What is Shepherd’s Purse?
Shepherd’s purse, so known because of its triangular flat fruit that resemble a purse, is an annual flowering plant belonging to the mustard family. Known scientifically as Capsella bursa pastoris, the plant is native to parts of eastern Europe and Anatolia. It has since become naturalized to many other regions of the world and is regarded as a common type of weed. These days it can be found across the Mediterranean, North America, China and North Africa.
Unlike the majority of flowering plants, shepherd’s purse actually flowers for just about the entire year. The plant grows from a rosette of leaves at its base. The stem can grow up to half a meter in height and produces small, white flowers with 4 petals.
Despite being regarded as a weed, the plant may also have a number of other uses. It is gathered in the wild to supplement fed for animals but is also harvested for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. In parts of China, the herb is used as an ingredient in stir-fries, rice cakes and especially for Chinese dumplings. The roots of the plant are also used as a culinary ingredient in South Korea.
In terms of its medicinal uses, shepherd’s purse has traditionally been consumed in tea or tincture form or in creams and ointments to treat the skin.
A Little Bit of History
The use of shepherd’s purse is certainly not a new thing. In fact, its use can be traced all the way back to the Ancient Greeks and Roman Empire where it was typically used as a natural laxative. During the 17th century, it was discovered that the plant could help stem excessive bleeding which saw a rise in its popularity. The early pilgrims brought shepherd’s purse to the colonies where they allowed it to grow and made use of its medicinal qualities.
Throughout the ages, shepherd’s purse has been used to stem bleeding from a variety of sources including wounds and nosebleeds. It has also been used as a remedy for women who want to decrease the flow of blood during their menstrual cycles. The use of the plant continued until the First world war where injured soldiers were given a shepherd’s purse tea to help heal wounds and prevent excess bleeding.
Medicinal Properties and Constituents
Shepherd’s purse contains saponins, flavonoids, mustard oil, choline and acetylcholine among its main chemical components. As regards its medicinal properties, the herb is astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue and febrifuge in nature. It has several medical applications but is mostly used to stem bleeding and by women following child birth.
The herb is actually a vasodilator but also helps hasten the coagulation and constriction of blood.
The herb also contains a type of protein which works in a similar way to the human hormone – oxytocin. It helps constrict those smooth muscles which surround and support the blood vessels, especially those of the uterus.
Uses of Shepherd’s Purse
1) To Stop Nose Bleeds
According to many pieces of anecdotal evidence, shepherd’s purse can help stem the flow of blood from a nose bleed better than any other single treatment. This is good news for anybody with rough and tumble children that are forever bumping themselves.
The best way to use the herb for a nose bleed is to use the liquid from a shepherd’s purse tea. To make the tea, use between 2 and 3 teaspoons of the dried herb and cover with boiling water. Let it steep for about 10 minutes. Take a cotton ball and dip it into your tea. Squeeze out any excess liquid and insert the ball into the nostril to stem the flow of blood.
2) For Bleeding Following Child Birth
A large percentage of women develop significant bleeding problems after giving birth. Shepherd’s purse is an extremely effective natural remedy to stem the flow of blood and also to help tone up the uterus. Again start by making a large quantity of shepherd’s purse tea.
To make a liter of tea, use 4 heaped teaspoons or so of the herb and ad boiled water. Cover your container and allow the tea to steep for a good 30 minutes before straining out the herbs and letting it cool well. Drink your whole liter of tea throughout the course of a day in divided amounts.
You should see fairly dramatic and immediate results. Repeat the treatment the following day and possibly even for a third. It is unlikely that you will need to continue the treatment any longer as the bleeding should have stopped.
3) For Minor Wounds and Bites
In the same way that shepherd’s purse can stem the flow of a nose bleed, it can also be applied to other parts of the body to help stop bleeding. Of course, if you have a major wound, you should visit the emergency room as soon as possible but for a minor wound, bite, scrape or graze, shepherd’s purse is an excellent remedy.
In fact, many people think that shepherd’s purse should be a part of every person’s emergency kit. This is especially true if you have boisterous children prone to scrapes and cuts.
Again use a tea made with the dried herb and either apply it to the wound with a cotton ball or use it to make a cold compress that you can simply hold against the wound until the bleeding has stopped.
How To Use Shepherd’s Purse
As a Tea: The most popular way to get the most from the plant is to drink it as a tea.
To stem the flow of blood or to help induce labor, you should add a teaspoon or so of the dried herb for each cup of hot, boiling water. Allow your tea to steep for at least 10 minutes before straining the herb out.
You can safely drink at least two cups of shepherd’s herb tea each day.
I will be honest here and admit that shepherd’s herb tea is not the most pleasant tasting tea in the world. You may need to add a few ingredients to make the stuff more palatable. A good quality honey will help and many people enjoy it with a slice of lemon. It is also possible to add a little shepherd’s purse to your regular herbal teas to add even more benefits.
Shepherd’s purse is also available in the form of a tincture which can be taken internally or used topically to help heal wounds, burns or hemorrhoids.
Side Effects And Safety Concerns
- Shepherd’s purse is not toxic and is generally thought to be safe to use in moderate doses. Despite that, there are certain precautions that it is important to be aware of.
- Shepherd’s purse can stimulate uterine contractions so pregnant women should only use the herb under professional supervision.
- Do not try to treat major wounds yourself. While shepherd’s purse may help stem the bleeding from more minor injuries, you should seek medical advice for anything more severe.
- Shepherd’s purse may also cause the blood to clot. If you are currently taking a blood thinning drug or have a history of heart attack, do not use this herbal remedy.
Have you ever used shepherd’s purse to stop a nose bleed, heal a wound or any other reason. How did it work for you. Please let us know by adding your comment,