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Shepherd’s Purse


    Scientific Names

    Shepherd's Purse
    • Capsella bursa-pastoris L.
    • Cruciferae
    • Crucifer family

    Common Names

    ivyCasewort
    ivyChi-ts’ai (Chinese name)
    ivyCocowort
    ivyMother’s heart
    ivyPeppergrass
    ivyPermacety
    ivyPickoocker
    ivyPickpocket
    ivyPickpurse
    ivySt. Anthony’s fire
    ivySt. James’ weed
    ivySt. James’ wort
    ivyShepherd’s heart
    ivyShepherd’s pounce
    ivyShepherd’s scrip
    ivyShepherd’s sprout
    ivyToywort
    ivyWhoreman’s permacity
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    Parts Usually Used

    Aerial portions, can be used fresh or dried, except the roots.
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    Description of Plant(s) and Culture

    A ubiquitous, small, annual plant; its erect, simple or branching stem grows from 6-18 inches high above a rosette of basal, gray-green, pinnatifid leaves, often deeply toothed and somewhat hairy, dandelion-like. The root is small, white, and perishes every year. It bears a few small, sessile, dentate leaves along its length; the leaves on the flower stalks have clasping bases. The tiny white flowers grow in terminal, erect, cymes, each blossom has four white, spoon-shaped petals, in many places blooming all year. The fruit is a flattened, heart-shaped or triangular, notched pod, borne on long stalks. Flowers all summer. Taste is like cabbage; odor is unpleasant.
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    Where Found

    Common in fields and waste places, backyards, fields, and along roadsides everywhere. A small but distinctive weed found throughout the United States and much of Canada. Introduced from Europe.
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    Medicinal Properties

    Astringent, antiscorbutic, antiseptic, diuretic, stimulant, styptic, vasoconstrictor, vulnerary
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    Biochemical Information

    Amino-alcohols: choline, acetylcholine, saponins, mustard oil, monoamines, amino-phenol and tyramine; also diosmin, a flavonoid, vitamins A, B, C.
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    Legends, Myths and Stories

    Shepherd’s purse was given this common name because its seed pods resemble an old-fashioned leather purse.

    Nearly every wheat field is full of this herb. It grows over the entire United States. When chewed, the green grass has a very pleasant peppery taste.

    To collect the seed pods for a nutritious meal is unheard of today, but the body-building elements which our fathers of America knew by test and experience still remain. They roasted the seeds and combined with other meal for pinole bread. From one plant 64,000 seeds are shed periodically in one season and can thrive on any soil. The leaves were used raw, or as pot herbs like spinach.

    Eaten as food by many of the poor people of China. It is both wild and cultivated there.

    This plant is still considered by most people to be a weed.
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    Uses

    An extract of shepherd’s purse is an effective blood coagulant which can be used for internal or external bleeding, including nosebleeds, blood tonic, colon trouble, bed wetting, hemorrhoids, venereal disease, malaria, typhus, lung tuberculosis, bleeding ulcers, stomach troubles, helps relieve pain, bleeding from the lungs, piles, profuse menstruation, kidney complaints, fever, jaundice, and hemorrhage after childbirth. Used as a compress for cuts and wounds especially of the head. An infusion of the dried herb can also be used. It acts to constrict the blood vessels and thus to raise blood pressure, but it has been said to regularize blood pressure and heart action whether the pressure is high or low. It is effective too for various menstrual problems, including excessive and difficult menstruation. It is sometimes used to promote uterine contractions during childbirth and can promote bowel movements with a similar effect on the intestines. Tea is used for diarrhea, dysentery; and externally as a wash for bruises. It is used in genito-urinary problems, difficult urination, and post-partum bleeding (after child bearing) and to improve eyesight.

    It has mustard-flavored leaves and can be added to salads.
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    Formulas or Dosages

    For drying, best collected in summer when partly in fruit and dried quickly.

    Do not keep shepherd’s purse longer than a year.

    Infusion: steep 1 tsp. fresh or 2 tsp. dried herb in 1/2 cup water for 30 minutes. Take cold, 1 cup a day, not to exceed 2 cups per day, unsweetened, a mouthful at a time. Also a good remedy for diarrhea.

    Decoction: add 2 oz. of shepherd’s purse to 1-1/2 pints of water, slowly boil the mixture down to 1 pint. Strain and take cold, 1 cup 4 or 5 times a day until results are obtained.

    Cold extract: soak 3 tsp. fresh herb in 3/4 cup cold water for 8-10 hours. Take in the course of a day.

    Juice: take a tsp. of the juice several times a day.

    Tincture: take 20-40 drops, 2-3 times a day.
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    Nutrient Content

    Potassium and calcium, vitamins A, B, C.
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    Warning

    Seeds are known to cause blistering of skin.

    Avoid the herb in pregnancy, except during labor, because it stimulates uterine contractions.

    If there is a sudden change in menstrual flow or blood in urine, seek professional advice before attempting self-medication.

    This herb raises blood pressure. Avoid if Hypertensive.
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    Bibliography

    Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

    Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

    Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

    Buy It! Culpeper's Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

    Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

    Buy It! The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1988, fifth printing, 1994

    Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

    Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

    Buy It! The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

    Buy It! Secrets of the Chinese Herbalists, by Richard Lucas, Parker Publishing Company, Inc., West Nyack, NY, 1987.

    Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

    Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

    Buy It! American Folk Medicine/i>, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

    Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

    Buy It! Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

    Buy It! How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, by Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, first printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1928, this Dover edition 1974

    Buy It! An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

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