Shepherds purse: The Rest of the Story

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.