Shepherd's Purse

Other Names for Shepherd's Purse: Capsella bursa-pastoris; shepherd's bag, shepherd's sprout; lady's purse; witches' pouches; shepherd's scrip; case weed; rattle pouches; pick-pocket; pick-purse; sanguinary; mother's heart; blindweed

Useful Parts of the Plant: Whole plant

Capsella bursa-pastoris or shepherd's purse is a perennial herb with small heart shaped leaves. The leaves bear a resemblance to the knapsack carried by shepherds and hence its name. The herb begins blooming in April during the spring season and is harvested when their active compounds reach their maximum levels. The harvested herbs are then left to dry in dark places. It has a peculiar pungent odor and a biting taste, similar to other members of the Cruciferae family and is sometimes used as a cooking herb. It also used as an ingredient in bird seed. Poultry that have fed on the seeds have reported to deliver eggs that have a darker and better tasting yolk.

Nutritional Information and Properties

This herb contains a host of compounds like alkaloids, histamine, flavonoids, thiamine, tannins, organic acids, phenols, volatile oils and salts and vitamins. Shepherd's purse has analeptic properties and can regulate blood pressure. It is also a hemostatic herb and a vasoconstrictor and is able to stimulate leukocytosis.

Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses

Shepherd's purse is an important medicinal herb of the Cruciferae family. An infusion made from its dried powdered form is considered by herbalists to be effective in stopping all kinds of hemorrhages. It has been used to treat hemorrhages in the stomach, lungs and uterus and has been found to be particularly effective in cases of kidney bleeding. Its hemostyptic properties are said to equal those of ergot. The infusion has also be used to treat earache. It can be used as a poultice to treat inflammation in the joints and other parts of the body. Its extracts can be made into an ointment and used to apply on wounds. In England, herbalists have long used it to treat diarrhea as well as to stop purging in calves.

The decoction or infusion can be used in cases of hematuria, hemorrhoids, chronic diarrhea and dysentery. Cotton swabs dipped in the infusion and inserted into the nostrils have been used to stop nasal bleeding. Its anti-inflammatory actions are helpful in relieving pain in cases of rheumatism. Lactating women who suffer from swollen breasts have also reported relief after application of the herb. Cases of uterine hemorrhage, especially those with accompanying cramps and colic, also respond well to it.

Shepherd's purse has been used to treat catarrhal conditions of the bladder and the uterus as well as ulcers and abscesses of the bladder. It is a diuretic and helps to increase the flow of urine. It also provides relief in cases where white mucus is present in urine. Its diuretic effect has been useful in treating cases where insoluble phosphates, uric acid or carbonates cause irritation in the urinary tract. It is also known as an effective cure in cases of excessive menstruation with persistent discharge.

The bitter taste of the herb makes it rather unpleasant to drink. This unpleasant taste can be disguised by mixing it with a little 'Spirits of Juniper', 'Pellitory of the Wall' and 'Nitrate of Potash'. The infusion should be made using one ounce of powdered herb and twelve ounces of water, reduced by boiling it to half a pint, then strained and cooled.

It is used in cases of cardiovascular diseases and hypertension because of its ability to regulate blood pressure. It has also been used to alleviate stress and anxiety. In muscular disorders like muscle atrophy it is recommended to drink four cups of shepherd's purse infusion and to also massage the affected areas with it. This treatment is also suitable for hernias.