For HEAVY PERIODS, shepherd’s purse is an ancient remedy still proving effective in modern times and known for its ability to slow bleeding, especially menstrual loss. Shepherd’s purse also possesses other medicinal properties including anticoagulant, antithrombin, antioxidant, and wound-healing. It reduces clots and helps the endometrium to seal its blood vessels, making it a potent therapeutic agent for treating menorrhagia, or heavy bleeding.
Shepherd’s purse, with the Latin name of Capsella bursa-pastoris, is named because it is shaped like a small, triangular pouch that shepherds in old England once carried, which resembles the natural shape of the uterus. Like kidney beans, another fascinating example of the plant world reflecting the human body and its needs. Most likely native to Asia and Europe, shepherd’s purse grows all over the world, and is a member of the Brassicaceae family of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. For centuries, it has been used as a food and as folk medicine by women to reduce heavy or prolonged menstrual periods, as well as bleeding between menses. A tea made from the dried herb was considered to be the ultimate remedy against hemorrhages of all kinds: the stomach, lungs, uterus and kidneys.
In particular, plants belonging the Brassicaceae family contain high levels of sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is an isothiocyanate, a sulfur compound that has received extensive attention for its potent anti-tumor and antioxidant effects. Shepherd’s purse contains many flavonoids including quercetin, diosmetin, luteolin and hesperidin. Like many of the herbs used for heavy bleeding, shepherd’s purse is classified in herbal medicine as an astringent herb. Shepherd’s purse is, however, much stronger than other astringent herbs in its ability to slow bleeding. It has long been used to help staunch wounds, reduce heavy periods, slow bleeding in post-partum hemorrhaging, and improve hemorrhoids.
Amongst documented studies, a 2017 randomized clinical trial showed the effectiveness of shepherd’s purse to assist in the life-threatening complication of post-partum hemorrhaging which happens when a woman loses more than 500 milliliters of blood after giving birth. In this study, the use of oral shepherd’s purse with intravenous oxytocin to stop post-partum hemorrhaging was on average more effective than intravenous oxytocin and placebo alone.1 Another research trial found that a purified substance from an alcohol extract of Capsella bursa-pastoris exerted contractile activity on the rat uterus which was similar to that of oxytocin.2 According to a 2014 study, shepherd’s purse was confirmed to contain the a compound sulforaphane, which helps to control inflammation and may be effective against multidrug-resistant bacteria.3
A 2015 review of shepherd’s purse published in the International Journal of Pharmacology & Toxicology highlighted the herb’s chemical constituents and the pharmacological and therapeutic effects. The plant was confirmed to have value for the treatment of menorrhagia, heavy periods, and also for metrorrhagia, abnormal bleeding between periods. These conditions seem to be mediated through alterations in contraction of smooth muscles.4
For heavy periods, our patients find that a dose of 150mg shepherd’s purse, once or several times daily, is effective. Many women see marked improvement in their heavy periods immediately and then increasingly over time, as long as there are no other underlying causes for the heavy flow, such as fibroids, low thyroid, or anemia.
In our clinical experience, other synergistic nutrients and botanicals can enhance the action of shepherd’s purse in preventing excessive menstrual flow, including: Periwinkle which is also an astringent herb. Its Latin name, Vinca, is derived from the Latin word vincere, meaning “to overcome.” Since medieval times, European herbalists have used periwinkle as a helpful remedy for conditions with a watery or bloody discharge such as menorrhagia. Another astringent herb is Cranesbill root, long used by the indigenous tribes of North America to reduce heavy bleeding. Life root herb is an age old and important uterine tonic to maintain normal menstrual flow. Ginger is also an important and well-rounded tonic herb supportive for healthy menstrual flow and uterine tone. Yarrow flower promotes circulation, yet is extremely astringent, stopping excessive blood flow. Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids which strengthen the vessels and capillary walls in the uterine system, strengthening the reproductive system overall. Vitamin K is necessary for healthy blood clotting to reduce excessive bleeding during periods.
Recommendation: Shepherd’s purse 150 mg, between meals, one to three times daily during menses, or as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Ghalandari S et al. Effect of hydroalcoholic extract of Capsella bursa-pastoris on early postpartum. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Oct 2017: 23:10.
- Kuroda K and Takagi K. Physiologically Active Substance in Capsella bursa-pastoris. Nature, 220, 1968, 707-708.
- Choi WJ, Kim SK, Park HK, Sohn UD, Kim W. Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Superbacterial Properties of Sulforaphane from Shepherd’s Purse. Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2014 Feb;18(1):33-39.
- Al-Snafi, Ali Esmail. “The chemical constituents and pharmacological effects of Capsella bursa-pastoris-A review.” International Journal of Pharmacology and toxicology 5.2 (2015): 76-81.
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Primary Care Management of Abnormal Uterine Bleeding. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 96. Rockville (MD): AHRQ, March 2013.