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Common Name: St Johns Wort | Scientific Name: Hypericum Perfoliatum

Family Name: Hypericaceae


People mistakenly believe that Saint John’s Wort is nothing but an herbal anti-deppressant, and this is not the case. This herb is a tonic to the nervous system that heals the nerves, whether fried by life, or smooshed by a car accident. This is a nerve healer, and, in the world we live in, and what it does to the nerves, an herb people should learn about.


Fact Sheet
Chapter from “Thirty Plants that Can Save Your Life”
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

Fact Sheet

Parts Used: Leaves, stems, and flowers

Remember This: Nerve Tonic

Reasonable Uses:
depression, burnout, nervous exhaustion, stress, nervous abnormalities based on nerve exhaustion.

History and Traditional Uses
The yellow flower of St. John’s wort releases blood red juice when crushed—juice associated with the blood of St. John the Baptist . This same blood was used by witches to create ancient love potions. Known as a wound healer since 500 bc , this old medicinal herb was said to speed wound healing. On a separate front it was used to dispel depression and madness. At the turn of the century, doctors acknowledged that the plant had “undoubted power over the nervous system” and used it for depression and other nervous abnormalities.

Scientific Back Up
Researchers have identified at least three substances in this weedy-looking plant that dispel mild depression. Hypericin, for one, protects the brain’s natural “feel-good” chemicals, such as serotonin. In studies involving more than 3,000 people who used the herb, 80% felt improved or totally free from the debilitating blues of depression.

Herbalists Use It To…
Lighten depression
At various points in life and for various reasons people wind up feeling depressed. There are many roads to the place called depression. Herbalists feel that to relieve mild to moderate depression Saint Johns Wort should be the first port of call. Its cheap, safe and effective. In the overwhelming number of cases it gives people the boost they need.

Heal burn out masquerading as depression
The human nervous system is like a telephone switchboard, transmitting messages to and from the brain. Like all electronic systems, the human nervous system was meant to process a certain amount of information and no more. Many people are processing more information than the human nervous system can handle. Eventually the system starts smoking and people end up burned out. They are diagnosed as being depressed, when in fact their nervous system is shot. Saint Johnswort is the ultimate nerve tonic and one ideally suited for a person whose nervous system has collapsed due to over use.

Prevent Personal Flash Fires
Sometimes life demands more of us than we have to offer. Stressful, unexpected events heaped upon an already overburdened schedule take us to the breaking point. Saint Johnswort, with its nerve strengthening effect, can help our nervous system process that which it must process. We can cope a little better and a little longer with its use. Herbalists feel it can prevent burnout in individuals tettering on the edge of a personal flash fires.

Heal damaged nerves
Conventional medical wisdom holds that once a nervous system is damaged it can never be repaired. Herbalists working with accident victims think this may not be entirely true. Patients suffering nerve damage through accident or surgery often recover more of their faculties than was expected by using saint johns wort. When the nerves have been damaged, herbalists say call in saint johnswort.

Shopping Tips
The herb is widely available in the form of tea, tincture, powder, capsules, and tablets. Though most of the studies on Saint Johnswort have been done on products standardized for hypericin levels, the raw herb has worked for several thousand years.

The herb may cause sun sensitivity. Do not use with other antidepressants.

Damiana(Turnera aphrodisiaca)
Oat straw( Avena sativa)

Chapter from “Thirty Plants That Can Save Your Life”

Saint Johns Wort

“Flea bane on the lintel of the door I have hung: St. Johns wort, caper, and wheat ears.”

Ancient Witches Chant.

Let’s just take a quick look at what the country people call this plant, amber, balm of warrior’s wounds , cammock, the devil’s scourge, herb John, penny John, the Grace of God, the Lord God’s wonder plant, rosin rose, touch and heal, perfoliate St. John’s wort, hundred holes, terrestrial sun, witches’ herb. I think my favorite name is, the Lord God’s wonder plant. Can you imagine having to spit that big old name out every time you wanted someone to hand you some St. Johns wort? These names should be a healthy hint as to what the people in the country think and feel about St. Johns wort.

Since the time of Dioscorides ( ), St. Johns wort has had a great reputation as a wound herb. It was referred to by Paul of Aegina and also by Galen. The leaves contain much oil and the plant has been called the arnica of the nervous system. It relieves excessive pain, removes the effects of shock, and has a tonic effect on the mind and the body. It is a valuable remedy to cure pain following an operation. The flowers are made into lotions and gargles.

Pliny also mentiona the plant in his writings. In herbals in France , Spain , Portugal and Yugoslavia the plant is described as an internal and external remedy having curative properties in the treatment of various diseases. From the ancient days forward, the plant was known as a miracle healer. Like with many of our miracle healers, it also got a reputation as a magic plant.

It was known as witches herb, as when it wasn’t punishable by burning at the stake, St. Johns wort was one of the most popular with practicing witches. Its use by witches may be due to the fact that when the flowers are pressed with cooking oil, a blood red product is produced. And I mean to say, blood red. It looks like blood. Once again, this is a special ability, the plant is special. The flowers when rubbed together give a red juice which was believed to be the blood of St. John the Baptist and the flowers were gathered on the Eve of St. John’s Day – the 24th of June. The leaves are marked with red spots the color of dried blood. This witches’ blood was the base in sorcery from the Greeks forward, an important ingredient in spells of sorcery, conjuration, love potions, and poisons.

The herb used to be hung up over the doors of cottages on the Eve of St. John to drive away evil spirits, and there are many legends associated with it. In the Isle of Man there is a saying that whoever treads on it at night will be carried about on a fairy horse and not allowed to rest ’til sunrise. I have to tell you that I fully intend to take a walk on my bed of St. Johns wort to see if this is really true, I have never ridden a fairy horse.

The plant is extremely decorative with its large yellow flowers and tassel-like center, and it is most accommodating because it will grow under trees and in shady positions that the sun never reaches.

There is not just one St. Johns wort, but rather several and, in fact, almost every continent has been blessed with its one variety. The plants have been used to maintain health since antiquity and are finding a place in the modern medicinal arena. Modern herbalists are using the plant in treating AIDS and other immunity suppressed conditions. What the people working with the plant are finding, it is likely that we will continue hearing about this plant. Here are a few of the St. Johns used for healing and health.

great st. johns wort: pyramidatum

common st.johns wort: perforatum

spotted st.johns wort: punctatum

marsh st.johns wort: virginicum

I think we will take a little tour of the world of St. Johns wort, starting with a little time line.

In 1633, our friend Gerard had this to say on St. Johns wort,

” St. John’s wort with his flowers and seed boiled and drunken, provoketh urine, and is right good against the stone in the bladder, and stoppeth the laske. The leaves stamped are good to be laid upon burnings, scaldings, and all wounds; and also for rotten and filthy ulcers. I am accustomed to make a compound oil hereof, the making of which ye shall receive at my hands, because that I know in the world there is not a better, no not natural balsam itselfe; for I dare undertake to cure any such wound as absolutely in each respect, if not sooner and better, as any man whatsoever shall or may with natural balsam.

In the Lewis Materia Medica, compiled in 1799, the following was written about St. Johns wort, “hypericum has long been celebrated in maniacal disorders, it has been reckoned of such efficacy in the later as to have thence received the name fuga daemonum. (go away demons) it has also been recommended internally for wounds, bruises, ulcers, spitting blood, bloody urine, agues, and worms.” I certainly have my share of demons I would like to go away, it’s nice to know that the plant will take care of them while it is making my body strong.

In 1830, Raffinesque had this to say on the plant, “h. perforatum bad weeds in field, blossoms chiefly used, although yellow they dye oils red, infused in sweet oil or bear’s grease, they make a fine red balsamic ointment for wounds, sores, swellings, ulcers, tumors, and rough skin. The red of the leaves gives relief in diseases of the breast and lungs. Used for many disorders by the empirics. A syrup made with sage for croup. Used in cholics and against vomiting.”

In 1848, A Mr. Gunn tells us that hypericum perforatum should be used in suppression of urine, and in chronic afflictions of the urinary organs. By 1868 the plant got a listing in the Canadian Pharmacopeia.

In 1892 a scientist had this to say of St. Johns wort, “the great use of hypericum in wounds where the nerves are involved to any extent is the rightful discovery of the true science of medicine, many cases of injury to the cranium and spinal column are reported benefitted by its use, and every homeopathic physician of at least three months practice can attest to its merits.”

In 1899, doctor E. B. Nash, M.D., said this of St. Johns wort,

“is the remedy par excellence for wounded or injured nerves: from simple punctures from nails, splinters, pins, rate bites, etc. to severe concussions of the spine and brain.” The good doctor wrote this of the plant in a book entitled leaders in homeopathic therapeutics. The plant was considered supreme by the homeopaths then and today.

In 1928 Mr. H. Smith noted that the Meskwaki tribe were quite found of St. Johns wort, “the Meskwaki use this root in connection with others to cure tuberculosis. Mcintosh said that if it was used in the first stages of consumption it was a cure. The Meskawki boil the root and use it for a dusting powder to place upon the bite of a water moccasin to draw out the venom and heal it.”

In 1992, St. Johns wort isn’t used for squat, no one knows what the plant is, they can’t recognize it if it is under their nose, let alone know how to use it. The only people that know of it are cattle and sheep ranchers in the West as the plant causes light sensitivity, and animals that eat a lot of it get killer sunburns. The government and all involved try to eradicate the useless weed. Ok, its time to re-remember the plant all witches love. Let’s go overseas where people still recognize the plant.

Oddly enough, we are going to shift to the Ukraine for our modern lesson in St. Johns wort. They still use it and have done some interesting research into the matter. It would seem that the plant is most popular with the villagers as their leading home remedy, especially in kidney and intestinal diseases. The feeling is, if you are sick, you need St. Johns wort. Here are some listings that can be found in a text of Ukraninian folk healing:

“For diseases of the digestive tract, stomach-ahce and kidney trouble, cramps in the stomach, various intestinal ailments, for bloody diarrhea, to stimulate the appetite, constipation, weak stomach, catarrh of the stomach, poor digestion. A seed tincture is also used for diarrhea and the dried flowers, brewed like tea, with the addition of sugar are employed in the treatment of stomach cancer.”

“The plant tops with the flowers are used for respiratory diseases, such as cough, shortness of breath, pneumonia, lung diseases, hemoptysis. It is also used for kidney diseases and for blood and metabolic diseases. A decoction is used for hair washing and is also drunk by adults and children for headache caused by anemia, and dizziness.”

“It is employed as a remedy for infectious diseases. An herb infusion is given to humans and cattle bitten by a mad dog – and a decoction is drunk and applied as an ointment for head colds. Fresh plant juice is applied to sores caused by malignant anthrax, and it is applied externally for rheumatic pains Seeds steeped in oil are applied as an ointment for rheumatism.”

“For the treatment of wounds use is made mainly of fresh flowers. Fresh or dried flowers rubbed and mixed with butter, are applied locally to fresh or festering sores. A plant tincture is used for washing wounds. Flowers steeped in olive oil are used as an ointment for wounds. A plant infusion is drunk for bruises, and poultices made of the flowers are applied to burns”

“As a remedy for nervous diseases: a plant decoction is drunk and used for massage in case of paralysis and as compresses for paralysis, and nervous disorders. As a remedy for gynecological diseases. To cure tumors in the uterus, to put the uterus in place, to cure ulcers, to stop uterine bleeding. As a remedy for children’s diseases. As a remedy for various ailments: internal pains caused by contusion, lumbago, meagerness, suffocation, overstrain from lifting heavy weights.

As if this weren’t enough, the peasants, or so the texts describe the villagers, use the plant at wheat harvesting time to ensure good strength during the long days of bringing in the crops. The feeling is that the plant makes you strong and able to handle the work you have to do. Does this sound like something you might want to have, strength to do the things you need to do?

Popping right over to Ireland , we find that St. John’s wort of England is in Ireland associated with the Blessed Virgin and St. Coluimcille as well as St. John . The herb is recommended by the chief herbalist in County Waterford as an excellent remedy for an airy fit. Just in case your not up on irish terminology, an airy fit is a little spell of lunacy, which also tends to happen to most of us living in the modern world.

In China , hypericum chinese chin, or ssu tsao as it is called

is both an ornamental and medicinal plant. The flowers of this variety are said to be lovely, unlike the other members of the specie that rather lack in this department. The plant is used as an astringent and said to be loaded with alterative properties, and is also prescribed in miasmatic diseases and snake bite. If you are sick, this plant is thought to alter that state. The preferred way of using the plant is with a little wine and a touch of powdered centipede. Yuck.

Leave it to the Chinese to check things out, and here is what they found out about one of their local St. Johns wort:

Japanese St. Johns wort has been shown to have antitumor activity in animals. Other Hypericum species with antitumor activity are H. perforatum. H. chinese, H.revolutum and H.erectum.

At least 17 species of Hypericum have shown in vitro antibacterial activity, and the antibacterial constituent has been identified in Hypericum uliginosum as uliginosis A and B (terperne quinones).

Other Hypericum species have shown in vitro antifungal activity, and seven species are reported to elicit antiviral effects in vitro.

Extracts of Hypericum perforatum show antidiarrheal, sedative, antitumor, and diuretic (active principle is the flavonoid hyperoside) activity.

So there you have it, St. Johns wort is a serious ingredient in our tonic mixture. In getting a hold of your raw material you have a couple of options, you can buy it, you can grow it, or you can go out and collect it. Firstly, the plant is best collected when in bloom, and you want the stems, leaves, and flowers attached. They can be dried in a shady location for later use or tossed into the witches’ pot fresh.

If you decide you would like to grow some of your own, this is a smart thing to do, as no garden plant could be easier to deal with. You just get yourself a start from the garden center or from a friend, and haul it in. It likes full sun and total shade, whatever space you have for it, it will be more than happy to take over and grow like bananas, so to speak. It is a pretty intense ground cover once its gets started, so watch out.

Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

1907: Ellingwood
Muscular bruises, deep soreness, painful parts, a sensation of throbbing in the body without fever. Burning pain, or deep soreness of the spine upon pressure, spinal irritation, circumscribed areas of intense soreness over the spinal cord or ganglia.

Concussional shock or injury to the spine, lacerated or punctured wounds in any location, accompanied with great pain.

Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.