Shepherds Purse Uses and Benefits

Join Julie Polanco on this episode of Crunchy Christian Podcast as she discusses shepherd’s purse uses and benefits.Join Julie Polanco on this episode of Crunchy Christian Podcast as she discusses shepherd’s purse uses and benefits. Find out how this common weed has been used for centuries to help with many health issues.

Some Facts About Shepherd’s Purse

 

History

Capsella bursa-pastoris, as shepherd’s purse is known in Latin, is native to Europe, but is also found in North America and India. It is a very old plant. Archeologists found shepherd’s purse seeds in the Catal Huyuk site in Turkey (circa 5950 B.C.) during excavation. And, we know the Greeks and Romans used it in their medicines as it was found in the stomach of the Tollund man, dated to that time period. The Tollund man was a bog body recovered from a Danish bog in 1950. Old herbals from the Middle Ages also mention it.

When the Puritans came to America, they obviously knew of shepherd’s purse uses and benefits because they brought it with them to cultivate. They used it as a peppery spice by grinding up the seeds. They also fed it to the chickens to improve their eggs. They didn’t like the dairy cows to eat it, however, because it made the milk taste bad. Shepherd’s purse was also eaten as a spring green, adding a mustard-like peppery taste to salads, much like arugula.

And, of course, Native Americans soon learned of shepherd’s purse uses and benefits. They would roast and grind the seeds to make a bread called pinole. Even up to modern times, natives from Mexico and further south make pinole with maize and mix it with cacao powder to make a “super food.” You can buy it at some ethnic grocery stores, too. Historically, North American natives also used shepherd’s purse for diarrhea, dysentery, stomach cramps, and worms. But, its most popular use was for hemorrhaging, especially in women. It was especially used to help reduce bleeding after giving birth.

Because of its astringent, anti-inflammatory effects, it was also used for nose bleeds, blood in the urine (kidney and bladder stones), hemorrhoids, wounds, and rheumatism. Listen to the podcast to hear some stories about how it was used.

What does it look like?

This is another very common, weedy plant that nearly everyone has seen, but may not even have known it. Like many other weedy plants, the deeply lobed leaves form a rosette close to the ground. Then, the central stalk bears smaller leaves with the characteristic seed pods. The seed pods are small, flat, triangular, and somewhat heart-shaped, like a little purse. The flowers are small and white. Smelling the plant and looking for the distinct seed pods helps greatly with accurate identification.

Shepherd’s Purse Uses and Benefits

Today, the leaves and stems of shepherd’s purse are used as an approved herb in Germany under the Commission E Monographs for use in nosebleeds, superficial skin wounds and bruising, heavy menstrual bleeding, and abnormal uterine bleeding. It is also used in Indian Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine in much the same way as in Germany. Researchers are investigating whether one of shepherd’s purse uses and benefits might be as a biomonitor for pollution and heavy metal contamination.

Nutritionally, it contains flavonoids, potassium, citric acid, and vitamins A and K. This is not surprising, given its traditional uses for bleeding issues.

Safety

This herb has a long history of use with adult women and is generally considered safe.  Use caution if you have a history of kidney stones and do not use during pregnancy.

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