Capsella Bursa Pastoris
BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION AND IMPRESSIONS: Shepard’s Purse is an annual herb which gets its name from the seed pods which are shaped like small Shepard’s purses. The only other plant which somewhat resembles it is pepper grass but its seed pods are round whereas Shepard’s purse is distinctly lobed at the bottom just like a small purse. Shepard’s purse loves to grow around the cow barn because it likes rich manured soil. It first puts out its rosette near the ground being quite indistinguishable at this stage, but then in the very early spring depending upon the when the weather warms, it starts to sporadically send up its tops which bloom and quickly starts to make its seed heads. It can be found in individual plants, but generally it is found to be growing in patches. Many times the plant can be sort of trampled and lies somewhat prostrate. The seed heads are the conspicuous feature that makes its most discernible. Botanically it is described as an annual weed, the stem which is erect, striate, from 12 to 24 inches high. The branches are few, remote, and generally simple. The leaves are mostly borne in a thick radical cluster, at the base of the stem, and recline on the ground. They are from 3 to 6 inches long, and pinnatifid, with from 9 to 15 acute, wedge-shaped segments. The stem leaves are few, shorter than the internodes, and clasp the stems at the base of the branches. The lower stem-leave are sagittate and dentate; the upper, linear and entire. The flowers are small, white, and borne in terminal racemes, which elongate as the flowers expand. The sepals and petals are 4, and the stamens are 6 and tetradynamous. The fruit is a flat wedge-shaped pod, notched at the the end, and divided by a narrow partition, into 2 cells, which contain numerous minute, oblong seeds.
Shepard’s purse is also an edible spring green. It is totally a spring plant in that it comes early and although it can persist with the seeds for a month or so, it quickly dies in the warmer weather.
The part of the herb used is the tops when in the early seed stage or in full bloom, but the full bloom is so short that most always it is harvested in the seed stage. Although it can be used whenever the stem has shot up. Shepard’s purse is most noted for its use in conditions of the menses where the flow is either too profuse or to help bring on the menses when absent. It has been much documented by many women to have corrected their menstrual disorders. It would be well combined with groundsel (Senecio) in this regard. It is also noted for menstrual disorders where the flow is continues too long with a colorless discharge. Shepard’s purse will be found very useful in this regard. Midwives many times combine it with Squaw vine for several weeks prior to birthing to help with the birth, but at the same time to prevent excessive bleeding at birthing. Groundsel can be used for other passive hemorrhages as well , although for real uterine hemorrhages such as sometimes occur with child birth or during menopause Cinnamon Bark is the most specific of all agents. Then restoratives such as yellow dock, Bearsfoot, and poke root would be used to rebuild the anemic condition.
Shepard’s purse is very effective in blood in the urine called hematuria as well as in urinary disorders in general. It can be looked to in urinary conditions as a soothing agent in painful conditions somewhat like marshmallow root. The main indication would be an unhealthy discharge which is abnormally colored or has foul odor.
Shepard’s purse’s astringent uses are evident in cases of diarrhea and dysentery and bleeding piles. It is also used in under active digestive states.
The tincture is the best form and the doses can be from 20 to 40 drops 3 or 4 times daily. It is a very safe herb and in menstrual disorders, it should be used over long periods of time and the results will be very gratifying.