Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Blindweed, bourse de pasteur (French), Brassicaceae (family), Capsella bursa-pastoris spp., case-weed, clappedepouch (Irish), ergocristine, fumarate, fumaric acid, Hirtentasche (German), lady’s purse, mother’s heart, mustard family, pepper-and-salt, pick-pocket, pick-purse, poor man’s parmacettie, rattle pouches, sanguinary, sheper, shepherd’s bag, shepherd’s scrip, shepherd’s sprout, shepherin I, shepherin II, Soxhlet benzene extracts, witches’ pouches.

Background

  • Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) is a member of the Brassicaceae family and is one of the most common and widely distributed flowering plants in the world. It has been used as a folk remedy to treat numerous conditions in humans, including diarrhea and bleeding, and to stimulate uterine contractions.

  • High-quality studies evaluating shepherd’s purse for any use in humans are currently lacking.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding, abortifacient (uterus contraction stimulant/abortion inducer), amenorrhea (lack of menstruation), anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, bladder disorders, bleeding, blood disorders, bruises, cancer, colic, cramping, diarrhea, diuretic (increases urine flow), emmenagogue (stimulates menstrual flow), fertility, flavoring, food uses, high or low blood pressure, hemorrhage (excessive bleeding), nosebleeds, rheumatic disorders (disorders of the joints and connective tissue), scurvy, skin pigmentation disorders, ulcers, urinary retention (inability to empty bladder), uterine tonic, vasoregulator, wounds.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for shepherd’s purse in adults.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for shepherd’s purse in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or sensitivity to shepherd’s purse, its constituents, or members of the Brassicaceae family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Shepherd’s purse may cause low or high blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that raise or lower blood pressure.

  • Drowsiness or sedation may occur. Use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.

  • Use cautiously in patients taking diuretics, agents that affect the heart, or thyroid agents, as shepherd’s purse may interfere with or enhance the effects of these types of agents.

  • Use cautiously in patients with kidney stones.

  • Avoid in pregnant women. Shepherd’s purse has been used traditionally to stimulate menstrual flow, uterine contractions, and abortion. It may also improve uterine tone.

  • Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or sensitivity to shepherd’s purse, its constituents, or members of the Brassicaceae family.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Avoid in pregnant women. Shepherd’s purse has been used traditionally to stimulate menstrual flow, uterine contractions, and abortion. It may also improve uterine tone. There is a lack of available evidence on the use of shepherd’s purse in breastfeeding women.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Shepherd’s purse may cause low or high blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs that raise or lower blood pressure.

  • Shepherd’s purse may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some drugs. Examples include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan®) or diazepam (Valium®), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, narcotics such as codeine, some antidepressants, and alcohol. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.

  • Shepherd’s purse may also interact with abortifacients (agents that induce uterine contraction and abortion), agents that affect the thyroid, antibiotics, anticancer agents, antifungals, anti-inflammatory agents, antiulcer agents, agents that affect the heart, diuretics (agents that increase urine flow), hormonal agents, pigmentation agents, sedatives, steroids.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Shepherd’s purse may cause low or high blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that raise or lower blood pressure.

  • Shepherd’s purse may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some herbs or supplements, such as those with sedative effects.

  • Shepherd’s purse may also interact with abortifacients (agents that induce uterine contraction and abortion), antibacterials, anticancer agents, antifungals, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, antiulcer herbs and supplements, herbs and supplements that affect the heart, diuretics (agents that increase urine flow), hormonal herbs and supplements, photosensitizers (light-sensitizing agents), steroids, or thyroid agents.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Akopov IE, Beliavskaia EA, Klenova SI. [Capsella bursa pastoris as blood stabiliser]. Farmakol Toksikol 1955;18(1):45-48. View Abstract
  2. Ceplitis A, Su Y, Lascoux M. Bayesian inference of evolutionary history from chloroplast microsatellites in the cosmopolitan weed Capsella bursa-pastoris (Brassicaceae). Mol Ecol 2005;14(14):4221-4233. View Abstract
  3. Chen HF, Wang H, Li ZY. Production and genetic analysis of partial hybrids in intertribal crosses between Brassica species (B. rapa, B. napus) and Capsella bursa-pastoris. Plant Cell Rep 2007;26(10):1791-1800. View Abstract
  4. East J. The effect of certain plant preparations on the fertility of laboratory mammals. 3. Capsella bursa pastoris L. J Endocrinol 1955;12(4):267-272. View Abstract
  5. El Abyad MS, Morsi NM, Zaki DA, et al. Preliminary screening of some Egyptian weeds for antimicrobial activity. Microbios 1990;62(250):47-57. View Abstract
  6. Hintz M, Bartholmes C, Nutt P, et al. Catching a ‘hopeful monster’: shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) as a model system to study the evolution of flower development. J Exp Bot 2006;57(13):3531-3542. View Abstract
  7. Hwang JH, Lee BM. Inhibitory effects of plant extracts on tyrosinase, L-DOPA oxidation, and melanin synthesis. J Toxicol Environ Health A 2007;70(5):393-407. View Abstract
  8. Kuroda K, Akao M, Kanisawa M, et al. Inhibitory effect of Capsella bursa-pastoris on hepatocarcino-genesis induced by 3-methyl-4-(dimethylamino)azobenzene in rats. Gann 1974;65(4):317-321. View Abstract
  9. Kuroda K, Akao M, Kanisawa M, et al. Inhibitory effect of Capsella bursa-pastoris extract on growth of Ehrlich solid tumor in mice. Cancer Res 1976;36(6):1900-1903. View Abstract
  10. Kuroda K, Kaku T. Pharmacological and chemical studies on the alcohol extract of Capsella bursa-pastoris. Life Sci 1969;8(3):151-155. View Abstract
  11. Kuroda K, Takagi K. Studies on capsella bursa pastoris. I. General pharmacology of ethanol extract of the herb. Arch Int Pharmacodyn Ther 1969;178(2):382-391. View Abstract
  12. Kuroda K, Takagi K. Studies on capsella bursa pastoris. II. Diuretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-ulcer action of ethanol extracts of the herb. Arch Int Pharmacodyn Ther 1969;178(2):392-399. View Abstract
  13. Kuroda K, Takagi K. Physiologically active substance in Capsella bursa-pastoris. Nature 1968;220(168):707-708. View Abstract
  14. Lans C, Turner N, Khan T, et al. Ethnoveterinary medicines used for ruminants in British Columbia, Canada. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed 2007;3:11. View Abstract
  15. Park CJ, Park CB, Hong SS, et al. Characterization and cDNA cloning of two glycine- and histidine-rich antimicrobial peptides from the roots of shepherd’s purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris. Plant Mol Biol 2000;44(2):187-197. View Abstract

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.