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Capsella bursa-pastoris

Shepherd's Purse has become quite a world-citizen: it can be found in just about any patch of land, whether cultivated garden or abandoned wasteland throughout all temperate regions outside the tropics. An herb of the mustard family, Shepherds Purse has typical little white 4 petaled flowers, which turn into tiny heart-shaped pods. When the seeds are ripe they have a fiery bite that can be utilised as a 'wild pepper'. In times gone by it was a much valued remedy, but it is rarely used today. Native North Americans absorbed this herb into their material medica and adapted it to their own uses.

Shepherd's Purse is strongly astringent and has successfully been used as a styptic for internal and external bleeding. During World War I, when other commonly used styptics such as Ergot and Golden Seal became unavailable, Shepherd's Purse was used as a replacement, and apparently with good success. It can be used for inner bleeding e.g. from the lungs or stomach. It is also considered diuretic and anti-inflammatory and can thus be helpful in cases of bladder inflammation. Old herbals recommend it as an aid for women during menopause. Today it is still occasionally used to reduce excessive menstrual flow as well as diarrhoea and dysentery. Native Americans used it to kill and expel intestinal worms, to soothe stomach aches, cramps and dysentery and as a lotion to heal the stings of Poison Ivy. Culpeper also recommends the juice as an application for earache and tinnitus.

Shepherds Purse was used as a protective charm against bleeding. The seeds were used as an amulet for teething children. Eating the seeds of the first three Shepherd's Purse plants one sees is said to protect against all manner of diseases for the rest of the year.

Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.