Annual or biennial with an erect stem, rosette of basal leaves, 4-petaled white flowers, and heart-shaped seed pods.
Habitat & Cultivation
Thought to be native to Europe and Asia, shepherd’s purse is now found throughout most temperate regions, and grows profusely as a weed. It is harvested throughout the year.
Contains flavonoids, polypeptides, choline, acetylcholine, histamine, and tyramine.
History & Folklore
This herb’s name derives from the appearance of the seed pods, which resemble heart-shaped purses. During the First World War, when the standard herbal medicines for staunching blood—goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and ergot (Claviceps purpurea)—were unobtainable in Britain, shepherd’s purse was used as an alternative.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
One of the best remedies for preventing or arresting hemorrhage, shepherd’s purse has long been a specific treatment for heavy uterine bleeding. While weaker-acting in this respect than ergot, shepherd’s purse has none of ergot’s toxicity and is better tolerated by the body. It may be used for bleeding of all kinds—from nosebleeds to blood in the urine. An astringent herb, it disinfects the urinary tract in cases of cystitis, and is taken for diarrhea. It is used in Chinese medicine to treat dysentery and eye problems.
Reports suggest that the plant is anti-inflammatory and reduces fever.
Do not take during pregnancy.