Ji Cai (Shepherd’s Purse or Capsella bursa-pastoris)

What Is Ji Cai

Ji Cai is commonly known as Shepherd’s Purse or Capsella bursa-pastoris, which is an annual flowering plant belonging to the family Brassicaceae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Qian Jin Yao Fang>(Thousand Golden Essential Prescriptions) in the three years of Yonghui in the Tang Dynasty (around 100 BCE).

There are about 8 species of Capsella, which are widely distributed in temperate regions of the world. Among them, individual species are biennial. The most common species of them is the shepherd’s purse.

Shepherd’s Purse is a common hardy wild vegetable, and they are considered a weed in some countries. This plant prefers cool and humid climates. They grow well in fertile, loose, well-drained neutral, or slightly acidic soils at 12-20°C. They often grow on hillsides, fields, and roadsides. They are native to Eurasia and North Africa and have been introduced to the Americas, Africa, and Oceania.

Shepherd's Purse

From March to May, people gather all the parts of Shepherd’s Purse, remove impurities, wash them with water, cut them into pieces, dry them in the sun, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Ji Cai contains hesperidin, dihydrofisetin, kaempferol-4′-methylether, quercetin-3-methylether, gossypetin hexamethyl ether, diosmin, robinetin, garbanzol, swertisin, rutin, luteolin-7-O-galactoside, luteolin-7-rutinoside, oxalic acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, pyruvic acid, sulfanilic acid, fumaric acid, vanillic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, palmitic acid, sinigrin, sitosterol, trierpenes, saponin, coumarin, choline, acetyl choline, tyramine, strychnine, sinapine, yohimbine, ergocristine, sucrose, sorbose, lactose, sorbitol, mannite, adonitol, amino acids, and some inorganic elements.

According to <Compendium of Materia Medica>, the medicinal nature of Ji Cai is relatively cool, with a sweet taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the liver and stomach meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often used to induce diuresis and remove swelling, improve eyesight, stop bleeding, and treat edema, diarrhea, redness, swelling, and pain of the eyes, gonorrhea, hematuria, chyluria, urinary retention, ascites, hematemesis, hematochezia, menorrhagia, postpartum hemorrhage, uterine bleeding, measles, hemorrhoids, bleeding eye disease, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, chronic urinary tract infection, and infantile diarrhea.


  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting LPS-induced NO and PGE2 production in RAW264.7 cells, and carrageenan-induced paw swelling in mice [1].
  • Anti-oxidation, scavenging DPPH free radicals, superoxide anion free radicals, and nitric oxide free radicals, inhibiting lipid peroxidation [2].
  • Exciting rat isolated uterus and rabbit uterus, enhancing their uterine contractions.
  • Inducing diuresis, and treating edema caused by internal retention of water-dampness.
  • Removing dampness and treating diarrhea caused by damp-heat.
  • Clearing liver and improving eyesight, treating redness, swelling, and pain of the eyes, and nebula.
  • Cooling blood and treating hematemesis, hematochezia, uterine bleeding, and menorrhagia caused by blood heat.
  • It cooperates with pentobarbital sodium to prolong the sleep time of experimental mice.
  • Clinical trial study have confirmed that its hydroalcoholic extract can effectively reduce menstrual cycle bleeding, and the amount of bleeding is significantly less than that in the mefenamic acid test [3].
  • Another clinical trial study confirmed that its hydroalcoholic extract is effective in reducing postpartum hemorrhage [4].
  • Intravenous administration of its alcoholic extract to dogs, cats, rabbits, and rats caused a transient drop in blood pressure.
  • Its organic acids can significantly reduce croton oil-induced hemorrhagic necrotic enteritis in mice and ameliorate the levels of cytokines, lipid peroxidation, myeloperoxidase, and antioxidants [5].
  • Studies have found that its water extract can prevent high-fructose induced-liver injury by regulating glucolipid metabolism and gut microbiota [6].
  • Studies have found that its methanol extracts can decrease cell growth and induce apoptosis via the downregulation of specificity protein 1 in HSC-2 human oral cancer cells [7].
  • Its extract has certain inhibitory effects on Staphylococcus aureus, Actinomyces viscosus, Enterococcus faecalis, Streptococcus sanguis, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus mutans, Vancomycin-resistant enterococci, and Bacillus anthracis in vitro [8, 9].


Side Effects

  • It has been reported that it may cause nitrite poisoning in pigs [10].
  • Animal experiments have shown that intraperitoneal injection of its extract can cause sedation, pupil dilation, limb paralysis, dyspnea, and death in mice [11].
  • Individual patients taking it may cause drowsiness, shortness of breath, pupil dilation, or palpitation.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Ji Cai should be controlled at 15-30g.
  • When using fresh Ji Cai, the dosage should be doubled.
  • It can be made into decoctions, pills, powders, or mashed for external use.
  • People allergic to Ji Cai should not take it.
  • Patients with heart disease, kidney stones, or thyroid disease should not take it.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take it.