In traditional Chinese medicine, human placenta is made into medicine for anyone who is weak, has weak lungs or needs hormone and blood replacement therapy, says licensed TCM physician Yeo Poh Choo, 51.
According to the tradition, it helps to nourish "qi" (energy), and alleviate insomnia, fatigue and sweating, as well as impotency.
There's no medical evidence on the placenta's purported benefits and doctors warn of its potential risks.
Dr Tan Toh Lick, associate consultant at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, says: "There is no robust scientific evidence to prove the benefits of consuming one's own or another mother's placenta.
"People who consume placenta raw, cooked or encapsulated may expose themselves to different levels of risks which are not well-studied."
Even if the placenta did contain such hormones, it would be difficult to prove that these nutrients remain active after the placenta has been prepared for consumption, says Dr Wong Heng Fok of Thomson Women's Clinic.
She says: "When patients seek my advice on consuming their placenta, I tell them that there is no medical evidence for consumption, but I do not object to them collecting their placenta for this purpose, provided they do not have any serious infection.
"There is probably no harm from consuming placenta if it is free from disease and hygienically prepared. But I would not recommend a mother to consume another mother's placenta as there is a risk of unknown disease."
In Singapore, there's no known regulation or guidelines on human placenta consumption, say doctors.
This article was first published on June 22, 2014.
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