cancer18, hepatocellular carcinoma14,19, lung cancer19, gastric cancer20, sarcoma21, cervical22, ovarian cancer23.

The mechanisms of anti-cancer action are diverse, and related to the many compounds mentioned above.

Mechanisms of action making purslane an anti-cancer food 1,2,14,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23

  • Bioactive compounds exhibit antioxidant properties.
  • Could reduce metastasis and invasion.
  • Immune system modulator and stimulator.
  • Free radical scavenger.
  • Found to Inhibit tumor formation and growth of cancer cells.
  • Has cytotoxicity and apoptotic effect.
  • Excellent potential for use in drug-targeted therapies.


The potential anti-cancer benefits of purslane are extremely impressive. The anti-cancer action of purslane is associated with its high levels of antioxidants such as phenolic compounds, and carotenoids, and other nutrients such as minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, and diverse and unique bioactive compounds. A study published in 20221 concluded that the anticancer activity of purslane results from the “polysaccharides, some phenolic compounds, alkaloids, and cerebrosides1” detected in the plant and associated “with inhibition and prevention of carcinogenesis1.” Studies also show that purslane can significantly inhibit tumor cell growth in a time- and dose-dependent manner5 and that its effects are exerted “through anti-inflammatory properties and balancing the adaptive and innate immune system depending on situations5.”

Of high relevance is the fact that the extracts of purslane used in these studies did not show any cytotoxicity or genotoxicity, making it a safe vegetable for daily human consumption5.

Besides the direct use of purslane and its extracts for medicinal purposes, the phytochemical richness of this plant can also be used for developing future plant-derived drugs2.

We will finish citing one of the most recent reviews on purslane, published in 2021 – A review on bioactive phytochemicals and ethnopharmacological potential of purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.):

“In a nutshell, purslane is an important future crop for achieving sustainable development goals – no poverty, zero hunger and good health and wellbeing of the people respectively2.”


  1. de Souza PG, Rosenthal A, Ayres EMM, Teodoro AJ. Potential Functional Food Products and Molecular Mechanisms of Portulaca Oleracea L. on Anticancer Activity: A Review. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2022 Sep 20;2022:7235412. doi: 10.1155/2022/7235412. PMID: 36193066; PMCID: PMC9526644.
  2. Kumar A, Sreedharan S, Kashyap AK, Singh P, Ramchiary N. A review on bioactive phytochemicals and ethnopharmacological potential of purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.). Heliyon. 2021 Dec 27;8(1):e08669. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e08669. PMID: 35028454; PMCID: PMC8741462.
  3. Nemzer B, Al-Taher F, Abshiru N. Phytochemical composition and nutritional value of different plant parts in two cultivated and wild purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.) genotypes. Food Chem. 2020 Aug 1;320:126621. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.126621. Epub 2020 Mar 16. PMID: 32203838.
  4. Amirul Alam M, Juraimi AS, Rafii MY, Hamid AA, Kamal Uddin M, Alam MZ, Latif MA. Genetic improvement of purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.) and its future prospects. Mol Biol Rep. 2014 Nov;41(11):7395-411. doi: 10.1007/s11033-014-3628-1. Epub 2014 Aug 2. PMID: 25085039.
  5. Rahimi VB, Ajam F, Rakhshandeh H, Askari VR. A Pharmacological Review on Portulaca oleracea L.: Focusing on Anti-Inflammatory, Anti- Oxidant, Immuno-Modulatory and Antitumor Activities. J Pharmacopuncture. 2019 Mar;22(1):7-15. doi: 10.3831/KPI.2019.22.001. Epub 2019 Mar 31. PMID: 30988996; PMCID: PMC6461301.
  6. Iranshahy M, Javadi B, Iranshahi M, Jahanbakhsh SP, Mahyari S, Hassani FV, Karimi G. A review of traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Portulaca oleracea L. J Ethnopharmacol. 2017 Jun 9;205:158-172. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2017.05.004. Epub 2017 May 8. PMID: 28495602.
  7. Chan K, Islam MW, Kamil M, Radhakrishnan R, Zakaria MN, Habibullah M, Attas A. The analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of Portulaca oleracea L. subsp. Sativa (Haw.) Celak. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000 Dec;73(3):445-51. doi: 10.1016/s0378-8741(00)00318-4. PMID: 11090998.
  8. Nemzer B, Al-Taher F, Abshiru N. Extraction and Natural Bioactive Molecules Characterization in Spinach, Kale and Purslane: A Comparative Study. Molecules. 2021 Apr 26;26(9):2515. doi: 10.3390/molecules26092515. PMID: 33925848; PMCID: PMC8123472.
  9. Uddin MK, Juraimi AS, Hossain MS, Nahar MA, Ali ME, Rahman MM. Purslane weed (Portulaca oleracea): a prospective plant source of nutrition, omega-3 fatty acid, and antioxidant attributes. ScientificWorldJournal. 2014 Feb 10;2014:951019. doi: 10.1155/2014/951019. PMID: 24683365; PMCID: PMC3934766.
  10. United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Search Results. Purslane, raw. Published April 1, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169230/nutrients, accessed Jul 17, 2023.
  11. Askari VR, Rezaee SA, Abnous K, Iranshahi M, Boskabady MH. The influence of hydro-ethanolic extract of Portulaca oleracea L. on Th1/Th2 balance in isolated human lymphocytes. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Dec 24;194:1112-1121. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2016.10.082. Epub 2016 Nov 10. PMID: 27842944.
  12. Bai Y, Zang X, Ma J, Xu G. Anti-Diabetic Effect of Portulaca oleracea L. Polysaccharideandits Mechanism in Diabetic Rats. Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Jul 25;17(8):1201. doi: 10.3390/ijms17081201. PMID: 27463713; PMCID: PMC5000599.
  13. Gu JF, Zheng ZY, Yuan JR, Zhao BJ, Wang CF, Zhang L, Xu QY, Yin GW, Feng L, Jia XB. Comparison on hypoglycemic and antioxidant activities of the fresh and dried Portulaca oleracea L. in insulin-resistant HepG2 cells and streptozotocin-induced C57BL/6J diabetic mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Feb 23;161:214-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.12.002. Epub 2014 Dec 16. PMID: 25523372.
  14. Farshori NN, Al-Sheddi ES, Al-Oqail MM, Musarrat J, Al-Khedhairy AA, Siddiqui MA. Cytotoxicity assessments of Portulaca oleracea and Petroselinum sativum seed extracts on human hepatocellular carcinoma cells (HepG2). Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(16):6633-8. doi: 10.7314/apjcp.2014.15.16.6633. PMID: 25169500.
  15. Lee AS, Kim JS, Lee YJ, Kang DG, Lee HS. Anti-TNF-α activity of Portulaca oleracea in vascular endothelial cells. Int J Mol Sci. 2012;13(5):5628-5644. doi: 10.3390/ijms13055628. Epub 2012 May 10. PMID: 22754320; PMCID: PMC3382818.
  16. Alipour S, Pishkar L, Chaleshi V. Cytotoxic Effect of Portulaca Oleracea Extract on the Regulation of CDK1 and P53 Gene Expression in Pancreatic Cancer Cell Line. Nutr Cancer. 2022;74(5):1792-1801. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2021.1960386. Epub 2021 Aug 25. PMID: 34431425.
  17. Baradaran Rahimi V, Mousavi SH, Haghighi S, Soheili-Far S, Askari VR. Cytotoxicity and apoptogenic properties of the standardized extract of Portulaca oleracea on glioblastoma multiforme cancer cell line (U-87): a mechanistic study. EXCLI J. 2019 Mar 20;18:165-186. doi: 10.17179/excli2019-1063. PMID: 31217780; PMCID: PMC6558513.
  18. Asnani GP, Kokare CR. In vitro and in vivo evaluation of colon cancer targeted epichlorohydrin crosslinked Portulaca-alginate beads. Biomol Concepts. 2018 Dec 31;9(1):190-199. doi: 10.1515/bmc-2018-0019. PMID: 30676996.
  19. Al-Sheddi ES, Farshori NN, Al-Oqail MM, Musarrat J, Al-Khedhairy AA, Siddiqui MA. Portulaca oleracea Seed Oil Exerts Cytotoxic Effects on Human Liver Cancer (HepG2) and Human Lung Cancer (A-549) Cell Lines. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2015;16(8):3383-7. doi: 10.7314/apjcp.2015.16.8.3383. PMID: 25921149.
  20. Li Y, Hu Y, Shi S, Jiang L. Evaluation of antioxidant and immuno-enhancing activities of Purslane polysaccharides in gastric cancer rats. Int J Biol Macromol. 2014 Jul;68:113-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2014.04.038. Epub 2014 Apr 24. PMID: 24768972.
  21. Shen H, Tang G, Zeng G, Yang Y, Cai X, Li D, Liu H, Zhou N. Purification and characterization of an antitumor polysaccharide from Portulaca oleracea L. Carbohydr Polym. 2013 Apr 2;93(2):395-400. doi: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2012.11.107. Epub 2012 Dec 17. PMID: 23499074.
  22. Zhao R, Gao X, Cai Y, Shao X, Jia G, Huang Y, Qin X, Wang J, Zheng X. Antitumor activity of Portulaca oleracea L. polysaccharides against cervical carcinoma in vitro and in vivo. Carbohydr Polym. 2013 Jul 25;96(2):376-83. doi: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2013.04.023. Epub 2013 Apr 17. PMID: 23768576.
  23. YouGuo C, ZongJi S, XiaoPing C. Evaluation of free radicals scavenging and immunity-modulatory activities of Purslane polysaccharides. Int J Biol Macromol. 2009 Dec 1;45(5):448-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2009.07.009. Epub 2009 Jul 28. PMID: 19643128.

Vanessa Pinto graduated with a degree in Biology and Masters in Ecology from Lisbon University. After graduating, she underwent a series of professional and personal growth experiences, including being an officer in the Portuguese Army, working in countries as diverse as Iceland and Costa Rica.  Vanessa became certified as a Yoga and Meditation teacher in rural India.

Being a compassionate person by nature, Vanessa is able to bring her connectedness when working with others while enhancing the importance and practicality of a pragmatic evidence-based approach to facilitating lasting and permanent change. Vanessa is a certified health coach whose specialties are nutrition, exercise, and mind/ body connection.  She works both in Portugal, Thailand and USA, where she develops her work closely with people diagnosed with cancer, mainly in the areas of nutrition, movement and health education.

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