Shepherd’s purse, or Capsella bursa-pastoris, is a flowering plant in the mustard family.
Growing all over the world, it’s one of the most common wildflowers on Earth. Its name comes from its small triangular fruits that resemble a purse, but it’s also known as the following:
- blind weed
- lady’s purse
- mother’s heart
- shepherd’s heart
- St. James’ weed
- witch’s pouch
In modern supplements and traditional medicine, the stems, leaves, and flowers of the plant are used to aid wound healing and improve bleeding conditions, including menstrual disorders and circulatory and heart conditions. However, little evidence supports these uses.
You can buy shepherd’s purse dried or find supplements in liquid extract, capsule, or tablet form.
It’s easy to find claims online about this plant’s dozens of purported benefits, including lowering blood pressure, helping with nose bleeds, promoting wound healing, and stimulating uterine contractions.
That said, recent evidence is lacking, and much of the research on the herb was conducted in dated animal studies.
The strongest recent evidence for shepherd’s purse is for its use to treat excessive bleeding, but more research is needed to better understand and confirm these effects.
Shepherd’s purse may help with postpartum hemorrhage, or bleeding after childbirth.
A study in 100 women with postpartum hemorrhage found that the hormone oxytocin reduced bleeding in one group. However, another group taking both oxytocin and 10 drops of shepherd’s purse experienced a significantly greater decrease (
Shepherd’s purse may also help with heavy bleeding associated with your menstrual cycle.
A study in 84 women found those taking 1,000 mg of the anti-inflammatory drug mefenamic acid along with shepherd’s purse daily throughout their menstrual cycle experienced significantly less menstrual bleeding than those who only took mefenamic acid (
The side effects of shepherd’s purse — whether you take it in tea, tincture, or pill form — include (3):
- shortness of breath
- pupil enlargement
However, these side effects have only been noted in animal studies. There’s a lack of human studies regarding the safety and efficacy of the herb, so you may experience side effects that are not listed here.
Due to a lack of evidence, there’s no available guidance on an appropriate dosage for shepherd’s purse.
To stay on the safe side, you should take only the recommended dose on your supplement packaging.
How to make shepherd’s purse tincture
What you need:
- fresh shepherd’s purse herb
- a lidded mason jar
- a coffee filter
- a blue or brown glass storage jar
- Fill the mason jar with clean, fresh shepherd’s purse and cover it completely with vodka.
- Seal the jar and store it in a cool, dark place for 30 days. Shake it once every few days.
- Use a coffee filter to filter the liquid into the glass jar and discard the plant.
- Store it in a dark, cool place, and use it in place of store-bought shepherd’s purse extract. For your safety, don’t exceed more than about 1 teaspoon (5 mL) per day — the standard daily dose of commercially available shepherd’s purse tinctures.
If you’re sensitive to alcohol or abstaining from it, choosing a shepherd’s purse tea or premade shepherd’s purse supplement may be a better option than this tincture.
How to make shepherd’s purse tea
What you need:
- dried shepherd’s purse
- a tea ball
- a mug
- boiling water
- sweetener, cream (optional)
- Fill a tea ball with 3–4 teaspoons (about 6–8 grams) of dried shepherd’s purse and place it in a mug. Fill the mug with boiling water.
- Steep it for 2–5 minutes, depending on how strong you want your tea.
- Add sweetener, cream, or both before drinking your tea, if desired.
Given that there’s little evidence to support the use of shepherd’s purse, there’s no need to drink more than 1–2 cups of the tea daily.
There do not appear to be any complications or withdrawal symptoms from stopping shepherd’s purse suddenly.
However, available evidence on the herb is lacking, so these effects simply haven’t been explored yet.
Shepherd’s purse has the potential to cause an overdose, although this is rare and has only been noted in animals so far.
In rats, short-term toxicity of the herb is characterized by sedation, pupil enlargement, limb paralysis, trouble breathing, and death (3).
The amounts that caused an overdose in these rats were exceptionally high and given via injection, so it would likely be difficult — but theoretically not impossible — for a human to overdose on the herb.
Shepherd’s purse may interact with a variety of medications. If you’re taking any of the following medications, consult your healthcare provider before taking it (3):
- Blood thinners. Shepherd’s purse may increase blood clotting, which can interfere with blood thinners and increase your risk of serious health complications.
- Thyroid medications. The herb can suppress thyroid function and may interfere with thyroid medications.
- Sedatives or sleep medications. Shepherd’s purse can have sedative effects, which can be dangerous in combination with a sedative or sleep medication.
Liquid extract of shepherd’s purse should be sold and stored in blue or amber glass bottles to help prevent degradation from light exposure.
All forms of the herb — liquid, pills, or dried — are best stored in a cool, dark place like your pantry.
Many supplements don’t expire for 1 year or more after they were manufactured and are to be discarded after this point.
Dried shepherd’s purse theoretically lasts indefinitely, but discard it if you see moisture or visible mold inside of the packaging.
Because of its potential to affect your menstrual cycle or induce early labor, you should avoid shepherd’s purse while pregnant (3).
There’s limited evidence that shepherd’s purse can normalize an irregular menstrual cycle. However, because so little is known about the supplement, you should err on the side of caution and avoid it while trying to get pregnant.
There’s no evidence on the use and safety of the herb while breastfeeding, so to be cautious, you should avoid it.
Because shepherd’s purse may affect your blood and circulation, it’s best to avoid it if you’re taking blood thinners or have any circulatory issues (3).
You should also avoid it if you have thyroid problems, as it can affect thyroid function (3).
Additionally, steer clear of the herb if you have kidney stones, as it contains oxalates that may worsen this condition (3).
Given the slight risk of overdose, people with kidney disease should consult their healthcare provider before using shepherd’s purse. It’s unknown if it can accumulate in those with damaged kidneys.
Furthermore, do not give it to children or adolescents unless a healthcare provider has directed you to do so.
Finally, discontinue taking the herb 2 weeks prior to any surgery to ensure that it does not interfere with your body’s natural blood clotting ability.
Some alternatives may provide benefits similar to those of shepherd’s purse, including lady’s mantle and yarrow. Still, as is the case with shepherd’s purse, research on these supplements is limited.
Lady’s mantle is a flowering plant that may promote wound healing. There are some claims that it may also help decrease abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding. That said, strong evidence to support these uses is limited (
Yarrow is another flowering plant that may assist with wound healing and normalizing menstruation. However, more research is needed to better understand the benefits of yarrow (
Given their similar effects, shepherd’s purse is often paired with these two supplements in teas or tinctures.