I retired from midwifery a year after I moved into my house. All the herbs and equipment went into the basement. 12 years later while purging and cleaning I found a jar that was in pretty sad shape. The lid was actually glued to the top. I pried it off and saw the ruby red liquid inside. Even without the label I knew what it was. Since it has been sealed since I tinctured it 13 years ago and stored in the dark I am sure the healing properties are still good. St. John’s Wort is not easy to find in the mountains where I live. This batch was unexpectedly found in someone’s yard while on a client visit, I have never seen it in my ecosystem since. I have been unable to grow it from seed. So I am not about to toss this find until it has really been replaced.
If you hold a Hypericum flower up to the sunlight you will see tiny bubbles of clear oil or red pigment in the petals, also black dots along the margin. It is a good way to verify identification of the plant in the wild. There are several plants in the family, some are cultivars that you do not want. There are other plants that may go by the name of St. John’s Wort that are not the plant we are discussing here either. Hypericum Peroforatum has been used for over 1,000 years to treat depression. It is thought to support the nervous system, break up energy stagnation, and lift the spirit. Externally the oil infusion ( I found some of that in the basement too) can be used to heal damaged nerves. I used it a lot for back massage during labor, for pain, when I attended births. Herbalists have used the oil for bruises, burns, insect bites, cuts, tumors, varicose veins, sunburn, paralysis, sciatica, and arthritis. Internally among its many historical uses are relieving symptoms related to anxiety, ADHD, chronic fatigue, concussion, herpes, insomnia, neuralgia, OCD, flu, shingles, and gastrointestinal issues. Because it is thought to work on so many systems in the body I suspect it must have an affinity with the vagus nerve. The flowers and leaves are considered edible and in the past were used to make mead or bread.
In folklore the plant was used as decoration or in amulets to bring blessings or protect from death.
I have not needed to use St. John’s Wort in a really long time. I would love to hear about your experience with this plant.