St John’s Wort

Hypericum Perforatum

This is an herbaceous, hairless perennial growing to a height of 15-80cm, with upright, usually branching, stems. It has slender stolons and rhizomes. It has many small pale green, opposite leaves which are narrow, lance-shaped, 1-3cm long and dotted with oil glands, from which it gets the name perforatum, which are seen by holding the leaf up to the light. The flowers are clustered atop the stems, bronze-orange in bud, fading to yellow on opening. The corymb is terminal, calyx and corolla are marked with black dots and lines, five each sepals and petals, with a pear-shaped ovary and three long styles, and three bunches of stamens joined at their bases. The fruits are three-chambered capsules brownish seeds over 1mm long with rows of pits. The seeds have a resinous smell, the plant has peculiar smell and a bitter astringent taste.

A European native perennial, it is naturalized in North America and grows freely in moist, open sites from low subalpine elevations. It is found on uncultivated ground, woods, hedges, roadsides, and meadows. It is currently under attack by cattle farmers as photo toxicity has occurred in herds when large amounts of St. John’s Wort are consumed. St. John’s Wort grows well in full to partial sun, tolerating shade. Although it prefers moist, light soil, sandy and coarse soil is fine. St. John’s Wort is hardy but should be started outdoors after the last frost, then thinned or transplanted at about two inches tall. These plants grow well with little or no attention. Fertilizer is only necessary in the poorest of soils. Be sure to provide water during extended periods of dry weather. It is most commonly grown from seed but can be propagated by rooting small cuttings. The whole above ground plant is harvested when just in flower or the flower buds themselves are picked just before opening.


Essential oil; Hypericins; Miscellaneous-flavinoids, epicatechin


Hypericum is used primarily for nervous function for which is has a calming, restorative influence, whether the symptoms are physical or emotional. It will ease the pain of any nerve-related problem like neuralgia, sciatica, spinal concussion, polymyalgia with tingling in the extremities, and any injured areas which are rich in nervous tissue. It may help prevent infection from enveloped viruses such as Herpes or Varicella and is commonly used treat their flare-ups (shingles). The preceding conditions benefit from both topical and internal use. St. John’s Wort is used to treat menopausal or premenstrual irritability and anxiety, shock, mild to moderate depression, depressive symptoms of alcoholism, nervousness, restlessness, obsessive compulsive behaviour, mild psychosomatic disorders, Seasonal Affective Disorder, athletic stress, and circadian-rhythm associated sleep disorders. Allow four to six weeks for maximum effect.

Cautions and Considerations

* Not to be used by those with serious depression with psychosis or where there is a risk of suicide.

* Avoid where there is known photosensitivity, and those taking high doses should avoid excessive sun exposure and UV beds.

* Ridiculously high doses (as fed to lab rats) may cause cataracts.

*Powerfully increases liver biotransformation of many hormones (HRT?) and drugs. May create effective overdose or underdose of pharmaceutical drugs, depending on whether they are activated or detoxified by the liver.

* High doses are contraindicated with concurrent administration of warfarin, digoxin, cyclosporine, indinavir and other anti-HIV drugs.

* When replacing a current anti-depressant, the physician must be involved to reduce pharmaceutical treatment gradually and avoid potentiating effects.

* Women on very low dose contraceptives should be careful, as some pregnancies have been reported. There has been breakthrough bleeding reported in a few women on OCP.

*Check with your pharmacist if you are on any medications, before taking St John’s Wort.

How To Use St John’s Wort

* 1 heaped teaspoon is steeped in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes and ½ cup taken three times per day.

* powder is taken in doses of 2-4 grams, three times per day.

* tincture is prepared in a 1:10 ratio in 45% alcohol and administered in doses of 2-4ml, three times per day.

* For external use, the flower buds are steeped in oil and used for neuralgia,

sores, stubborn ulcers and sunburn.

* It may be used in lotion, cream, or poultice.

Good Combinations

Effective as a simple.

Interesting Tidbits

* The word Hypericum is translated to mean ‘over an apparition’, indicating its former use as a protectant form evil spirits.

* It has many ancient superstitions attributed to it, probably in large part due to the red oil of the flower buds.

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