Midsummer is well underway. Many flowering herbs are in full display with an array of bright colors. The most captivating colors are those which reflect the sun and the warmth of the summer season. There are a variety of yellow, orange and fiery reds such as hawksbeard, sunflower, and black-eyed Susan.
Yet the herb that stands out as summer’s poster child is stately St John’s Wort as the flowers reflect the rays of the
There are over 400 species of St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). The plant can be described as an erect perennial with a woody base. The leaves are ovate to linear, sessile, and opposite. A particular aspect of
the leaves are the glandular dots along its margins that appear translucent in the sun. This is a great way to identify St John’s Wort. The flowers are a rich yellow with five short sepals. Stamens are arranged in bundles of three. The flowers are dotted black along the margins, arranged in branched cymes and bloom June to September. The ovary is superior and three styled.
St John’s Wort spreads by underground runners and can be found in pastures, dirt roads,
sparse woods, gravel, and sandy locations. It can be found throughout Eastern North America, some parts of the Midwest, and the Pacific Coast.
The herb is very resinous with deep red juice and makes a lovely crimson colored oil that is reminiscent of long summer days.
St John’s Wort is a warming remedy, and the overall taste is compared to balsamic and is slightly volatile. It is energetically uplifting and is suggested to fight depression, hysteria, melancholy, and mental imbalances.
Historically it was used to subdue inner demons and subconscious fears. It was also used to ward off evil
and fight all manner of diseases both spiritually and physically.
is suggested to be an antispasmodic, astringent, expectorant, nervine, and vulnerary. It is also suggested to be used for nervous conditions and insomnia. Traditionally it is suggested that a tea made from the flowers is good for jaundice and chest congestion. Oil made from the herb is suggested to be used as an external application for burns, sores, bruises, and skin problems.
St John’s Wort is suggested to be a low dose herb due to phototoxicity from the chemical compound, hypericin found within the herb. Hypericin is absorbed by the intestine and surfaces near the skin
causing allergic reactions in a few individuals. Caution should be placed on the dosage especially for the first time. A moderate to low dose is recommended, up to 4g of the dried herb and applied sparingly if topical. A heroic dose is not recommended and individuals utilizing St John’s Wort for the first time should conduct a sensitivity test.
St John’s Wort was used religiously as well. The word, Hypericum in Greek means “overall apparition” referencing the
belief that one whiff of the herb was extremely noxious to evil spirits and would cause them to flee, thus being a popular herb to have in the home garden and sprigs of it carried on a journey. St John’s Wort was also associated with midsummer fires on the summer solstice (June 21st-22nd) or on St John’s Eve (June 23). The herb was hung on the threshold of houses to keep evil spirits at bay.
In Western Materia Medica, St John’s Wort has been a helpful herb used for thousands of years. While this herb has had its controversies it is a must in any herbal medicine
David Hoffmann. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press.
Lust, J. (2009). In The herb book. essay, Dover Publications.
Arsdall, A. V., Graham, T., & Riddle, J. M. (2017). Herbs and healers from the ancient Mediterranean through the medieval West Essays in honor of John M. Riddle. Routledge.
GRIEVE, M. (2015). Modern Herbal (Volume 2, I-Z and indexes). STONE BASIN Books.
Dr. Christopher Hobbs. (2023, February 12). St. John’s Wort: A Review. Dr. Christopher Hobbs, Ph.D.
Brandy R. Radcliff is a Master Herbalist from the School of Natural Healing. She runs a brick and mortar store, The Blessed Fig Tree and is building up her herbal clientele along with her
emergency formula line. She is also establishing an endangered and rare herbal sanctuary named Northern Eden on land in Pence, Wisconsin with the intent to certify it through her membership with United Plant Savers. For further inquiries contact her at [email protected]