Shepherd's purse is an edible weed and medicinal herb. It's been used for centuries in herbal medicine, mainly to help with conditions associated with heavy or excessive bleeding.
The name "shepherd's purse" comes from the heart-shaped seedpods the plant develops, which resembled the purses or pouches shepherds used in the Middle Ages. The herb itself was used for many maladies including diarrhea, internal bleeding, and hemorrhaging after childbirth.
Here's more about this fascinating herb and the main benefits of shepherd's purse.
What Is Shepherd's Purse?
Shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) is a plant that belongs to the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Other plants in the same family include mustard greens, cabbage, broccoli, and other brassicas.
Originally native to Europe, shepherd's purse now happily grows in many countries and climates. In most countries it's considered a common weed, and you'll find it in waste areas, roadsides, and in areas of disturbed soil.
Shepherd's purse is a biennial and has two distinct stages of growth. When plants first emerge from the ground (typically in early spring), they form a small rosette. The rosette leaves are similar in appearance to those of dandelion and can be eaten as salad or cooked greens.
The second stage of growth is a flower stalk that comes up out of the center of the rosette. Flowers are small, white, and have four petals. They eventually produce the seedpods after which the plant is named.
After shepherd's purse flowers, the leaves can still be eaten but will become tougher and stronger in flavor. All the above-ground (also known as aerial) parts of the herb can be used either fresh or dried.
Top Benefits of Shepherd's Purse
Helps Heavy Menstrual Cycles
Shepherd's purse is most known for its ability to slow heavy or excessive bleeding. It's frequently used alone or as part of an herbal formula to help women with heavy bleeding during their menstrual cycles.
It can also be helpful for longer than normal menstrual cycles, and many women report that it helps with cramping and painful periods as well. Because heavy cycles can be caused by fibroids, endometriosis, or hormone imbalance, you'll likely want to get to the root cause of the problem, but shepherd's purse can be very useful as a uterine tonic in the meantime.
For heavy menstrual bleeding, shepherd's purse is typically used as a tea or tincture. You can try it out for yourself in this Menstrual Melody tea.
Slows Postpartum Bleeding
Although it may be used most often in modern times for heavy menstrual cycles, shepherd's purse can help to slow or stop any type of uterine bleeding.
One action of shepherd's purse listed in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia is 'anti-haemorrhagic'. It's specifically cited as being used for uterine hemorrhage that can happen postpartum and potentially cause severe problems. (1)
There have been few studies done on shepherd's purse (mainly because the issues it's used for are difficult or unethical to reproduce for study), but one conducted in 2017 did show that an extract of shepherd's purse effectively reduced postpartum bleeding. (2)
Both groups in the study were given an infusion of oxytocin (a hormone commonly used to slow bleeding after giving birth) and either the shepherd's purse extract or a placebo. The group that took the extract had significantly less bleeding than the placebo group.
May Help With Inflammation
One of these studies was conducted in Korea, one of many Asian nations where shepherd's purse is considered a health food. They get many of the medicinal benefits automatically by treating the plant as a food source.
The anti-inflammatory properties of shepherd's purse could explain why it has been used to help with painful as well as heavy menstrual cycles and other painful complaints like rheumatism. It's one of many herbs that can be used for natural pain relief. (1)
Helps Wound Healing
Shepherd's purse has also traditionally been used externally for wounds and bleeding. The leaves can be picked and used as is to staunch a bleeding wound. Or they can be crushed and made into a poultice to put over bruises and strains.
Another practical use for shepherd's purse is to help stop nose bleeds, especially those that are excessive or won't stop with other methods.
Prevents Loss of Fluids
Much of the attention given to shepherd's purse focuses on bleeding. There's good reason for this, but it can also help stop the loss of other bodily fluids. (1)
It's been traditionally used for diarrhea and even fevers, specifically to prevent too much water loss. Shepherd's purse has been used for urinary and bladder infections as well, especially those accompanied by blood in the urine.
How to Use Shepherd's Purse
While you can probably find shepherd's purse growing around you in the wild, it's most frequently used in the dried form. However, if you do find some, both leaves and flowers can be eaten fresh or lightly steamed.
For internal issues, the dried herb is made into a tea or a tincture. A few cups of the tea can be consumed in a day. Tincture dosing is dependent on strength of the tincture itself and severity of the problem.
Shepherd's purse has a strong flavor, so you may wish to add other herbs in to make it more tasty. For heavy menstrual cycles and cramping, you can try shepherd's purse blended synergistically with other herbs in this herbal tea.
For external use, the leaves are used as a warm poultice or as is to stop bleeding.
Shepherd's purse is a very safe herb but is not recommended for use during pregnancy. It can, in rare cases, cause an allergic reaction like any other food or herb, so start with a small dose to see how you react.
Because shepherd's purse is known to slow bleeding, there's a possibility it might interfere with blood-thinning medication. Speak with a qualified practitioner before taking it if you are using any medications.
Shepherd's Purse for Relief
Shepherd's purse can be a great herbal ally for women. It can help with a heavy menstrual cycle and slow postpartum bleeding. This herb has also traditionally been used to help diarrhea, nosebleeds, wounds, and more.
If you could use any of its benefits, give shepherd's purse a try!