Shepherd’s Purse

Enrico Blasutto at it.wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Capsella bursa-pastoris-Shepherds Purse

Family: Cruciferae or Brassicaceae

Other names: Thlaspi bursa-pastoris, Bursa abscissa, Bursa druceana, Capsella concava,

Habitat: A common plant growing in many parts of the world. Arable land, gardens, waste places etc, it is a common weed of cultivated soil.

Signs of toxicity are sedation, pupil enlargement and breathing difficulty. Avoid if on treatments for high blood pressure. hazardsmallAvoid with thyroid gland disorders or heart disease. Possible addictive sedative effects with other depressants (e.g. Alcohol). Avoid during pregnancy.

Shepherds purse is little used in medical herbalism, though it is a commonly used domestic remedy, being especially efficacious in the treatment of both internal and external bleeding, diarrhoea etc. Shepherds Purse Tea made from the whole plant is antiscorbutic, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, haemostatic, hypotensive, oxytocic, stimulant, vasoconstrictor, vasodilator and vulnerary. A tea made from the dried herb is considered to be a sovereign remedy against haemorrhages of all kinds – the stomach, the lungs, the uterus and more especially the kidneys.  Clinical trials on the effectiveness of this plant as a wound herb have been inconclusive. It appears that either it varies considerably in its effectiveness from batch to batch, or perhaps a white fungus that is often found on the plant contains the medically active properties. The plant has been ranked 7th amongst 250 potential anti-fertility plants in China. It has proven uterine-contracting properties and is traditionally used during childbirth. The plant is a folk remedy for cancer – it contains fumaric acid which has markedly reduced growth and viability of Ehrlich tumour in mice. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh plant. It is used in the treatment of nose bleeds and urinary calculus. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Capsella bursa-pastoris Shepherds Purse for nose bleeds, premenstrual syndrome, wounds & burns.

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Description of Shepherds Purse:

Capsella bursa-pastoris; Shepherd’s Purse is a ANNUAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.1 m (0ft 4in). 
It is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jan to December, and the seeds ripen from Jan to December. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Self.The plant is self-fertile. 
It is noted for attracting wildlife. 

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Cultivation of Shephards Purse:

Shepherds Purse plant flourishs in most soils. They will grow even in the poorest of soils, though in such a situation the plants might only reach a few centimetres tall before they flower and set seed. In rich soils plants will take longer to go to seed and will grow up to 60cm tall. Shepherds Purse weed is a very common garden weed that can spread freely in cultivated ground. It is usually in flower and producing seed in all months of the year. This species is a prime example of how a plant can be viewed as an annoying weed in some areas of the world whilst in others it is actually cultivated for its wide range of uses . The plant is extensively cultivated in some areas of the world as a cabbage-flavoured spring greens, in Japan Shepherds Purse herb is one of the essential ingredients of a ceremonial rice and barley gruel that is eaten on January 7th . The leaves grow rather larger under cultivation, they can be harvested about a month after sowing and can be treated as a cut and come again crop . They do run to seed fairly rapidly, however, especially in hot dry weather or when in poor soils. A member of the cabbage family, it is a host plant for many diseases of Brassicas. Birds are very fond of the seeds of shepherd’s purse.

Propagation of Shepherd’s Purse:

Seed – sow in situ February to May. Seed can also be sown as late as mid autumn. A common weed of disturbed ground, the plant does not normally need any help to maintain itself.

Collection: The herb can be collected from February until October. The plant can be used fresh or dried, for drying it is harvested in the summer. The dried herb quickly loses its effectiveness and should not be stored for more than a year.

Culinary uses of Shephard’s Purse:

Edible Parts: Leaves, Oil, Seed.
Edible Uses: Condiment,  Oil.

Leaves – raw or cooked. The young leaves, used before the plant comes into flower, make a fine addition to salads. The leaves are a cress and cabbage substitute, becoming peppery with age. Leaves are usually available all year round, though they can also be dried for later use. The leaves contain about 2.9% protein, 0.2% fat, 3.4% carbohydrate, 1% ash. They are rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C. A zero moisture basis analysis is available. The young flowering shoots can be eaten raw or cooked. They are rather thin and fiddly but the taste is quite acceptable. They can be available at most times of the year. Seed – raw or cooked. It can be ground into a meal and used in soups etc. It is very fiddly to harvest and utilize, the seed is very small. The seed contains 35% of a fatty oil. This oil can be extracted and is edible. The seedpods can be used as a peppery seasoning for soups and stews. The fresh or dried root is a ginger substitute.


Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.

Leaves (Dry weight)

  • 280 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 35.6g; Fat: 4.2g; Carbohydrate: 44.1g; Fibre: 10.2g; Ash: 16.1g;
  • Minerals – Calcium: 1763mg; Phosphorus: 729mg; Iron: 40.7mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 3939mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins – A: 21949mg; Thiamine (B1): 2.12mg; Riboflavin (B2): 1.44mg; Niacin: 3.4mg; B6: 0mg; C: 305mg;
Shephard's_Purse,Capsella-Bursa-pastoris_Medicinal uses of Shepherds Purse:

Actions: Astringent, diuretic, anti-inflammatory.

Part Used: Aerial parts.

Indications: Shepherds Purse is an easily recognized plant and may be used wherever a gently diuretic is called for, for instance in water retention due to kidney problems. As an astringent it will prove effective in the treatment of diarrheawoundsnose bleeds, and other conditions. It has specific use in the stimulation of the menstrual process whilst also being of use in the reduction of excess flow. That is to say it eases heavy menstrual flow.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “mild relaxing and gently stimulating to the kidneys and urinary tract: relieves atonic and catarrhal conditions, and controls hemorrhages. Tonic to the pelvic organs. Especially indicated when the urine is heavy with phosphatic and `brick dust ‘sediments” They give the following specific indications: vesico-renal irritations from atonic states. Enuresis. Passive capillary hemorrhages, functional menorrhagiableeding fibroid tumorsmetrorrhagia. Congestive leucorrhoea. Internal hemorrhage of lungs and bowels, recurrent epistaxis. Hemorrhoids.

Ellingwood recommends it for the following pathologies: hæmaturiapassive hemorrhagechronic menorrhagiaintestinal hemorrhagegastric hemorrhageatonic dyspepsiadiarrheadysentarybleeding piles. Externally may be applied to bruised or strained musclesrheumatic joints.

Combinations: Combines well with Agrimony, Cranesbill or Periwinkle

Preparations & Dosage of Shepherds Purse:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 1- minutes. If it is used for menstrual conditions, it should be drunk every 2-3 hours during and just before the period. Otherwise drink it three times a day.

Tincture: take 1-2ml of the tincture three times a day.

 Other uses of Shepherds Purse:

Insecticide,  Oil,  Soil reclamation.

The seed, when placed in water, attracts mosquitoes. It has a gummy substance that binds the insects mouth to the seed. The seed also releases a substance toxic to the larvae. ½ kilo of seed is said to be able to kill 10 million larvae. Plants can be grown on salty or marshy land in order to reclaim it by absorbing the salt and ‘sweetening’ the soil.

Esoteric uses of Shepherds Purse:


The Chemistry:


  • Flavonoids; luteolin-7-rutinoside andquercitin-3-rutinoside
  • Polypeptides of undetermined structure
  • Plant acids; fumaric and bursic acids
  • Bases; choline, acetylcholine, histamine, tyramine.

Citations from the Medline database for the genus Capsella

Shephard’s Purse Iurisson SM. [Vitamin content in shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa pastoris (L.)Medic.)]

Farmatsiia (1976 Jul-Aug) 25 (4):66-7 Kuroda K Akao M. Effect of Capsella bursa-pastoris on liver catalase activity in rats fed3′-methyl-4-(dimethylamino) azobenzene.

Gann (1975 Aug) 66 (4):461-2 Kuroda K Akao M Kanisawa M Miyaki K. Inhibitory effect of Capsella bursa-pastoris extract on growth of Ehrlich solid tumor in mice.

Cancer Res (1976 Jun) 36(6): 1900-3 Kuroda K Akao M Kanisawa M Miyaki K. Inhibitory effect of Capsella bursa-pastoris on hepatocarcino-genesis induced by 3-methyl-4-(dimethylamino) azobenzene in rats.

Gann (1974 Aug) 65(4): 317-21 Kuroda K Kaku T. Pharmacological and chemical studies on the alcohol extract of Capsellabursa-pastoris.

Life Sci (1969 Feb 1) 8(3): 151-5 Kuroda K Takagi K. Physiologically active substance in Capsella bursa-pastoris.

Nature (1968 Nov 16) 220 (168): 707-8 Kuroda K Takagi K. Studies on capsella bursa pastoris. I. General pharmacology of ethanol extract of the herb.

Arch Int Pharmacodyn Ther (1969 Apr) 178 (2): 382-91 Kuroda K Takagi K. Studies on capsella bursa pastoris. II. Diuretic, anti-inflammatory &anti-ulcer action of the herb.