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Shepherd's Purse Herb - Uses And Side Effects

Other Names : Capsella, caseweed, mother's-heart, and shovelweed.

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Shepherd's purse comes from the leaves and stems of Capsella bursa-pastor is. A member of the mustard family, this white-flowered, weedy annual has flat, heartshaped pods.

Shepherd's purse is an astringent diuretic herb with good urinary antiseptic, as well as blood coagulant properties. It contains flavonoids (rutin, diosmin, hesperidin), amino acids (proline), monoterpenoids and glucosinolates, as well as various amines (such as acetylcholine, choline and tyramine) and saponins.

Description of the herb shepherds purse

The plant is green, but some what rough with hairs. The main leaves,2 to 6 inches long, are very variable in form, either irregularly pinnatifid or entire and toothed. When not in flower, it may be distinguished by its radiating leaves, of which the outer lie close to the earth.

The slender stem, which rises from the crown of the root, from the centre of the rosette of radical leaves, is usually sparingly branched. It is smooth, except at the lower part, and bears a few, small, oblong leaves, arrow-shaped at the base, and above them, numerous small, white, inconspicuous flowers, which are self-fertilized and followed by wedge-shaped fruit pods, divided by narrow partitions into two cells, which contain numerous oblong yellow seeds. When ripe, the pod separates into its two boat-shaped valves.

The odour of the plant is peculiar and rather unpleasant, though more cress-like than pungent.

It has an aromatic and biting taste, but is less acrid than most of the Cruciferae, and was formerly used as a pot-herb, the young radical leaves being sold in Philadelphia as greens in the spring. It causes taint of milk when freely eaten by dairy cattle.

Common doses of Shepherd's Purse

Shepherd's purse comes as dried herb and liquid extract. Some experts recommend the following doses:

  • As fluid extract, 1 teaspoon of extract in 8 ounces of water taken orally four times daily.
  • As dried plant, 1 ounce of dried plant in 12 ounces of boiling water, cooled and taken orally three times daily.

Uses of Shepherd's Purse herb

Shepherd's Purse is used to treat diarrhea, treat and prevent duodenal ulcers. Stops internal and external bleeding, treats urinary problems, and as a wound remedy.

Side effects of Shepherd's Purse

Call your health care practitioner if you experience any of these possible side effects of shepherd's purse:

  • enlarged pupils
  • neck swelling (thyroid enlargement)
  • trouble walking
  • unusual drowsiness or sleepiness.
This herb also can cause:
  • low blood pressure
  • respiratory paralysis and possible death
  • underactive thyroid

Are there any interactions?

Combining herbs with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Don't use shepherd's purse while taking:

  • digoxin
  • drugs that lower blood pressure
  • heart drugs called beta blockers (such as Inderal) or calcium channel blockers (such as Calan or Procardia)
  • sedatives or hypnotics, such as Ambien, Ativan, Dalmane, Doriden, Halcion, Luminal, Nembutol, Placydil, Restoril, or Seconal.

Important points to remember

  • Don't use shepherd's purse if you're pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • Use this herb cautiously, if at all, if you have heart or lung disease. Consider using a proven treatment instead of this herb.
  • Use shepherd's purse cautiously if you take a drug that alters your heart rate or depresses your nervous system.

What the research shows

Most of what we know about shepherd's purse comes from test tube and animal studies. Until studies on people are completed, medical experts don't recommend this herb for medicinal purposes.


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