St John's Wort

(adapted from The Herbalist's BibleThe Herbalist's Bible, p201)

We usually think of St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) as a herb to treat depression caused by SAD (seasonal affective disorder). The sunny yellow flowers, preserved in alcohol as a tincture, taken in teaspoon doses through day, can indeed help to lift the darkness of winter blues.

This is actually a modern use of the plant, and research shows that its hypericin compound interferes with monoamine oxidase (MAO), which contributes to depression. It is slower-acting as a treatment that equivalent pharmaceutical products, but crucially it has few side effects.

Taking the plant in oil or tincture form also improves sleep quality, an important issue in depression. You can also try out a herbal pillow, using the dried flowers and leaves (discard the stalks) in a homemade cloth bag, stitched at both ends once it is full. Placed under your pillow, it will help with bad dreams and fear of the dark.

The old reputation for the plant is different, as a premier wound herb, with qualities we can now identify as nervine and antiviral. It also acts on the liver by eliminating poisons from the body.

S. Iohns wort is as singular a wound herbe as any other whatsoever … it hath power to open obstructions, to dissolve tumours, to consolidate or soder [hold together] the lips of wounds, and to strengthen the parts that are weake, and feeble.
– John Parkinson, Theatrum Botanicum (1640)

St John’s wort infused oil

Pick flowering tops of St John’s wort on a sunny day (you will need scissors as the stems are wiry), place them in a clear glass jar and fill with extra virgin olive oil until the herb is fully covered. Put the lid on and shake the jar to remove any air bubbles.

Place the jar on a sunny window sill and leave for about a month. Check occasionally to see the herb is still submerged under the oil and if needed stir it back under. The oil should turn red.

Strain off the oil, bottle and label.

Use externally to treat backache, sore muscles, sciatica, neuralgia, shingles, bruises and surgical scars, as well as any wounds.