Eating Human Placentas Cures Diseases? Demand is High in China Despite Ban

Though the sale of human placentas was banned by the Chinese government in 2005 and its consumption was made illegal, a large base of consumers shell out enormous amounts of money to traders to supply them human flesh.

The traders eventually contact hospitals and funeral homes through back door channels, and get human placentas, popularly known as 'people's afterbirths or after organs' and sell it to their clients.

The black market for human placentas is alive and thriving as a large number of people in China believe that the organ that nourishes the foetus contains rich healing properties.

Human Placenta Organs

A growing number of Chinese believe that consuming human placentas will cure illnesses such tuberculosis among others, boost the immune system and also aid in a fertile reproductive system.

Known as 'Ziheche' in traditional Chinese medicine, the ancient cultural belief emphasizes that eating Placentas will make people healthier, stronger and free from all sorts of diseases. The illegal placenta trade primarily is based in Bozhou in Anhui, Pizhou in Jiangsu, and Yongcheng in Henan.

Through their contacts with back channels at hospitals, medical waste facilities and funeral homes, traders pay to get the placentas from dead bodies and there's no checks in place whether the organs contains viruses such as hepatitis B, syphilis or even HIV.

 placenta from a patient with coronavirus
The fetal side of a placenta from a patient with coronavirus, connected to the umbilical cord. Evidence of the disease process in the placenta is not visible in this photo. Northwestern University

Despite knowing the health risk, consumers believe that boiling the flesh and cooking it with high steam will kill off the viruses and is safe to consume.

However, an obstetrician revealed that this is not true and the viruses remain in the flesh despite being boiled or cooked. While some cook the flesh to eat, the others powder it and use it in the form of soup.

"If the mother has got infectious diseases, the placenta will also carry the virus," obstetrician Lin Xiu told a local media channel in China. "Conventional cooking methods cannot kill those viruses. Only like the steamed disinfection used in hospitals to disinfect surgery equipment can do (that). So eating fresh human placenta might possibly make you infected with diseases. It's dangerous for health," she continued.

Philippines-based ABS-CBN Corporation quoted an unnamed man saying he's been selling human placentas for the last 25 years and never has there been a decrease in demand. He confirmed that he and his family processed 130,000 organs last year and pays the hospital staff to grab the organs.

The man also revealed that human placentas are available for consumption now in the form of pills but the demand is yet to surge and is positive it will eventually catch up.