What is shepherd’s purse?
Shepherd’s purse, also called Capsella bursa-pastoris, is a plant that grows in mild climates around the world. It’s used as an herbal medicine for several conditions, especially ones involving excessive bleeding.
You can take shepherd’s purse orally as a tea or tincture, or apply it to your skin in the form of a cream or ointment. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of shepherd’s purse and how to use it.
What are its benefits?
Shepherd’s purse is best known for its antibleeding properties. For centuries, women have used it to reduce heavy or long menstrual cycles, as well as bleeding between cycles. Some women note that it completely eliminates menstrual bleeding during their cycles. Others use it to reduce pain caused by menstrual cramps.
While some women find that shepherd’s purse helps with menstrual bleeding and cramping, there aren’t any studies to back up these claims.
Shepherd’s purse is also said to boost fertility. While some folk medicine practitioners may still recommend it for fertility, no existing research confirms this benefit.
In fact, an animal study conducted in 1955 found that female mice who ate a diet high in dried shepherd’s purse had lower levels of ovulation and temporary infertility. Mice who ate lower levels of shepherd’s purse didn’t experience infertility, which suggests that shepherd’s purse only has a negative effect on fertility when taken in very large amounts.
More research, especially involving humans, is needed to fully understand the impact of shepherd’s purse on fertility. If you’re trying to get pregnant, this herb hasn’t been found to be effective, and may even block your ability to conceive.
A 2017 study found that shepherd’s purse is effective in reducing postpartum hemorrhages, which happens when women lose more than 500 milliliters of blood after giving birth. During the study, women who took the herb bled less after giving birth.
While these results are promising, more studies are needed to better understand the safest, most effective dosage for women who’ve just given birth.
In addition to reducing bleeding, shepherd’s purse may also have cancer-fighting properties. A 2013 study suggests that shepherd’s purse may slow down the growth of oral cancer cells in humans. While more studies are needed, early research on the cancer-fighting properties of shepherd’s purse are promising.
Inflammation and infection
According to a 2014 study, shepherd’s purse contains a compound called sulforaphane, which may be responsible for some of its healing properties.
The study suggests that sulforaphane can help to control inflammation and may be effective against multidrug-resistant bacteria.
Minor wounds, bites, and burns
The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of shepherd’s purse also make it useful for treating minor wounds. For example, a 2007 study found that it may be an effective treatment for wounds and injuries in livestock animals.
Its leaves can also be used to make a poultice. This involves bundling the leaves in a warm, moist cloth and applying it directly to a wound to help it heal.
While only a few of the benefits of shepherd’s purse have been evaluated through formal studies, there’s anecdotal evidence that it may also help to treat:
- bladder infections
- varicose veins
- digestive issues, including diarrhea
- sore throat
How do I use shepherd’s purse?
You can drink shepherd’s purse in the form of a tea, available online
and at some health food stores. Start by drinking one cup per day to see how your body reacts. If you don’t feel any side effects, you can start drinking up to four cups a day.
Shepherd’s purse also comes in the form of a tincture that you can add to water or other drinks. Like shepherd’s purse tea, you can find this at some health stores or online. Add 30 to 40 drops to a glass of water 2 or 3 times a day. Keep in mind that recommended doses can vary between manufacturers, so it’s best to check the instructions that come with the product.
For skin conditions, you can also use a cream or ointment that contains shepherd’s purse. Always do a skin patch test on the inside of your forearm before using on any affected area.
Can it cause any side effects?
While shepherd’s purse is a natural herb, it can still cause side effects, including an allergic reaction. It can also interact with certain medications. In addition, herbal products may be of poor quality or have contaminants since they’re not specifically monitored by the FDA. Shepherd’s purse is a potent herb and you should discuss its use with your doctor before trying it.
If you’re taking shepherd’s purse for the first time, start with a very small dose so you can make sure you don’t have a reaction. Many people have an allergy to shepherd’s purse. Signs of an allergic reaction to shepherd’s purse include:
- trouble breathing
- tightness or pain in your throat or chest
- skin blisters, hives, or rash
- red, itchy, or swollen skin
- drowsiness or fatigue
Other possible side effects include:
- upset stomach
- thyroid function changes
- changes in blood pressure
- changes in your heart rate or heartbeat
Who shouldn’t use it?
Shepherd’s purse helps to stop bleeding by encouraging your blood to clot. Don’t use shepherd’s purse if you take blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin) or have a history of heart attacks.
You should also avoid shepherd’s purse if you have:
- high blood pressure
- a thyroid condition
- heart disease
Don’t use shepherd’s purse if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. You should also avoid shepherd’s purse within two weeks of any type or surgery because it changes your body’s ability to clot. Never mix shepherd’s purse with any type of sedative.
In addition, talk to your doctor before taking shepherd’s purse if you have:
- kidney stones
- kidney disease
- a blood vessel disease
- any kind of heart condition
The bottom line
While shepherd’s purse has many potential benefits, there are very few studies evaluating its effectiveness in humans. If you’re curious about trying it, talk to your doctor first to make sure it won’t interact with any underlying conditions you have, or medications you take. Start with a small dose — one cup of tea or 20 drops of tincture in a glass of water per day — until you know how your body reacts.
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