Shepard's Purse

Capsella bursa-pastoris


Shepherd's purse is a common, rather insignificant-looking weed that is actually a powerful blood coagulant and vasoconstrictor with a special affinity for women. Also known as “mothers' hearts” because of the shape of its seed pods, shepherd's purse is carried by midwives as a remedy for postpartum hemorrhage. It grows all over the world, except the tropics.

Shepherd's purse stops both internal and external bleeding. I use it on cuts by applying a piece of cotton cloth soaked in 10 drops of fresh shepherd's purse tincture diluted in ¼ cup of water. I've also poulticed wounds with the fresh herb. Grandmothers stopped nosebleeds and excessive menstruation by eating the freshly gathered herb or taking 20-30 drops of tincture.

Midwives use shepherd's purse as a labor stimulant, when necessary. They say that a hot cup of fresh shepherd's purse tea, or a cup of hot water with 20 drops of fresh plant tincture, helps get things going again if contractions are stalled. Mothers use shepherd's purse after delivery to prevent excessive bleeding. Midwives use it to stop hemorrhage.

WARNING! Because of its uterine-stimulating properties, shepherd's purse must be used only when needed during pregnancy.

Chinese herbalists use the seeds of shepherd's purse to improve eyesight, and consider the aerial parts nourishing for the spleen. They separate out shepherd's purse's tiny white flowers to use against dysentery and uterine bleeding. Mohican use shepherd's purse seed pods to remedy stomach troubles and to rid themselves of worms. Chippewa drink an infusion of the whole plant against stomach cramps, dysentery and diarrhea. Menominee relieve the itch of poison ivy with shepherd's purse infusion.

Borsa del pastore is found growing along roadsides, paths and uncultivated land throughout Southern Italia and is especially abundant in my little garden there. The plant’s anti-hemorrhaging qualities are the basis of its use. An infusion of the dried plant was sipped by women after childbirth to prevent uterine bleeding. It’s been employed to check excessive menstrual flow, as an astringent and a diuretic.

Shepherd's purse is a urinary antiseptic, helpful when dealing with an ulcerated or abscessed bladder or urethra - 20 drops of tincture two to four times daily is the usual recommended dose. Shepherd's purse also increases the flow of urine and helps tone and strengthen the kidneys. It is indicated when there is a white mucous discharge with the urine.

Shepherd's purse contains saponins, mustard oil, flavonoids, vitamins A, B and C, sitosterol, choline, acetylcholine, monoamines and resin.

Flower Essence Shepherd's purse flower essence is for the person who gives too much of themselves without compensation or reciprocity.

Magical Lore Shepherd’s purse is sacred to Frigga, Norse Goddess of Love and of Beginnings, Mother Night, Queen of the Gods. The skills Frigga taught to the Nordic and Germanic peoples include agriculture; spinning and weaving; growing herbs and making medicines; management of family and community funds; raising children and midwifery; literature and mathematics. Carry shepherd’s purse in a magical bag or create a talisman to enhance any of these skills.

Culture Shepherd's purse plants flourish in rich or poor soil, forming a small, green rosette of deeply toothed leaves. Stalks rise up covered with tiny white flowers followed by wedge-shaped seed pods. The aerial parts of the plant are used. It has a peppery bite and is a delicious addition to any summer salad.

I gather shepherd's purse in spring and early summer and tincture immediately in alcohol or put up in vinegar. Dried, shepherd's purse loses its medicinal virtues. 

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