The fruits of shepherd’s purse resemble the purse of shepherds in ancient times, and this fact is what has given the plant its name. Honoring what its name represents—a purse with which one travels—this plant is one of the most widely known. It is found along the coast and at 2000 meters high, in the mountains, both in cold climates of central and northern Europe, and in tropical areas of the Americas and Asia.
It is regarded as a native of the Mediterranean countries; however, the ability of its seeds to travel and adapt to any soil has made this plant one of the most widespread in the world.
Shepherd’s Purse Scientific Facts
- Other names – Cocowort, pick-pocket, St. James weed, shepherd’s heart, toywort.
- Scientific name – Capsella bursa-pastoris L.
- French – Bourse a pasteur.
- Spanish – Bolsa de pastor.
- Environment – Spread worldwide, it is more common on farmed lands (it is regarded to be a weed), roadsides, and along old walls.
- Description – Annual plant of the Cruciferae family, growing up to 50 cm high. This plant’s leaves grow in the form of a rose near the soil, and it has small, white flowers. The fruit is triangle-shaped, flat, and has a slightly salty flavor.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally – The whole plant.
The whole plant contains biogenic amines (choline, acetylcholine, and tyramine, among others), which act on the autonomic nervous system, producing contraction of arterioles, the uterus, the intestine, and other hollow organs. Its properties are the following:
- Hemostatic – (Stops hemorrhages). The substances this plant contains contract small bleeding arteries. Moreover, shepherd’s purse is rich in flavonoids of the diosmin type (an active component of several pharmaceutical preparations), which increases the endurance of the capillary walls and promotes returning venous blood flow.
- Oxytocic – It contracts the uterus and collapses blood vessels which cause bleeding in its interior.
- Digestive tract invigorating – Shepherd’s purse caused the intestines to recover their muscular tone and peristaltic contractions (which make the intestinal bolus progress inside the intestine).
Because of these interesting therapeutic properties, shepherd’s purse is a valued plant, useful for diverse diseases, as we note here:
- Uterine hemorrhages (metrorrhagia) – This is a crucial application since it stops both too abundant menstruation in some teenagers, which appears soon after their first menstruation (menarche), and uterine bleeding, which sometimes occurs in menopause. That is to say, shepherd’s purse is suitable for both mother and daughter. However, we have to remark that it is necessary to undergo a gynecological examination to be sure that the causes of these disorders do not include tumors, anatomic alterations, or other uterine causes of bleeding.
- Epistaxis (nose bleeding) – In this case, it can be locally applied besides taking an infusion of this plant for some days. The method consists in using a noseplug soaked in the infusion into the bleeding nostril. It can also be applied to skin wounds and bleeding sores.
- Labor acceleration for uterine atony or weakness. Its action is similar to ergotamine and alkaloid extracted from the rye ergot but with fewer side effects.
- Intestinal atony – Shepherd’s purse is helpful to combat intestinal atony produced during convalescence from fever or infectious disease and for the frequent cases of constipation caused by intestinal laziness.
- Low blood pressure – It is recommended for those people suffering from low blood pressure and skinny women.
This plant’s small amount of tyramine and other biogenic amines causes a mild vasoconstrictor and hypertensive effect. People suffering from arterial hypertension (high blood pressure) must control blood pressure every day to be treated with this plant.
How to use Shepherd’s Purse
- Infusion with 30 to 60 grams of plant per liter of water, steeping for 10 minutes. Drink from three to five cups daily, not at mealtime. In the cases of menstrual disorders, this infusion must be first taken a week before the day menstruation is expected to occur.
- Compresses soaked in the same infusion used internally.
- Gauze packing, soaked in the infusion mentioned above, especially for nose bleeds.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 628, 629. Print.