How Far Would You Go For Health?

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Would you drink horse placenta?  We’re not talking cheap, generic pig placenta here.   This is the real deal.  Placenta-Pro and drinks like it are all the rage in Japan.  What is it?  It is a Japanese soft drink made from 100% horse placenta.  According to their website, horse placenta has 300 times more amino acids than pig placenta.  Why submit yourself to such a foul sounding beverage?  Here are just a few of its supposed benefits:

  • Whitens skin (is that a good thing?)
  • Cures headaches and canker sores
  • Loosens stiff shoulders
  • Reduces sensitivity to cold

FOSHU (Food for a Specific Health Use) foods and drinks are quite popular in Asia these days, and placenta drinks are but one item in a growing field of functional foods.  OK, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that you are the type of person who is willing to try just about anything once.  How much will some decent placenta beverage set you back?  If you choose Placenta-Pro, that will be about $50 U.S. for a 35ml bottle.  The daily recommended dose is one bottle.

What medical benefit could ingesting placenta, or Placentophagy, have?  To begin with, the placenta is a temporary organ that develops from the same sperm and egg cells that form the fetus. In placental mammals including humans, the placenta receives nutrients, oxygen, antibodies, and hormones from the mother’s blood, passes out waste and forms a protective barrier around the fetus.   Scientifically speaking, the placenta contains high levels of prostaglandin, which helps shrink the uterus, and small amounts of oxytocin, which eases birth stress and causes the mammary cells to contract and eject milk.

Placenta has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, and animals in the wild are quick to consume the placenta of their newborns for mostly nutritional reasons.  Modern Japanese women are said to swear by the stuff, but anecdotal evidence just doesn’t do it for me.  For the record, I couldn’t find any scientific evidence pertaining to placentophagy and good health.

Why is the Placenta-Pro brand better than other horse placenta drinks?

“Placentas come from horses raised in an excellent Kyrgyz environment. Located in Central Asia the Kyrgyz Republic is blessed with fertile land and natural water in a favorable natural environment.  Dams raised in such an organic environment have extraordinarily balanced nutrients giving no cause for worry about agricultural chemicals or other chemical substances. Since horse-origin placentas are exceptionally rare and cannot be mass produced we deliver the limited quantities to people who truly desire to become beautiful.”

Organically grown horses.  That must be it.  But, you ask, is it safe?

“The fact that horses have high temperatures and delicate constitutions alleviates any concern about viruses or germs.  Since in comparison with pig-origin placentas there is a higher concentration of essential amino acids as well as essential amino acids unique to horse placentas excellent results can be expected.”

No concern?  While zoonotic disease transmission from horses to humans is fairly rare, it can occur.  Hendra virus, anthrax, brucellosis, salmonellosis, cryptosporidiosis, leptospirosis, yersiniosis and campylobacter can all be transferred from equines to humans.

Please let me know how it works if any of you decide to give it a try.

About Guy McCardle

Guy McCardle is an American science writer and skeptic. He is a certified Infection Prevention Specialist and served proudly as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A devoted father and husband, he offers his unique viewpoints regarding science and the public interest.
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14 Responses to How Far Would You Go For Health?

  1. Stephan says:

    Erm, Guy, would you mind terribly if I did (not) give this a try?

  2. mtskeptic says:

    Health claims aside–I doubt very much that horse placenta has much to do with health or skin tone aside from providing nutrients that can be found elsewhere–there are two facts that give a little more context to this story: 1) horse meat is commonly consumed in Japan. I had it once while I was there, It was served raw, sashimi style and was very tasty! 2)For some reason, I’m not really sure why, white or lighter skin tone is considered beautiful in Japan. Maybe it’s an old bias from the days when only the wealth could afford umbrellas and a lifestyle that kept their skin pure from the darkening rays of the sun. Whatever the source of the cultural bias, white equals beautiful. So you can imagine that any peddler of woo would add that to the list of “benefits.”

  3. Webbstre says:

    Horse meat is not commonly consumed in Japan. I’ve been living in Osaka for 7 years now and have only seen it once, at an expensive sushi place. Common meats are what you would expect: Chicken, Beef, Pork, and a variety of fish. You may find places that have a local specialty, like a place that cooks sparrows or something, but normally you won’t stray from the usual three plus fish.

    As for the topic in general, unfortunately there are a load of supposed health drinks here that they sell in little bottles. If I find these placenta drinks I’ll definitely take a photo, and perhaps point out the other drinks around them. Normal people though, either don’t drink them or only drink the vitamin bottles that are supposed to keep you healthy or from getting sick – same as people who take vitamins back in the US.

    • Guy McCardle says:


      It would be great if you could get some photos of bizarre health drinks or health foods in Japan. I’d love to visit Japan. If I ever make it to Osaka, maybe you could show me some good sushi joints.


  4. Webbstre says:

    I realize now that I missed the reply button. First time poster here I think.

    One other note, white skin is still considered beautiful here, except for the people who go in the extreme other direction. It is hard to convince women here that they even need sun light for things like Vitamin D, and they tend to carry sun umbrellas and wear armor protectors in the middle of a hot summer.

  5. Daniel says:

    In the same way that many people here in Europe or America go through big trouble to get a tan, East Asians do the same when it comes to being as white as possible.

    They carry umbrellas and wear long sleeve shirts and full-length pants all summer through to avoid the solar radiation, they bleach their skin (just like we have skin creams that are supposed to make you darker, they have creams that are supposed to make you whiter), and almost any of the superstitious wonder medicines (like the one above) would claim that they make your skin whiter. I’m not the least bit surprised that they would drink horse placenta, some of them would do anything to get white short of actively killing themselves.

    As for why, isn’t it always like that – the grass is greener on the other side?

  6. Devin says:

    @Webbstre – to say that horse meat is not commonly consumed in Japan depends on your definition of “common”; while they don’t serve horse burgers at McDonalds here, it is in no way uncommon either. If I’m not mistaken, horse farms were traditionally much more plentiful in the Kanto region, hence a greater demand for the meat, whereas Kansai traditionally had more cattle farming. This is partial conjecture but I’ve heard the same reasoning used to explain the greater popularity of natto in the northeast since the beans were originally fermented in hay that was used as horse feed.

    Also the article claims that horse placenta is “all the rage” in Japan now, which seems to be the tone of any number of sensational articles about products/fads/deviant sexual practices here that have a relatively limited appeal but fulfill the writer’s confirmation bias for “whacky Japan” material. Call it what it is, a product for a niche market of uncritical ladies (and some men, I’m sure) with lots of disposable income who are willing to spend 5000 yen a bottle on
    something with little chance of having any real effect. It’s not as if this is sold at every corner store, more likely a mail-order thing like the pig placenta infomercials the (Japanese version of ) History Channel runs in the off hours.

  7. Cassandra says:

    “The fact that horses have high temperatures and delicate constitutions alleviates any concern about viruses or germs. ” A horse’s normal body temperature is 99-101 f., only slightly higher than a human’s. Like a human, a horse that spikes a 104-105 fever is in serious danger of dying.

    I wouldn’t argue with the “delicate constitution” part, having nursed various horses through numerous ailments, but is the writer saying that a horse with a virus will undoubtedly die before it can pass it on? Totally not so. They pass germs and viruses to one another very efficiently, so could just as easily pass them to us.

  8. Guy McCardle says:

    Hello Cassandra,

    I think the writer of the promotional material for Placenta Pro was trying to say that since the horses have high temperatures (which they really do not) any pathogenic material would be killed before leaving the body of the horse. This, of course, is ridiculous.

  9. Henk v says:

    Guy,my lustrous blonde mane has started whinneying. Should I sell my hair or ears? I know you have foregone the former. Maybe you could ask a family member?

    The fact that I have recently seen a product…henna and placenta… for hair makes me wonder at what percentage of true dolts we harbour in our society.

    PS did you like my “neuroband pro ™?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Excuse me, guy from somewhere. Didn’t you know that this horse placenta in United States, Thailand, Korea and Russia? and also for your information this product is used by some Hollywood actresses.

    Why don’t you give it a try before making this review or something. K? 🙂

  11. Guy McCardle says:

    Dear Anon,

    I hadn’t read that horse placenta had become popular yet in the US, but I can believe it. As for trying the stuff myself, I don’t think my insides, or my budget, would allow for it.

    Thanks for reading the blog.

    The Inconvenient Truth

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