Posts Tagged ‘Shepherd’s Purse bleeding’

Shepherd’s Purse, or Capsella bursa-pastoris, is a country plant. It has a few predictable effects, relatively simple chemistry and a gentle nature. It is also one the only herbs that could save your life as you lay dying.
The main claim to fame here is that Shepherd’s Purse is a styptic herb. This term (along with the terms hemostatic and anti-hemorrhagic, which you may also encounter when researching Shepherd’s Purse) describes its ability to arrest bleeding. Uses include- treating a nosebleed, a heavy menstrual period, a cut that won’t quit, gum bleeding due to aggressive tooth flossing, or excessive uterine bleeding after childbirth. (It is employed by many midwives to help check bleeding in this situation). In World War I it was used to slow bleeding on the battlefield when other medicines weren’t available. (Wouldn’t be my first choice for a bayonet wound, though).
There are a few herbs that can be used in this manner and they combine well with Shepherd’s purse for bleeding issues. These include Yarrow (another E. Washington native), Cinnamon, and Cottonroot bark. Of these, Shepherd’s Purse if probably best known, most used, and the easiest to gather. After a few words of caution, I will provide instructions on doing so.
Cautions: This may seem obvious, but if my arm got bitten off, I would never rely on this humble weed instead of, say, a tourniquet. Or use it in a life threatening situation if there were any better, more modern treatments at my disposal. This is an herb for non-fatal bleeding issues, like a heavy period or a flossing accident, or something to take while you wait for the ambulance. Most home birth midwives carry something like this (and the stronger stuff, too) to births just in case. It is considered a great first aid plant for wilderness medicine. If its all you have around, you’ll be glad you have it.
In the case of Capsella, fresh plant tinctures work best, although a tea of the recently dried plant is sometimes used as well. The dried plant loses potency rather quickly and even the tincture has a limited shelf life. One study showed that Shepherd’s Purse tincture is at its peak potency and effectiveness within 3 months of manufacture. Since I can only get the fresh herb during its growing season (now!), I make a new batch every year and throw out the old stuff. It is still effective after a year, but it’s blood staunching genius is most pronounced when its hot off the tincture press.
In the Northwest, look for Shepherd’s Purse in June or July before it gets too dried out. It has a wide range across globe and it flowers all summer long (all year long in more temperate climates), so chances are its something you can find. I usually come across it growing in alleys and overgrown yards, behind a barn, around the margins of parks. It loves growing by its friend Cleavers (Galium aperine). Shepherd’s Purse is not known for its good looks, being a rather plain looking member of the mustard family. Graceful, slender stalks support nondescript white flowers sporting 4 tiny petals each. These mature to become cute little triangular heart-shaped green seedpods (SP’s most distinguishing feature) that alternate up the stalk. There are a lot of mustard family plants that look similar, but the heart shaped seedpod is a dead giveaway. The entire plant is usually only 6-18 inches or so and easy to overlook, growing as it does, in wayward places.  Gather the above ground parts of the fresh green plant from a clean area because Shepherd’s Purse can concentrate heavy metals in the ground. That said, it doesn’t always grow in clean areas, so be discriminating here. Chop up the whole plant except the roots (basal leaves, stalk, seeds, flowers), then just pack mason jar with the chopped fresh herb and cover it with vodka. In three weeks, strain your tincture and store in a dark amber bottle for up to one year. Most likely, anything you could buy in commerce is far older than that, so well done, you.
To check bleeding, Shepherd’s Purse tincture works best in a pulse dosing pattern. That means you take it frequently in smaller doses. I usually recommend 1 dropperful (1ml or 30 drops of the tincture) every 10 minutes until bleeding slows or stops (usually within an hour). Then you can do it every hour or two to maintain the results if you still require it. For uterine bleeding from fibroids or a heavy period you may start with this pulse dosing pattern for an hour and then take 1 dropperful 4 times a day for the rest of your period. It won’t make it stop completely if its your time of the month, but it may make it more tolerable and spare your sheets, good undies and iron stores. It works by inducing the little arteries in the uterus to clamp down, and due to this stimulating effect, it is not advised during pregnancy.

Other skills? Shepherd’s Purse helps to excrete uric acid from the body, so it can be helpful for gout and inflammation in the urinary tract. It has a peppery, weird taste. Did I mention it stops bleeding? It doesn’t really need any other skills.
Shepherd’s Purse is an essential part of an herbal first aid kit, and like so many things, much better when you do-it-yourself.


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