St. John's wort: what this plant can do for you

February 24, 2016

St. John's wort is known for its various health benefits. Learn more about this fabulous plant that can treatmany ailments.

St. John's wort: what this plant can do for you


Hypericum, commonly St.John's wort, is a genus of over 400 species, but only H. perforatum is recommended for medicinal use.

  • This perennial and woody plant has an unpleasant odour, with erect clumps of stems that can reach one meter (three feet).
  • The leaves, small and oval, are arranged in opposing pairs along the stems, bearing many oily translucent glands.
  • In summer, the flowers with five yellow petals gather in cymes and have small glands.
  • Small ovoid capsules contain a round, black seed.
  • When crushed, the flowers exude a blood-red pigment containing hypericin.
  • Perforate St. John's wort differs from ornamental varieties grown in gardens. It is a beautiful wild flower found in meadows or forest edges, but it is toxic to livestock.
  1. Grow it in a well-drained, moist to moderately dry soil in the sun or a little shade.
  2. Sow the seed at maturity in the fall or the following spring. Germination can take up to three months. You can also divide the rhizomes in autumn or spring.
  3. Prune dead stems when the plants are dormant.
  4. Pick the flower heads in early summer when the buttons hatch and dry them.

The night of St. John

  • Traditionally, St. John's wort with golden flowers was considered a purifying and protective plant against evil spirits: it was hung above the entrance doors and thrown on the fires of St. John.
  • Every year, summer solstice is celebrated, the longest day of the year, on the occasion of a pagan festival that's still relevant.
  • They threw St. John's wort on the bonfires then leaped over them to cleanse her body of evil spirits.
  • That same day, they also placed bouquets of St.John's wort over religious representations to dismiss the devil.

Herbal medicine

Traditionally used in cases of nerve problems, including neuralgia and sciatica, as well as anxiety and depression, St. John's wort is best known these days for its antidepressant effects.

Various clinical trials have confirmed the properties of St. John's wort for mild to moderate depression, without the side effects of other drugs.

  • Two components of St.John's wort, hypericin, and hyperforin, are the root of the antidepressant effects. They function as allopathic drugs.

St. John's Wort comes in a fixed amount to maintain the right mix of these components.

  • Clinical trials have also suggested that St. John's wort is effective in the symptomatic treatment of mood swings associated with menopause and PMS, in case of obsessive-compulsive disorder or seasonal affective problems.
  • Laboratory studies have shown anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-viral effects of St. John's wort. Taken internally as a tea or extract or externally in the form of red oil extracted from the flowers, it can relieve sciatica, shingles, cold sores, genital herpes and rheumatic pain. The oil is also a valuable remedy to be applied in case of injury or burns.
  • It is not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

It remains the emblem for celebrations of the summer solstice around Europe, but St. John's wort is also full of health benefits. Note that it is important to consult your doctor before consuming it.

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