Shepherd purse: a potent herb which is almost forgotten 

   Would you ever immagine that funny shaped weed growing on your road side to be a potent medicine and a delicious spice?

Sometimes I still get amazed by how mother nature has chosen to place whatever we need right outside our front door. Food, medicine, or even love and happiness are very often just overseen by the way we are used to perceive the world around us.

In a more attentive world a weed would be a lot more than a weed: it would be food; it would be medicine; it would be a blessing for your and your family.

Wild field of shepherd purse

Maybe we have forgotten how to leave in harmony with Nature; in harmony with our selves and the others? Why using precious planet resources when sometimes the answer is already there? Do I always need a pill or is there a more sustainable and definitely better way to take care of my self?

Forgive the rhetoric this week, but in this time of climate change awareness and new political directions, I have given it more than a thought and my answer is: the beginning of change is in people minds. It is in the way they dress and eat; they talk and act; in the way they raise their kids.

You want to teach my kids respect and gratitude for Nature, also by teaching them the great power of plants and how to use them effectively for their health.

This one in particular is unknown to the most, but it was once a very popular herb for food and medicine. Want to know more? Let’s find out the secret power of Shepherd’s purse alias Capsella Bursa-Pastoris. Recipes are as always in the end…

Portrait of shepherd purse

The little plant usually grows in wild fields and across the road. It is definitely not a picky plant when we get to soils and weather conditions, even though it usually prefer colder climates which makes Denmark, the perfect place for harvesting Shepherd purse.

Wild field of shepherd purse in Kongens Lyngby, Denmark

The young plant develops in a rosette very similar to dandelion or chicory but the flower will quickly makes wrong identification impossible.

The plant is indeed known for its peculiar aspect. The small white flowers are quickly replaced by small seed “bags” that are heart shaped, and that resemble those bags English shepherds used to have.

Seed bags, flowers and basal leaf

This surprising weed has been used for centuries as a tincture for treating menstrual cramps and irregularities. It was once the first line plant for after birth hemorrhages.

It is a extremely potent plant and strong medicinal preparation like alcohol infusion (tincture) should be used carefully. This is because the plant is a very strong astringent which makes it extremely useful in case of bleeding (interna or external) but also dangerous in case you have a heart condition.

Capsella Bursa pastoris tincture

However the plant can be eaten safely since the compounds present in the eatable parts are very safe.

But how to eat shepherd purse?

The most delicious part is the basal rosette, which is also the most nutritious in vitamins and minerals. The basal leaves can be eaten both raw and cooked and are a nice addition to strir-fried vegetables and stuffing. The seeds and the flowers can be also eaten in moderation to give a spicy twist to dishes.

Capsella Bursa-pastors belongs to the Cruciferae family, meaning cabbage family. With them has in common the pungent taste which is especially present in the mature seed, that has turned into brown color.

Shepherd purse is a common spicy addition to Chinese dumplings

Flowers can be eaten as snacks if founded during a field trip to boost energy or can be added into salad to give some spicing. However I personally find them too fibrous to eat raw.

Medicinally it is one of the best herbs to stop hemorrhaging and has a prominent place in the first-aid kits of many midwives. It’s high concentration of tannin, tyramine, and other amines are what make it such an excellent remedy for excessive bleeding after childbirth.

Studies have confirmed that shepherd’s purse is high in oxytocin, a uterine contractor and its efficacy for excessive menstrual flow. [1] Either by itself or combined with yarrow and taken frequently throughout the day, it will arrest heavy bleeding. Taken several days before the onset of the period, it will lessen the flow considerably.

Shepherd purse is best when used fresh, so if you are lucky enough to have a wild patch growing near you, encourage its growth by letting it go to seeding.

Finding recipes for Shepherd purse has not been easy because it is a nice addition to many dishes, from Meat stuffing to salads and broths but it is almost never the main ingredient of a recipe because of its spiciness. However I would like to share with you today this very old recipe of infused wine, that can be used, according to this source, as a tonic, in cocktails, in salad dressing and to give extra flavor when wine steaming.

Shepherd purse aromatic wine

•1 l of white wine

•100-150 g of recently dried shepherd purse (areal parts)

Let macerate the plant in the wine for 80 days the chopped herb in the wine. Mix frequently during this period and in the end, filtrate though a cheesecloth.

The other recipe is a blended tea for heavy periods. The author is very well-know American herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar which is a real expert in women wellness.

Shepherd purse is also called Mothers heart

Menstrual flow normalizer tea blend

•2 parts nettle

•1 part shepherd purse leaf and flower (best fresh)

•1/2 part yarrow lead and flower

Use 4 to 6 Tbs of herbs per 200 ml of boiling water. Cover during infusion and let infuse for 20 min. Take few times a day at least 3 days before expected period and during.

Hope you like this week’s wild plant and that you will enjoy the recipes.

For questions and comments, I invite you to join our community “traditional herbalism Denmark” on Facebook or to follow my Instagram channel “the herbal geek”.

Of course you are also welcome to leave a message here.

Green blessing,

Beatrice

 

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