Alternative uses for placenta
The placenta is an organ which links the fetus to the mother in mammals for transfer of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus and fetal waste products to the mother. Many species of mammals consume their placentas. Additionally in many human cultures placentas are consumed. This may be for nutrition but often it has a cultural significance. For more information about the ritual consumption of placenta see Placenta: Society and culture. Human and animal placentas are also widely used as a source of extracts to be used as ingredients in various consumer products such as pharmecuticals, cosmetics, hair care products, health tonics, and food products other than ritual consumption by the mother or family. Human placentas are also used by search and rescue teams to train their search and rescue dogs in human remains detection.
Use in cosmetics
At least three companies currently sell hair or skin treatments which contain extracts of animal placenta. The most common type of placenta used is sheep. Allegedly the placenta extract serves as a source of protein and hormones, predominantly estrogen and progesterone in the cosmetics in which it is used. Data on the exact purpose of the placenta extract is not well documented and difficult to find. In fact there is a definite sense that manufacturers avoid claiming that it does anything particularly. For example Alleghany Pharmacal Corporation, manufacturer of the Hask brand of hair conditioners which extensively use sheep placenta extract, maintains no brand website for their Hask brand and the parent company website is or at least was a blank construction page.
The FDA maintains that placenta extract may be potentially hazardous and its use is subject to restrictions and requirements of warnings in at least some products.
In one study, four girls between one and eight years of age developed breasts or pubic hair two to 24 months after starting the use of estrogen- or placenta-containing hair products. Their breasts and pubic hair regressed when they stopped using the products. No other cause for early sexual development was noted.
Hormone Replacement Therapy containing estrogen, while protective against osteoporosis, has been found to increase the risk of venous emboli and breast cancer. As such, the medical community uses hormone replacement therapy only in specific circumstances.
Use in pharmaceuticals
Melsmon Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, is a registered pharmaceutical Company in Japan, in operation since 1956. Melsmon Pharmaceutical produces pharmaceutical grade placenta extracts from Human Placenta. The indication is to treat menopause. LAENNNEC, another placenta extract formulation, is prescribed to treat chronic hepatitis.
In spite of the claims for various physiological benefits of many commercial centres offering placenta treatment, there have been no peer-reviewed and published results showing any health benefits in humans of placenta injections for the fifty years the "treatment" has existed. The current medical status of placenta treatment is pseudo-medicine. In Japan there is concern about adverse effects from injecting placenta tissue, and individuals who have received placental injections are precluded from donating blood to prevent possible transmittal of pathogens from the placental donor to the blood recipient.
Use in food
There are a number of foods, many with touted health benefits, that use placenta as a direct ingredient. This is in addition to ritual consumption by mothers and families in many cultures.
Plantec Co LTD in Japan makes a drink called "Placenta Drink" which contains placenta. The company claims that "It is a drink that used the placenta raw material" (SIC) and "The expectation that makes the body metabolism active can be done" (SIC) and "It is a drink of the apple taste" (SIC).
- "Alleghany Pharmacal". Company Website. July 2010. Archived from the original on 19 July 2010. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
- "Premature sexual development in children following the use of estrogen- or placenta-containing hair products.". Clin Pediatr (Phila). 37 (12): 733–9. Dec 1998. doi:10.1177/000992289803701204. PMID 9864648.
- MELSMON Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency JAPAN