Alternative names: Shepherd's Bag; Shepherd's Scrip; Shepherd's Sprout; Lady's Purse; Witches' Pouches; Rattle Pouches; Case-weed; Pick-Pocket; Pick-Purse; Blindweed; Pepper-and-Salt; Poor Man's Parmacettie; Sanguinary; Mother's Heart.
Widely available, Shepherd's Purse can help regulate blood flow and is often used as a herbal remedy to treat regular bleeding disorders, such as heavy periods.
Shepherd's purse has not been well researched, and its actions are not well understood.
A native of Europe, Shepherd's Purse has accompanied Europeans in all their migrations and established itself wherever they have settled to till the soil. In John Josselyn's Herbal it is one of the plants named as unknown to the New World before the Pilgrim Fathers settled there.
It will flourish and set seed in the poorest soil, though it may only attain the height of a few inches. In rich soil it luxuriates and grows to 2 feet in height.
Shepherd's Purse is a common weed of the Cruciferous order, is said to be found all over the world, and flourishes nearly the whole year round.
Teas and capsules of shepherd's purse are not readily available.
Several partial analyses have been made of the plant, but no definitive characteristic principle has been isolated. The active constituent is said to be an organic acid, which Bombelon, a French chemist, termed bursinic acid. He also found a tannate and an alkaloid, Bursine, which resembles sulphocyansinapine.
A peculiar sulphuretted volatile oil, similar if not identical to oil of mustard, as well as a fixed oil, have been determined and 6% of a soft resin.
An astringent agent, shepherd's purse constricts blood vessels, thereby reducing blood flow.
When dried and infused, it yields a tea which is still considered by herbalists one of the best specifics for stopping hemorrhages of all kinds – of the stomach, the lungs, or the uterus, and more especially bleeding from the kidneys.
Shepherd's purse is used to stop heavy bleeding and hemorrhaging, particularly from the uterus. When taken internally, shepherd's purse can reduce heavy menstrual periods, and it has been used to treat postpartum hemorrhage.
When used topically, shepherd's purse is applied to lacerations and traumatic injuries of the skin to stop bleeding and promote healing. Herbalists also use the herb topically for eczema and rashes of the skin.
It has been used in English domestic practice from early times as an astringent in diarrhea. It has been employed in fresh decoction in hematuria, hemorrhoids, chronic diarrhea and dysentery, and locally as a vulnerary in nose-bleeding, which is checked by inserting the juice on cotton-wool.
It is considered most effective for the treatment of chronic uterine bleeding disorders, including uterine bleeding due to the presence of a fibroid tumor. Shepherd's purse has also been used internally to treat cases of blood in the urine and bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract, such as with bleeding ulcers.
It is a remedy of the first importance in catarrhal conditions of the bladder and ureters, also in ulcerated conditions and abscess of the bladder. It increases the flow of urine. Its use is specially indicated when there is white mucous matter voided with the urine; relief in these cases following at once.
Shepherd's Purse serve as a useful herbal remedy to deal with menstrual bleeding. When taken before the period begins and once it has started, shepherd's purse may help women with difficult periods find some relief.
In modern herbal medicine the whole plant is employed, dried and administered in infusion, and in fluid extract. A homeopathic tincture is prepared from the fresh plant.
Herbalists use shepherd's purse tincture in moderate doses of 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon at a time – up to 1 teaspoonful – three or four times a day before the menstrual period is due and during the period to reduce heavy bleeding.
The medicinal infusion should be made with an ounce of the plant to 12oz of water, reduced by boiling to 1⁄2 pint, strained and taken cold.
The fluid extract is given in doses of 1⁄32 to 1⁄16oz. In the United States, the fluid extract is given for dropsy in doses of 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoonful in water.
There is little reason to use shepherd's purse if you do not have bleeding problems, and you should discontinue its use as soon as the problem is alleviated.
Limit use to a month or two, then take a week-long break, resuming if necessary. If used for excessive menstrual bleeding, use for a few days to a week before the period and during the menstrual period – not throughout the month.
Since Shepherd's Purse constricts the blood vessels, it is not recommended for those with high blood pressure.
Shepherd's Purse does contain alkaloids, some of which can have cumulative effects in the body, so it should not be used internally without cause, nor should it be used long-term or during pregnancy or while nursing.
Shepherd's purse has a long history of oral use in the management of obstetric and gynecologic hemorrhage. Uncontrolled studies have found intravenous and intramuscular injections to be effective in cases of menorrhagia that are due to functional abnormalities and fibroids. Its beneficial action in slowing blood flow is believed to be a result of its high concentration of oxalic and dicarboxylic acids. The use of botanicals should be reserved for difficult cases of menorrhagia, those cases where immediate cessation of blood loss is desired, and/or as a short-term aid to other therapies.
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