Last weekend I took my apprentice students on a weed walk in one of the local areas I use for wildcrafting. Hidden amongst the asters and mullein were here and there the delicate splashes of yellow belonging to the St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) bloom.
It is hard to look at the flower of this plant and not feel cheery. It can be no coincidence that St. John’s wort has long been used for depression, stress and pain.
St Johns Wort Side Effects?
Just like many other herbs recently, it has been wrongly cast into suspicion. There have been reports that St. John’s wort interacts with a large number of prescription drugs. This is true when the concentration of a specific chemical within the plant, hyperfolin, is increased beyond the normal amount found when using the herb itself. In other words, when the plant is processed into a dietary supplement that has that particular chemical added at an unnatural level, there may be problems. There is little evidence that using the plant as a food or supplement under normal use will present any problems.
That being said, there is more to this plant than just pills and teas. My favorite way to use St. John’s wort is topically. For this preparation, we turn back to the sunny, yellow flowers and make a St. John’s wort oil, which we use for:
- nerve trauma
- sore muscles
- varicose veins
I make a batch every year and am fascinated as the oil surrounding the yellow blooms turns blood red. You see, if you rub the flower bud between your finger tips it releases a red oil. It’s a great “magic trick” to do for your kids. Here’s how I make our oil:
Homemade St. John’s Wort Oil
(For those looking to purchase St. John’s Wort Herbal Oil, you can find it here.)
- St. John’s Wort flowers and leaves (must be fresh, not dried)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The flowers are traditionally picked on the Feast of St. John, around June 24. You can really pick them anytime, but this is the time of year they are typically the most prevalent.
Pick the flower buds that are just about to open, or simply snip the flowers, buds and top few leaves from each plant and place them in a canning jar. I make this half a gallon at a time, but you should choose the amount you need for your family.
Fill the jar and pack the plant loosely. Cover with olive oil (Be certain there is no plant matter above the level of the oil or it will spoil) and tighten the lid. Now you’re all set to put the jar in the sun for 4-6 weeks. Herbalists tend to start these preparations on a new moon. As often as possible, give the jar a shake to keep everything mixed properly. In the Mediterranean, jars of St. John’s wort are placed in sandboxes in the sun to maximize heat. I have found that too harsh for my oils, but you can experiment.
At the end of it’s time in the sun, strain the oil and store it in your medicine closet. We don’t go on a beach vacation without this oil. In fact, it is one of the main ingredients in my burn salve!