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St John’s Wort – Sun, Spirit & Insight

Jun 15, 2021 | Herbalism Blog | 0 comments

In the first couple of years of growing our herbs, we seeded St. John’s Wort in the greenhouse in the spring and transplant it in the garden in early summer. After a couple of years, we noticed a pattern was created. Like a baby, in the first year, St. John’s Wort crawled close to the soil. In the second year that St. John’s Wort learns how to stand proud and tall and put out its beautiful yellow blossoms. In the 3rd year, though, St. John developed rust, and we could not harvest it. After this pattern was repeated several times, we decided to wildcraft St John for several years instead of growing it. 

 St John’s Wort Botanical name is  Hypericum perforatum.  Herbalist Matthew Woods makes an interesting note about the genus name Hypericum and the Greek name hypericon. “This seems to indicate that it was placed “above the icon,” or possibly that it has the power “over the image,” or specter. During the Middle Ages, St. John’s Wort was used to protect people against demons, witchcraft, and lightning.” 

The species name “perforatum” refers to the fact that the plant’s leaves are “perforated” or appear to have tiny holes that you can only see on close inspection.

“A red color from yellow flowers? If that’s not magic,
I don’t know what is.”
– Henriette Kress

St John's Wort flowers and oil


Press the flower between your fingers and a bloody red fluid will stain your fingers.

St. John’s Wort was used to remove wilderness from home and the mind (depression). 

Herbalist Matthew Woods considers SJW to be associated with the “little people” or the elementals. In both the European tradition and the Native American tradition, the “little people” are powerful beings that live in the woods and meadows. The elementals are the forces of growth. When the growth is not tamed, it becomes wild.  SJW is associated with the wild forces of summer. The elementals are interested in healing and teaching humans about the natural world but are veiled from most people. Only children, or certain types of healers, can be in a conscious relationship with them. 

My experience with St. John’s Wort was that indeed it is not an herb that wishes to be tamed. It grows wherever it wants to grow. It moves in the garden every year a little. This year I have a couple of SJW in the middle of the Lavender bed. A beautiful combination since the lavender, too, is getting ready to bloom. I had to learn to respect the untamed nature of St. John’s Wort.  

Psychological Profile: St John is for people that experience depression, despair, loss of hope, loss of faith, trust. The inner light becomes dim, and the vital force collapses. The person feels disconnected from their community, family, and nature. Still, they feel disconnected from themselves, their heart, and their purpose in life. 

Very beneficial for seasonal affective disorder. For when a person has a hard time trusting their gut instinct or their intuition. 

“It is more important to know the person who have the disease than the disease that a person have.”
~ Hippocrates

St. John’s Wort is one of the most known herbs, even to people who know only a little about herbalism. It got its name as an antidepressant, which is totally misleading. Herbalists are looking to find the condition’s root cause, not just looking on the surface and healing the symptoms. Herbalist David Winston reminds us that there are 12 different kinds of depression and that SJW may help heal only three of those:

  • GI-based depression is common with chronic GI problems such as intestinal dysbiosis, abnormal gut flora, gastric upset, chronic constipation and diarrhea, inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), and leaky gut. Much of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut. While this serotonin cannot pass the blood-brain barrier, associated precursor compounds can and do. A healthy intestinal microbiome is also essential for helping maintain a healthy emotional state. The person with GI depression will be moody, lethargic and depressed.  
  • Hepatic depression. In ancient Greek medicine, the word melancholia described a state in which a person had an excess of the black (melan) bile (choler). This humoral imbalance led to symptoms including irritability, depression (often with anxiety), angry thoughts, loss of appetite, insomnia, nausea, and biliousness
  • Seasonal affective depression. AKA winter gloom.

St. John’s Wort is one of the more effective herbs in treating nerve pain due to inflammation, injury, or trauma to nerve tissue. It is considered a trophorestorative herb (an herb that nourishes and rejuvenates a specific tissue) to nerve tissue. It can be used for nerve pain or nerve damage such as in peripheral neuropathies, Reynaud’s disease, sciatica, phantom limb pain, brachial nerve pain, head trauma injuries, migraines, and even minor spinal injuries. Those often lead to a sharp, electrical, shooting pain that traverses a very particular pathway through the body. SJW can be used both topically as a tincture or as a homeopathic remedy for nerve pain. 

 St. John’s Wort has been shown to enhance the phase II liver detoxification pathways which impacts the metabolization of various compounds in the liver. However, because of its effect on stimulating toxins metabolism, it reduces the activity of many pharmaceutical drugs; hence it is contradicted with many medications. According to David Hoffman, this includes “non-sedating antihistamines, oral contraceptives, certain antiretroviral agents, antiepileptic medications, calcium channel blockers, cyclosporine, some chemotherapeutic drugs, macrolide antibiotics, and selected antifungals.”

SJW is unique in its effect on the liver because it can work for liver excess (inflammation) and liver deficiency or stagnant liver. In addition, it helps the liver gently cleanse the body of toxins. According to Paul Bergner, the effects of St. John’s Wort upon the liver is one of the primary reasons it is beneficial in the treatment of depression.

SJW has a particular affinity to the solar plexus and the nerves of digestion. The autonomic nervous system organizes the digestive system. It means that the proper enzymes and hormones are secreted in the time and place where they are needed. Thus, peristalsis happens at the right time, place, and order. Modern lifestyle, diet, and stress specifically can cause havoc in the gut. SJW can help mitigate these harmful influences over the gut. 

Fred Siciliano, an herbalist from California, states,
“It decongests the liver and removes mild tension that accompanies this. It harmonizes the stomach, spleen, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.”

In other words, it strengthens the function of the solar plexus so that assimilation of nutrients improves and tissue cleansing is increased. 

SJW is specially indicated for a person with a chronic disease that is weak, depleted, and depressed. This person can not be pushed by stronger remedies or by overly strong reactions of the liver. SJW will have a restorative response on the autonomic nervous system and the digestion through the solar plexus.  

SJW is one of the most important remedies for wounds, specifically for deep puncture wounds prone to infection. SJW has antimicrobial properties that allow it to heal wounds from the inside out (as opposed to comfrey that heals from the outside in)

SJW is an excellent herb to have around in the summer for sunburns. Infused oil of SJW with infused oil of Calendula and lavender, when applied to sunburn or any other burn, can help draw out the heat and reduce the inflammation. 

SJW is used as protection for people that are over-sensitive to the spiritual world. People that see visions and apprehensions. People that need grounding. Traditionally, St Johns was used with Wood Betony and yarrow to protect the integrity of the self and anchor it in the body. 


David Winston – https://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/sites/default/files/Proceedings/winston_david_-_differ_treat-depression.pdf

Easley, Thomas, and Steven H. Horne. The Modern Herbal Dispensatory: a Medicine-Making Guide. North Atlantic Books, 2016.

Ellingwood, Finley, and John Uri Lloyd. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy: Developing the Latest Acquired Knowledge of Drugs, and Especially of the Direct Action of Single Drugs upon Exact Conditions of Disease, with Especial Reference of the Therapeutics of the Plant Drugs of the Americas. Eclectic Medical Publications, 1983.

King, John, et al. King’s American Dispensatory. Ohio Valley Co., 1909.

Klemow, Kenneth M. “Medical Attributes of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum).” Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd Edition., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92750/.

“Log into Facebook.” Facebook, www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10156566459608692&id=139321718691.

“Login.” School of Evolutionary Herbalism, members.evolutionaryherbalism.com/members/mmm/.

“The Mechanism of Action of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) in the Treatment of Depression.” EBM Consult, www.ebmconsult.com/articles/herbal-supplement-st-john-wort-hypericum-perforatum-mechanism-depression.

Peterson, Bahtya. “St. John’s Wort.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Jan. 2021, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557465/.

WE;, Wonnemann M;Singer A;Müller. “Inhibition of Synaptosomal Uptake of 3H-L-Glutamate and 3H-GABA by Hyperforin, a Major Constituent of St. John’s Wort: the Role of Amiloride Sensitive Sodium Conductive Pathways.” Neuropsychopharmacology : Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10882845/.

Wood, Matthew. The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicine. North Atlantic Books, 1998.


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Disclaimer: This document is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. I am not providing medical, psychological, or nutrition therapy advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your own medical practitioner. Always seek the advice of your own medical practitioner and/or mental health provider about your specific health situation. You can view my full disclaimer here.

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