Thursday, May 23, 2013


Shepherd's Purse: Capsella Bursa-Pastoris

Also known as Mother's Heart, blind weed, St. James weed, lady's purse, shepherd's bag, witches pouches, St. Anthony's fire, case weed, shepherd's sprouts, rattle pouches, pepper grass, etc.

Parts used:  entire plant

Meridians/Organs affected:  blood, liver, stomach and uterus

Properties:  hemostatic, mild astringent, mild stimulant, anti-hemorrhagic, detergent, vulnerary, urinary antiseptic, antipyretic

Shepherd's Purse is in the mustard family and orginated in Europe.  It can be found readily all over the globe now-usually along roadsides, moist areas, sidewalks, gardens, lawns, ditches and waste places.

The basal rosettes are often mistaken for dandelion although they are a bit smaller in size.  The flowers are white and the seed pods resemble small heart shaped pouches often containing several seeds each.

It rarely gets larger than 2 feet in height and the leaves have a peppery type flavor.  It is best gathered between April and September from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. when it is as its most medicinal.

Shepherd's Purse is another herb included in Dioscorides "De Materia Medica".  European herbalists have used it for centuries as a tea to stop internal bleeding and hemorrhaging.  In fact, this is what it is renowned for the most.  The alcoholic extract (tincture) of fresh shepherd's purse is very effective in stopping hemorrhaging and bleeding, heavy menses, bleeding from endometriosis, etc.  Midwives have used it the world over for the birthing processes to great effect, often when other medicinals fail.

Shepherd's Purse has also been used for cystitis, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, nosebleeds, edema, bleeding lungs, fevers, kidney issues, diarrhea, bloody urine, urinary infections, earaches (as a strong decoction-then used as drops), headaches and stomach cramps (as an infusion).  It is typically used during childbirth (often combined with yarrow) to stop bleeding and to aid in the delivery of the afterbirth as it stimulates the muscles of the uterus to contract (just like oxytocin does but without harmful side effects).

The National Cancer Institute believes shepherd's purse may prevent cancer.  In animal based studies, the extract has been shown to fight chemically induced inflammation, speed the healing of stress-induced ulcers, lower blood pressure, increase urination, stimulate smooth muscles (i.e. uterus and intestines) and inhibit quivering contractions of the heart (ventricular fibrillation).  It has also been used successfully in cases of uterine and bladder prolapse.  (There are some instances where women with such issues tried taking shepherd's purse tincture and within a few hours to a few days they were completely well again and the organs had been moved back into their normal places.  One woman also included yoga and reflexology in her regimen and another woman drank a tea consisting of uva ursi, couch grass, corn silk, buchu, horsetail and shepherd's purse as well as doing Pilates and Kegel exercises.  Her doctor was amazed at her improvement and recovery).  It is clear that shepherd's purse is amazing in its ability to heal, however, it should be noted that exercise was included in almost all of these incidences and is as equally beneficial to the healing processes of the body.  Try both things at the same time and see how it works for you. 

During the first world war the German's used shepherd's purse to stop bleeding in their wounded.  A case history also told of a man with bloody urine.  His doctor told him it was from weak blood vessels in his prostrate.  He began taking shepherd's purse which stopped the bleeding, and bilberry to strengthen the blood vessels.  He had no more recurring issues after that.

It has also been used for high blood pressure combined with hawthorn and lime blossoms. (If you are already on medications for this issue please consult your physician before trying this on your own as some medications and herbs don't mix well).

As it is part of the Brassica family, it is also an edible.  It is rich in vitamins A, B and C.  It also contains lots of vitamin K (so if you are on blood thinners you will want to avoid this plant), omega 3 fatty acids, etc.  The young leaves have been used in salads, soups and stews.  It is said to taste somewhat like cabbage or turnips.  (I have always found it pleasant tasting myself).  It can be eaten as a spinach substitute.  The seeds can be sprouted for salads and sandwiches.  Some indian tribes would crush the seed pods, remove the chaff (called winnowing), parch the seeds ad then grind them into flour to be used in breads or mush (usually combined with other grains as flour).  The gray ash left from burning the plant is high in sodium, potassium and other salts and has been used as a salt substitute in dishes.

DO NOT USE THIS PLANT IF PREGNANT AS IT STIMULATES UTERINE CONTRACTIONS!  Use gloves when handling the seeds as some people have experienced blistering when handling them.

As is customary I have included some links below for your benefit.  Please use them as you see fit.  Live healthy and be happy!  :)  (ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS-I LOVE IT!)

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