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Shepherd's Purse

(Capsella bursa-pastoris)

Other Names:

None known

Range:

Family:

Brassicaceae Mustard family

Identifying characteristics:

Growth Type:

A weedy herbaceous annual

Height:

Can grow up to a foot and a half tall.

Leaves:

The deeply lobed leaves grow in a basal rosette. Some might mistake them for that of dandelion, but that is only at first glance. The teeth of dandelion leaves are sharp and angled back toward the base of the leaf, while the lobes of shepherd's purse are opposite and point out from the stem. The leaves which grow from the stem are lanced shaped, arranged alternately, and partly grasping.

Stem/Trunk:

The single erect stem grows from the center of the plant.

Root:

Thin taproot

Flower:

Season:

Late spring to early summer. However, depending upon climate, this plant can flower anytime throughout the year.

Appearance:

Loose racemes of small (approximately 1/10 in across), white, four petaled, 6 stamened flowers.

Seed/Fruit:

The heart shaped seed pods, reminiscent of a purse, which is where the plant received it's common name, appear shortly after the flowers.

Miscellaneous characteristics:

Related to the the same plant family as broccoli, cabbage, and mustard, Shepherd's Purse has been used all over the world as a food source for millennia. C bursa-pastoris is native to eastern Europe and Asia minor. It has become naturalized just about everywhere in the world.

Habitat:

Disturbed soil, in un-mowed meadows and lawns, and along roadsides and trails.

Parts Used:

Young Leaves, Seed Pods

Uses:

Wild Food Uses:

Add young leaves to salads, or use as a cooked green. Older leaves become too bitter for most people to tolerate. The seeds are said to have a peppery taste, and can be added to food as a peppery seasoning, but I have not tried this.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:

Prior to World War I, it was used in mainstream medical practice in Britain and The United States as a remedy for uterine bleeding. C. bursa-pastoris today is considered by many herbalists to be one of the best herbs for stopping bleeding of any kind, both internally, and externally. Studies have shown it to be effective in the treatment of internal bleeding of the stomach, lungs, kidneys, and urinary tract It is a popular ingredient in many topical herbal preparations used to treat minor cuts and scrapes. It is often given to aid women who suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding and other uterine problems. Shepherd's purse has been shown to be a strong uterine contractor, and as such should not be used by pregnant women except during delivery. There is historic evidence that this plant was used by women to induce abortion via miscarriage.

Medicinal Actions:

Emmenagogue, Haemostatic, Oxytocic, Uterine-Tonic

Capsella bursa-pastoris (Shepherd's Purse), flowering and fruiting plants at an urban roadside.

Photographed by Eike Wulfmeyer, 2004-MAY-22, Cologne (Germany)

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Revised: 05/09/17 Living Afield