Hypericum perforatum is the botanical name for the famous St. John’s wort, also known to some as St. Joan’s wort. This yellow-flowered plant thrives in the hottest, sunniest locations and spends the summer soaking up the sun so she can give it back to you when the outer or inner skies are grey. A dropperful of the tincture, taken as often as every two hours, if needed, can brighten your mood rapidly.


This beautiful perennial wildflower may be hated by sheep farmers but herbalists adore it.

The flowering tops are harvested after they begin to bloom (traditionally on Solstice, June 21) and prepared with alcohol, and with oil, to make two of the most useful remedies in any first aid kit.

Tincture of St. Joan’s wort not only lends one a sunny disposition, it reliably relieves muscle aches, is a powerful anti-viral, and alleviates headaches including migraines. The usual dose is 1 dropperful (1 ml) as frequently as needed.

St. Joan’s wort oil stops cold sores in their tracks and can even relieve genital herpes symptoms. I use it as a sunscreen.

Contrary to popular belief, St. Joan’s wort does not cause sun sensitivity, it prevents it. It even prevents burn from radiation therapy. Eases sore muscles, too.

The ruby red oil (made from fresh blossoms infused in olive oil kept in a cool, dark place for at least six weeks) goes deep to help muscles clear lactic acid – easing soreness, releasing spasms, and helping muscle tone.

The tincture of Hypericum is also red, and it also eliminates muscle pain. Better yet, it prevents the buildup of lactic acid in muscles, thus preventing pain.

So long as you use the tincture, there is no overdose. But beware of St. J’s in capsules. Many drugs can interact with St. John’s wort, and serious drug interactions can occur when certain medicines are used at the same time. Do not take St. John’s wort without medical advice if you regularly use other medicines, are pregnant or breastfeeding.

For centuries, sprigs of St John’s wort were combined with other herbs or used on their own in amulets, charms, and talismans. Saint John’s wort was hung above icons of Saint John, much as the ancients laid them at the feet of their gods and goddesses, to invoke the saint’s protection.

Saint John’s wort was also hung above doorways, on bedposts, and worn to protect against the evil eye and to drive away calamity including storms, tornadoes, and all manner of harmful beings.

As a divination tool, Saint John’s wort was used to determine longevity. It was said that fresh sprigs of Saint John’s wort blossoms hung near the bed overnight could show whether the sleeper would live through the year. Wilted flowers did not bode well for that person’s longevity.

Saint John’s wort was also used by maidens to divine whether a husband may find his way into their lives within the year. To this purpose, the blossoms were placed under the pillow so they might inspire dreams of a future love or mate.

From Russia to England, Europeans used Saint John’s wort to cure a variety of illnesses and to drive out illness of mind and spirit.

Oil of Saint John’s wort was commonly called the blood of Christ and was used both in healing and as an anointment during religious ceremonies. Christian tradition held that Saint John’s wort flowers, with their five petals that resemble a halo, represented the sun and sunlight. That, plus the fact that it blooms right at the solstice, linked Saint John’s wort with the Christian Saint John who is said to symbolize light.

The name perforatum is translated as “punctured,” and refers to the many tiny dots found on the leaves and flowers of St. John’s Wort, which at first glance seem to be small perforations or holes. These small, black, translucent dots are not actually holes but tiny glands which, when pressed, release the essential plant oils and resins. These red spots on Saint John’s wort’s foliage are said to mimic stigmata in part because they are only seen on mature plants, those that are ready to be picked, just as the stigmata only show on those who are ready for a life of intense service to Jesus Christ.

In magic, Saint John’s wort was used in a variety of ways to banish evil spirits, such as demons, ghosts, and poltergeists. For these purposes, flowers were gathered on Midsummer’s eve and passed through the smoke of the night’s celebratory fire to purify them.

The ancient belief that St. John’s Wort conferred protection against evil spirits may have risen in part due to its use by traditional healers as a treatment for “melancholia” or what was known at that time as “troubled spirits”. It was assumed that when the overall disposition or mood of a person was downcast, sad or unsettled, this was the work of evil forces or demons.

St. John’s Wort was not initially used to treat what we now know as depression or anxiety but, fortunately, this hidden benefit was eventually realized while doctors and herbalists were treating wounds, burns and other injuries.

When an injury was sustained, the individual often felt some measure of anxiety or emotional upset. Upon administering an infusion (tea made from steaming the leaves and flowers) of St. John’s Wort orally or applying the infused oil directly to the wound, a calming or sedating effect was noticed. St. John’s Wort then began gaining a reputation for bringing clarity, saneness or a sense of calm instead of demonic torment as was previously believed.

The natural conclusion was that St. John’s Wort carried a measure of spiritual power which was able to protect individuals from the torment of these evil spirits. Writings during the 19th century continued to incorporate hypericum for the treatment of melancholia or as we know it today, depression.

Some of these reported medicinal actions of St. John’s Wort have now been scientifically verified by double-blind studies, only to prove what the ancients knew all along.

Fiona Sass

Interested in herbs and weeds? I offer simple workshops on herbal preparations, identifying edible and medicinal wild plants and cultivating homegrown varieties. I also make and sell herbal salves, called pommade.

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by email: chara.earth@gmail.com,
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