I am so excited to be writing about St. Johnswort today. It was this amazing plant healer that started me on the path to becoming a herbalist. As someone who has battled depression for most of my adult life, it’s no surprise that this herb would be in my healing arsenal. So let’s learn a little bit about Hypericum!
Latin name: Hypericum perforatum
Common names: St. Johns wort
Parts Used: top 20-25% of the plant (aerial parts)
Constituents: volatile oil (caryophyllene, methyl-2-octane, n-nonane, n-octanal, n-decanal, α- and β-pinene); naphthodianthones (hypericin, pseudohypericin); phloroglucinols (hyperforin); catechins; proanthocyanidins; flavonoids (hyperoside, rutin) 1
Although native to Asia and Europe, Hypericum can now be found worldwide. The name St. Johns wort stems from the tradition of harvesting the herb on St. John’s day which is the 24th of June. Hypericum is a herbaceous perennial plant that has a rhizomatous root structure. The stems are erect and branch off at the upper sections. St. John’s wort can grow up to 1 metre in height. The leaves are green and have scatter translucent dots that can be seen when held up to the lights (these dots are glandular tissue). These dots look like perforations hence the Latin name “perforatum”. The flowers have give petals that are yellow in colour with a few scattered black dots. The flowers form a structure known as a cyme and they appear during late spring or early summer (closer to early summer in southern Ontario). Hypericum’s flowers have many stamens which form three bundles at the base. If you crush the flower buds, a red/purple liquid is produced.
Analgesic, antibacterial, anticatarrhal, anticonvulsant, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory (local, neural, systemic), antineurotoxic, antioxidant, antispasmodic, antiulcerogenic, antiviral, anxiolytic, astringent, cardiac, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, hemostatic (antihemorrhagic, styptic), nervine, relaxant, sedative, tranquilizer, vascular tonic, vulnerary
- topical application for surface injuries (cuts, bites, scrapes, stings etc) and deeper tissue injuries (bruises, sprains, strains etc)
- a specific for any injury in which there is nerve damage
- internal use for inflammatory conditions of the GI tract
- depression, anxiety, insomnia, muscle tension, tension headaches
- dementias, poor concentration/memory, mental fatigue
- pain and diseases of the nervous system
- neuralgia, rheumatic and arthritic pains, coccygeal pains
- vascular conditions (hemorrhoids, varicose veins, arteriosclerosis), heart conditions
- very good antibacterial (best applied locally – mouth, throat, GI tract, skin)
- very good antiviral (herpes, cold sores etc)
- Note: for cold sores it should be taken internally as well because the virus is systemic
- reduces fever, upper respiratory anticatarrhal (excess mucus), immune stimulant and antiviral
Due to photosensitizing properties be cautious with regards to sun exposure. It is best to avoid direct sun exposure (without adequate protection) with long term use. It is not recommended in combination with other moderate to strong astringent herbs. It should be used with caution (and under the supervision of a qualified practitioner) if pregnant or breastfeeding. Due to the possibility of increased liver metabolism, Hypericum should only be administered by a qualified herbalist if you are on any of the following medications: oral contraceptives, HIV protease inhibitors, cardioactive glycosides, anticoagulant or antithrombotic. Due to it’s anxioylitic and antidepressant properties it should be used with caution (preferably under the supervision of a qualified herbalist) if you are on anti-convulsant, sedative or mood-altering medications.
P.S. Please pin and share the Hypericum love!
Class Notes – Living Earth School of Herbalism
Earthwise Herbal, The – Matthew Wood
Holistic Herbal – David Hoffman
Medical Herbalism – David Hoffman (1)
Modern Herbal, A – Mrs. M. Grieve
Way of Herbs, The – Michael Tierra