- Is called Shepherd's-purse because of its triangular, purse-like seed pods.
- Grows up to 40cm high, has a slender, flexible, slightly hairy white taproot and a rosette of lobed leaves at the base with a branched stem and smaller leaves.
- Tiny white flowers appear all year - each flower develops into a heart-shaped, two-celled seedpod, about 5 mm long, containing a number of tiny seeds.
- When the pod dries, it splits in half, releasing the mature seeds.
- Self fertile and is a member of the Brassicaceae or mustard family.
- Needs any well-drained soil in sun or partial shade and will tolerate poor conditions.
- Is one of the earliest wild greens in spring.
- The leaves, young flowering shoots and seeds can be eaten raw or cooked.
- The leaves are a cress and cabbage substitute, becoming peppery with age.
- In early spring, before the flower stalks appear, the young leaves are good in salads or cooked as greens - put them in a loosely covered dish with a little water, some mushrooms, and a sprig or two of thyme, microwave it on high for 4 minutes, and serve with butter.
- They can also be mixed with other greens.
Medicinal Uses. It is said that:
- Whole plant, fresh or dried.
- The dried herb quickly loses its effectiveness and should not be stored for more than a year.
- Astringent, haemostatic, coagulant and styptic - stops bleeding and is a binding agent that contracts blood vessels and organic tissue, reducing secretions or discharges of mucous and fluid from the body.
- Shepherd's purse is a domestic remedy in the treatment of both internal and external bleeding and diarrhea.
- The tea is considered to be a sovereign remedy against hemorrhages of all kinds – in the stomach, lungs uterus and the kidneys.
- A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh plant to treat nose bleeds and urinary calculus.
- Diuretic – it increases the volume and flow of urine which cleanses the urinary system.
- It helps abscesses and ulcerated conditions of the bladder and ureters, irritation of the urinary tract caused by uric acid or insoluble phosphates or carbonates, urine with white mucous discharge, kidney complaints and bedwetting in children.
- Stimulant – quickens the functional activity of the tissues by giving more energy – is a general tonic.
- Anti-cancer - folk remedy for cancer.
- It contains fumaric acid which has markedly reduced growth and viability of Ehrlich tumor in mice.
- Vasoconstrictor and cardiovascular – circulation equalizing herb that normalizes circulation, regulates heart action and helps high or low blood pressure.
- It has proven uterine-contracting properties and is traditionally used during or after childbirth and to ease menopause and difficult menstruation.
- It should not be used internally by pregnant woman.
- Anti-inflammatory - externally Shepherd's Purse is applied to bruises, limb or muscular atrophy, external muscular disorders, strains and rheumatic joints.
- The seed is a bird and chicken feed.
- Will absorb excessive salts from the soil - may be planted on salty/marshy land in order to reclaim it by absorbing the salt and 'sweetening' the soil.
- Mosquito repellent:
- Wet seed is toxic to mosquito larvae and, when put in the water, may possibly help to control mosquito’s.
- 500g of seed is said to be able to kill 10 million larvae.