Thlaspi bursa pastoris
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Shepherd's Purse is one of the most important drugplants of the family Cruciferae.
The Shepherd's Purse has been used in English domestic practice from early times, as an astringent in diarrhoea; it was much used in decoction with milk to check active purgings in calves. Later its value here was much doubted, and other properties accorded it, especially those of a stimulating astringent and diuretic. It has been employed in fresh decoction in hematuria, hemorrhoids, diarrhoea and dysentery, and locally as a vulnerary in ecchymosis and as an application in rheumatic affections. The juice on cotton, inserted in the nostrils, was often used to check hemorrhage in epistaxis.
When dried and infused, it yields a tea which is still considered by herbalists one of the best specifics for stopping haemorrhages of all kinds - of the stomach, the lungs, or the uterus, and more especially bleeding from the kidneys.
Its haemostyptic properties have long been known and are said to equal those of ergot and hydrastis. During the Great War, when these were no longer obtainable in German commerce, a liquid extract of Capsella bursapastoris was used as a substitute, the liquidextract being made by exhausting the drug with boiling water. Bomelon found the herb of prompt use to arrest bleedings and flooding, when given in the form of a fluid extract, in doses of 1 to 2 spoonfuls.
Culpepper says it helps bleeding from wounds - inward or outward - and:
'if bound to the wrists, or the soles of the feet, it helps the jaundice. The herb made into poultices, helps inflammation and St. Anthony's fire. The juice dropped into ears, heals the pains, noise and matterings thereof. A good ointment may be made of it for all wounds, especially wounds in the head.'
It has been used in English domestic practice from early times as an astringent in diarrhoea; it was much used in decoction with milk to check active purgings in calves.
It has been employed in fresh decoction in haematuria, haemorrhoids, chronic diarrhcea and dysentery, and locally as a vulnerary in nose-bleeding, which is checked by inserting the juice on cotton-wool. It is also used as an application in rheumatic affections, and has been found curative in various uterine haemorrhages, especially those with which uterine cramp and colic are associated, and also in various passive haemorrhages from mucous surfaces.
It is a remedy of the first importance in catarrhal conditions of the bladder and ureters, also in ulcerated conditions and abscess of the bladder. It increases the flow of urine. Its use is specially indicated when there is white mucous matter voided with the urine; relief in these cases following at once.
Its antiscorbutic, stimulant and diuretic action causes it to be much used in kidney complaints and dropsy; other similar stimulating diuretics such as Couch Grass may be combined with it.
Dr. Ellingwood, in his valuable work on Therapeutics, says of Shepherd's Purse:
'This agent has been noted for its influence in haematuria . . . soothing irritation of the renal or vesical organs. In cases of uncomplicated chronic menorrhagia (excessive menstruation) it has accomplished permanent cures, especially if the discharge be persistent. The agent is also useful where uric acid or insoluble phosphates or carbonates produce irritation of the urinary tract. Externally, the bruised herb has been applied to bruised and strained parts, to rheumatic joints, and where there was ecchymosis, or extravasations within or beneath the skin.
'The herb is rather unpleasant to take, but it is valuable mixed with Pellitory of the Wall, and a little Spirits of Juniper much disguises the flavour. A small quantity of Nitrate of Potash will further disguise it, and not detract from its medicinal value. The infusion may be taken in wineglassful doses, four times a day.'
The medicinal infusion should be made with an ounce of the plant to 12 OZ. of water, reduced by boiling to 1/2 pint, strained and taken cold.
The fluid extract is given in doses of 1/2 to 1 drachm. In the United States, the fluid extract is given for dropsy in doses of 1/2 to 1 teaspoonful in water.
Shepherd's Purse was said to be the principal herb in the blue 'Electric Fluid' used by Count Matthei to control haemorrhage.
Small birds are fond of the seeds of Shepherd's Purse: chaffinches and other wild birds may often be observed feeding on them, and they form valuable food for all caged birds.
When poultry have fed freely on the green plant in the early spring, it has been noticed that the egg yolks become dark in colour, a greenish brown or olive colour, and stronger in flavour.