Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

Shepherd's Purse

Common names: Shepherd’s Purse

Taxonomic name: Capsella bursa-pastoris

Family: Brassicaceae

Uses: food, wound healing, stops bleeding, menstrual and post-partum issues

Area of origin: Eurasia

Warnings: caution during pregnancy

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 seed pods that Shepherd’s Purse gets its name.

Apparently w-a-a-a-y 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 and Shepherd’s Purse is popular in Asia as an ingredient in several traditional dishes.

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

Love heart shaped seed pods are the distinguishing feature
Heart shaped fruit are the 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.

Hairy leaves with a small leaf in the larger leaf's axil
Leaves are hairy, alternate, with a small leaf in the larger leaf’s axil.

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.

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