Skip to content

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

    st johns wort

    Family: Hypericaceae

    Grow zone: 5-9

    St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is an herbal supplement that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, including depression and anxiety. It contains several active compounds, such as hypericin and hyperforin, which are believed to have antidepressant and anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects.

    Numerous studies have investigated the use of St. John’s Wort for depression, and some have suggested potential benefits. For mild to moderate depression, St. John’s Wort has been found to be more effective than a placebo in several studies. A meta-analysis published in 2008, which reviewed 29 clinical trials, found that St. John’s Wort was superior to placebo and equally as effective as standard antidepressant medications in treating mild to moderate depression.

    However, it’s important to note that St. John’s Wort may not be effective for severe depression. In cases of severe depression, it is recommended to seek professional medical help and consider evidence-based treatments, such as psychotherapy and prescription medications.

    Regarding anxiety, the evidence for the effectiveness of St. John’s Wort is less robust. Some studies suggest that it may have a mild anxiolytic effect, but more research is needed to establish its efficacy specifically for anxiety disorders.

    It’s crucial to approach St. John’s Wort with caution, as it can interact with other medications and have potential side effects. St. John’s Wort may interact with antidepressant medications, birth control pills, anticoagulants, immunosuppressants, and other drugs. It can also cause photosensitivity, gastrointestinal symptoms, and other adverse effects.

     

    Medicinal Effects:

    Alterative (Health - increase; Vitality - increase): Restoring proper functioning to the body's metabolism, increasing health and vitality as well
    Anti-inflammatory: Alleviate inflammation throughout the body
    Anti-microbial: Antimicrobial herbs possess natural properties that help combat harmful microorganisms and promote a healthy immune system
    Anti-viral: destroy and inhibit the spread of viral infections
    Antidepressive (Mental Health - Depression; Depression):
    Astringent (Also See Acne):
    Nervine - Nerves - Nervous System:
    Vulnerary (Wounds - Healing; Healing - Wounds;): Vulnerary herbs possess healing properties that promote tissue repair, aid in wound healing, and soothe skin irritations and injuries.

    How to grow and harvest

    Growing and harvesting St. John’s Wort can be a rewarding process. Here are some general guidelines to help you get started:

    Climate and Soil Requirements:

    • St. John’s Wort thrives in full sun but can tolerate partial shade.
    • It prefers well-draining soil, such as sandy or loamy soil.
    • The pH level of the soil should be slightly acidic to neutral, around 6.0 to 7.0.

    Propagation:

    • St. John’s Wort can be propagated from seeds or cuttings.
    • Seeds: Sow the seeds in early spring or fall, covering them lightly with soil. Keep the soil moist until germination occurs, which typically takes 2-4 weeks.
    • Cuttings: Take stem cuttings in early spring or late summer. Dip the cut ends in rooting hormone and plant them in a well-draining soil mix. Keep the soil moist and provide a warm, bright environment until roots develop.

    Planting:

    • Space St. John’s Wort plants about 12-18 inches apart to allow for adequate airflow and growth.
    • Plant them at the same depth they were growing in their nursery containers or seed trays.

    Care and Maintenance:

    • Water the plants regularly, especially during dry periods, but avoid overwatering as St. John’s Wort prefers well-draining soil.
    • Mulch around the plants to help retain moisture and suppress weed growth.
    • Fertilization is generally not necessary unless the soil is particularly poor. If needed, use a balanced organic fertilizer according to package instructions.

    Harvesting:

    • Harvest St. John’s Wort when the plant is in full bloom, typically during the summer months.
    • Cut the top 6-8 inches of the flowering stems using clean, sharp pruning shears.
    • Dry the harvested plant material by hanging it upside down in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. Allow it to dry completely before storing.

    Storage:

    Once the St. John’s Wort plant material is fully dry, store it in an airtight container, away from moisture and sunlight, to preserve its potency.

    How to use as medicine:

    Making medicine with St. John’s Wort typically involves extracting the active compounds from the plant material. Here is a general overview of the process:

    Harvesting: St. John’s Wort is typically harvested when it is in full bloom, usually during the summer months. The flowering tops of the plant contain the highest concentration of active compounds.

    Drying: After harvesting, the St. John’s Wort plant material needs to be dried to remove moisture. Spread the flowering tops in a single layer on a clean, dry surface, such as a drying rack or a screen, in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Allow the plant material to dry completely, which usually takes about one to two weeks.

    Preparation: Once the plant material is dry, it can be prepared for extraction. Remove any stems or leaves from the flowering tops and discard them. Use scissors or a mortar and pestle to break the dried flowering tops into smaller pieces to increase the surface area for extraction.

    Extraction: There are several methods for extracting the active compounds from St. John’s Wort. Here are two common methods:

    St. John’s Wort Infused Oil Recipe:

    • Place the dried St. John’s Wort flowers in a clean, dry glass jar.
    • Cover the flowers completely with a carrier oil such as olive oil or sunflower oil. Ensure that the plant material is fully submerged in the oil.
    • Close the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark place for about four to six weeks, shaking the jar gently every few days to facilitate the extraction process.
    • After the infusion period, strain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove the plant material. The resulting oil can be used topically.

    St. John’s Wort Tincture Recipe:

    • Place the dried St. John’s Wort flowers in a clean glass jar. Cover the flowers with a high-proof alcohol such as vodka or brandy, ensuring that the plant material is fully submerged.
    • Close the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark place for about four to six weeks, shaking the jar gently every few days to enhance the extraction.
    • After the steeping period, strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth to separate the liquid extract from the plant material. The resulting liquid is the St. John’s Wort tincture, which can be used orally.

    Storage: Store the St. John’s Wort oil or tincture in dark glass bottles or jars in a cool, dark place to protect the medicinal properties from light and heat. Label the containers with the date and contents for future reference.