I was talking to one of my herbal clients today and she emphatically stated that she is done, done done with the weather (our swap of weather with the Pacific Northwest) and feeling slightly depressed but not with a capital D but more along the lines of just settling into a melancholy state. Instantly my herb brain started pinging to one of my favorite herbs for adding in a bit of sunshine when needed. Like a magician, St. John’s Wort is a beautiful herb for creating a burst of energy and like a lightbulb it can flip a switch when the world feels a little dark. Let’s dive in a little bit deeper on this.
Often touted as “cure-all” herb for depression and anxiety this herb has MANY other uses for basic herbal wellness. St. John's Wort has an affinity to support the nervous system. It is a mood lifting herb for sure but also works as a wound healer when there is nerve pain to the skin like burns, neuralgia, sunburn and trauma to the skin. Its one of my go to’s as an effective pain relief for cold sores and mouth sores because it’s a anti-retro-viral and works on the herpes simplex virus. I love this herb combined with other herb to maximize it’s effect on the body. For example, St. John’s wort, milky oats and passionflower is one of my favorite anxiety remedies, with hops and valerian for insomnia, with with chamomile and rose for children going through emotional upheaval.
I also use St. John’s wort for folks that take life a little too seriously and need to lighten up a bit. In general tea time in the apothecary or at home is a way to take a deep breath and stay present in the moment but add a little St. John's Wort and things seem to ease a bit. I often make a seasonal tea blend St. Johns Wort, oatstraw and chamomile for/with my son when the burdens of 4th grade can’t be handled with words and a as a mother who struggles with the run around.
St. John's Wort infused in an oil is a hands down my favorite to have on hand for burns, bruises, and neuralgia. One note on this plant, there are a lot of cultivars of this beauty but the hypericin is a red color, I love taking one of these small leaves and holding it up to the light to make sure I have the one that is perforated with little holes, then I’ll double check by squeezing a bud of the flower between my fingers and seeing the red coloring come through. I made a batch of this red wonder oil in the fall of 2016 (around 2 gallons) and I have been slowly doling it out until this summer when I had the inspiration to make it into a massage oil called (as of right now) Joint Juice as a massage oil because of it’s perfect tendency to help nerve pain, bursitis, arthritis, sciatica along with solomon seal and kava -- it’s a perfect blend of numbing, soothing and healing. It’s one of my favorite products for all sorts of pain.
St. John’s Wort is a trophorestorative herb- YAY! These are a special class of herbs that can add vitality to a system that is under duress. These tonic herbs that work in conjunction with the system that they have an affinity for and to restore the weakness in the body system, in St. John's Wort it's all about the nervous system healing and restoring. Specifically on the nervous system through the solar plexus and supports and aids in digestive function when it’s due to emotional distress. The antimicrobial and anti-viral properties of St. John's Wort have been used for TB, viral outbreaks and influenza.
Energetically, I use St. John’s Wort as flower essence to turn your inner light back on and shore up where there are holes in your spirit. People moving towards a sense of melancholia. There is a movement energetically in the solar plexus chakra and I one of my favorite uses for St. John's Wort to help those who are dealing with mental attacks such as depression, paranoia, night terrors or disturbing dreams. You can use this as a flower essence, a tea, a massage oil, or as an offering herb.
Harvesting and Uses:
Harvesting medicinal St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum ONLY) bloom time is primarily after the summer solstice in June through the stretches of August. I’m always keeping my eye out for the bright messy yellow blooms. Harvesting cut the top ⅓ of the plant, making sure that you leave enough tops for seeding out next year (as a rule of thumb take only ¼ of the plants in the area you are harvesting) For tea I usually dry it in my dehydrator or in my oven on the warm setting overnight. This yellow flowered plant is actually filled with the his sunshine herb can be used throughout the winter for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or as needed when the rain and gloomy weather is affecting your day to day.
St. John's Wort loves dry and disturbed soils so sides of the roads and on the edges of meadows is usually a good place to look. It also can be cultivated - I usually have little starts but am going to try a scatter method on the edge of the garden next year.
Noteworthy contraindications: I hope you’ve enjoyed my lil picture of the use of St. John’s wort, there are a items on my when not to take and when to just be aware of the strong effects of St. John's Wort. One is that it helps with liver stagnation by flushing the liver out -- this can be good but it also has been shown to increase the metabolism of certain drugs, so it’s best to check with a pharmacist or your herbalist before using regularly. It is also a diuretic and will increase your need to pee! If your interested more about this herb I highly recommend checking out the following other herbalists info on the subject as my highlight is not as exhaustive as some. DO NOT USE during Pregnancy, with pre-existing Liver conditions, with pharmaceutical MAOI's or Birth control pills. Also, there is research that taken in large doses St. John's Wort can cause sensitivity to the sun...pale skin types use caution.
For more indepth info and other perspectives check out the following: