Shepherd’s Purse



In the late 60’s, with weeks of constant flow in the female nether land, the only doctor who didn’t immediately dismiss me suggested I needed a hysterectomy; that or a psychiatrist.  Fearful, enraged, and determined to find better options, I left his office and immediately and purchased several books on herbal medicine.  The first thing I read was that the surgical term, hysterectomy, came from the word hysteria.

Looking through an index, I discovered a very thorough section on my symptoms.  Shepherd’s Purse, a common herb, was highly recommended for its positive results.  My ex and I lived in a loft downtown, and many times I’d walked by an old-style apothecary, and until that day had never had a pressing reason to enter,.  I went in and asked for Shepherd’s Purse, imagining the proprietor would sell me dried leaves in a little packet, very little interaction, and I would be free to go home and make a tea.

“What do you need with that particular herb,” he asked.  I was more than unprepared to have an intimate dialogue, but compared to the previous doctors who asked nothing, he was kindly and respectful and it took very little time for him to gather all the gory data.

With surprising agility, he climbed a rickety rolling ladder, almost to the ceiling, and came back down with a tin labeled Shepherd’s Purse.  Stationing himself at a stained counter, while I read through the walls of his inventory, he brewed the concoction.  Handwritten instructions were taped on the brown bottle of the formula.  As he gave it to me, he said, “Listen carefully,  At all times, you must keep your feet warm.”

Within a few hours, my feet were completely numb with a cold not felt anywhere else in my body.  And the cramps increased by the minute.  But following his directions, I soaked my tootsies in hot water, which had the extra benefit of a more relaxed abdomen, and continued the appropriate dosages.  By day three, the month long onslaught was history.  The symptoms being dealt with, I had a long way to go in discovering the causes, mostly stress, but I possessed the bare bones of an herbal library, which has continued to serve as my personal insurance against hysteria.

Stephanie Urdang

9 thoughts on “Shepherd’s Purse

  1. I love the beautifully told story so much, another wonderful example of remedies that work, are time honored but almost forgotten and dispensed by a gentleman who took your needs seriously.


  2. Omg, I forgot that story, but remember going in there for some concoction of my own. I wish he would have been there 30 years later!


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