Shepherd’s Purse / Bourse à Pasteur
Capsella bursa-pastoris (Brassicaea) / Shepherds Purse is also known as pickpocket, witch’s pouches, pepper and salt, mother’s heart, bind weed, casewort and life-preserving plant.
Parts used: The herb consists of the leaves and flowers – harvested together early in it’s flowering period – usually early to mid May.
Habitat: Perennial. The plant is an alien species naturalized across Ontario. It prefers disturbed areas and is most commonly found growing in vacant lots, gardens, ditches, cracks in the sidewalk and etc. It can be difficult to find it growing in an area suitable for harvest. The plant readily self-seeds.
Properties: Anti-inflammatory, astringent, blood pressure normalizer, diuretic, emmenagogue, hemostatic/styptic, urinary antiseptic and vulnerary.
Uses: An herb primarily known for its astringency. It is used externally as a poultice for bruise, sprains, cuts, and scrapes. Excellent to stop bleeding a liquid extract of Shepherds purse was used by medics during World War 1 to staunch bleeding. The plant is well known for it’s affinity with the female reproductive system and has been traditionally used for bleeding after miscarriage, post-partum hemorrhage, and for excessive menstrual flow. The plant can also have a stimulating action on the female reproductive system and can also be used to stimulate menstruation (as long as the person is not pregnant). A member of the Mustard family the mustard oil constituents make it healing to the digestive tract – reducing gas, bloating, and inflammation. Shepherd’s purse increases the excretion of uric acid making it useful for treating gout and other rheumatic conditions. The plant also is useful both externally and internally for the treatment of varicose veins, spider veins, and hemorrhoids.
Preparation/Dosage: Generally used as a decoction/tea or as a tincture. Take 2 tsp of herb per cup of water 3 times a day or 1-2 ml tincture 3 times a day. To reduce heavy menstrual bleeding take ｽ tsp of the tincture every 15 minutes until bleeding slows. Can be used dried although the fresh plant material makes a superior quality tincture.
Safety Considerations: There is confusion in the literature as to whether or not the plant contains oxalic acid. Those with kidney conditions – particularly kidney stones – should avoid using this plant. Best used in combination with other herbs and not for periods longer than 2-3 months. Not for use in pregnancy – use only during labour and then only under the guidance of an experienced practitioner.