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Capsella bursa-pastoris

shepherd's purse

plant overview
pocketful of practical uses

Shepherd's purse received its whimsical name because of the triangular or heart-shaped seed pods resemble miniature purses that shepherds were once known to carry their valuables in while tending their flocks on the field. This member of the cabbage family has a long history of use as food in Asia. In Japan, it is among the herbs used to make the traditional rice porridge dish prepared in celebration of Nanakusa no sekku, or the "Festival of Seven Herbs". In Korea, where the herb is known as naengi, the roots are used to make a traditional dish of mixed vegetables called namul. Shepherd's purse is also tinctured or prepared as tea and is used in making cosmetics.

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Shepherds purse
A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on shepherd's purse

Capsella bursa-pastoris, or shepherd's purse as it is commonly called, is a small annual plant of the Brassicaceae or mustard family.

The shepherd's purse stem emerges from a rosette of lobed leaves at the plant's base and grows to approximately 1/2 to 1 1/2 feet tall. The plant bears a few pointed leaves which partly grasp the stem.

Shepherd's purse small, white flowers are in loose racemes, and produce heart-shaped seed pods. The seeds contain a substance known as mucilage (a viscous, or gelatinous, polysaccharide solution sometimes found in a plant species roots, seeds and other parts).

common names & nomenclature
The common names containing purse references are due to the seed pod's triangular shape—it roughly approximates a small handbag or pouch.

Also known as:
shepherd’s purse, shepherd's bag, lady's purse. witches' pouches, pick-pocket

Where in the World
habitat and range for shepherd's purse

Capsella bursa-pastoris is native to eastern Europe and Asia minor but is naturalized in many parts of the world, especially in colder climates, including Britain, North America and China, also in the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting shepherd's purse

As it is considered to be a common weed in most regions, shepherd’s purse grows freely in waste places, gardens, and similar areas in sun to part shade.

The plant can flourish in most soils, however it will seed faster in poor soils than in rich soils.

Sow seeds directly in the garden soil in the late winter to spring (February to May months). However the seed can also be sown as late as mid autumn. This common weed of disturbed ground, shepherd’s purse easily maintains itself without assistance.

Under cultivation, shepherd’s purse's leaves can grow rather larger than their wild counterparts. The leaves can be harvested in summer or approximately one month after sowing. After the plant's initial harvest, the leaves may be harvested on a continual basis and dried as whole or cut pieces for later use.

Store dried shepherd's purse in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

The Rest of the Story
shepherd's purse history, folklore, literature & more

Shepherd's purse is a foul-smelling annual that reaches 18 inches. Its slender stem rises from a rosette of deeply toothed leaves similar to dandelion. The stem bears a few small leaves and terminates in small white flowers. The fruits are wedge-shaped seed pods, containing literally thousands of yellow seeds, hence the herb's names.

Shepherd's purse grows easily from seeds planted in spring under full sun. It prefers well-drained sandy loam but tolerates most North American soils. If unchecked, it can become a garden lawn pest. To avoid this, clip the seed pods before they open.

The young leaves have a peppery taste and may be added to soups and stews or eaten like spinach. Harvest the leaves and flower tops as the flowers open.

For otherwise healthy non-pregnant, non-nursing adults who have no history of heart attack, stroke, or thromboembolism, shepherd's purse is considered relatively safe in amounts typically recommended.

Shepherd's purse should be used in medicinal amounts only consultation with your doctor. If shepherd's purse causes minor discomforts, such as stomach upset or diarrhea, use less or stop using it. Let your doctor know if you experience any unpleasant effects or if the symptoms for which the herb is being used do not improve significantly in two weeks.

for educational purposes only

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

please be advised: 
Before making any changes to your diet you should always consult with your doctor,
especially if you are pregnant, nursing or have existing conditions.