Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

Shepherd's Purse
Shepherd’s Purse


Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
A small, innocuous powerhouse of a herb, Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)


This humble little plant seems to favour sidewalks by north facing fences around Gawler. To be honest, I’ve never seen it growing anywhere else! This little relative of Mustard is quite distinctive once it’s flowering and the seed pods form. It’s from these that Shepherd’s Purse gets its name.

Apparently waaay back when, Shepherds used to make their coin purses from  the scrotums of  sheep. When made, they had the little ‘love heart’ shape that you can see in the seed pods.

You can eat these seed pods, fresh and green. They make for a tasty forager’s snack.

Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) is one of the classic herbs for bleeding. Whereas Yarrow is for bright red blood that flows easily, Shepherd’s Purse  is for dark blood that oozes and needs stimulation. Interestingly, this herb doesn’t rely on  tannins to stop bleeding, but rather, it stimulates peripheral circulation, moving blood away from the site of loss.


love heart shaped seed pods
The ‘love heart’ shaped seed pods are the main distinguishing feature of Shepherd’s Purse


Shepherd’s Purse is one of the pre-eminent ‘woman’s remedies’. It has a particular affinity for the reproductive organs of women and can be used internally as tea or tincture for heavy bleeding during menstruation, for periods when the blood is thick and dark, or continuous, or when the sufferer seems to go from one period to the next.

In labour, this little herb can help stimulate contractions, expel the afterbirth and slow down post-partum bleeding. For these reasons, Shepherd’s Purse shouldn’t be used during earlier stages of pregnancy and only under experienced supervision later.

Shepherd’s Purse can be used for many types of internal bleeding, blood in the urine and faeces. We can use it for diarrhoea too, especially when there is blood. It can be us safely in all cases where the blood is sluggish and congested, dark blue or black areas of circulation in the extremities.


Shepherd's Purse
Tiny white flowers on the end of the upright stems.


So, next time you take a stroll along your footpath, keep an eye out for tiny Shepherd’s Purses! They won’t make you rich, but could come in handy later.