As I write this, it's the day after the Summer Solstice, and a few days before Saint John's Eve/Day. We are in the midst of midsummer herbal magic! One of the most prolific plants at this time of year is the mysterious Saint John's Wort, Hypericum perforatum. I say mysterious because Saint John's Wort will suddenly appear in an area, stay for one or a few seasons, then will disappear only to re-appear in another location where it is most needed.
This plant has a rich history of being used medicinally from Ancient Greece to the Crusades. Used to treat a variety of ailments including pain and bruises as well as mood swings, bed-wetting, and emotional issues, Saint Joh's Wort's Latin name is derived from the tiny perforations naturally occurring in the leaves (perforatum). The other half of its name symbolizes the sun, hypericum - named for Hyperion, the Greek Titan who fathered the Sun, Moon and Dawn. A sprig of Saint John's Wort over the door was traditionally thought to protect against evil spirits. Traditionally this plant was harvested on the morning of the Summer Solstice or the morning of Saint John's Day (June 24th), when the plant and its flowers were at their peak. It is always best to harvest this plant after a series of hot days for increased potency.
Teas and tinctures as well as capsules can be used to treat depression. Saint John's Wort is well known worldwide as a powerful herbal anti-depressant. Many clinical trials support its benefits when compared with standard antidepressants as well as the fewer side-effects experienced by test subjects. That said, it is also important to note that those suffering from bipolar disorder may be at a higher risk for mania when using this plant. Caution must be used if one is taking prescription medication as there are many contraindications. In terms of drug interactions, one should not use Saint John's Wort with SSRI antidepressants, warfarin or birth control pills, to name a few. A quick internet search produces examples of many drugs whose effectiveness may be reduced by this powerful herb. It is not recommended for use by pregnant women and should be used with caution with small children. It is dangerous to grazing livestock, which has caused many countries to identify it as an invasive species and a noxious weed. It can also cause photosensitivity. In other words: this is a very powerful plant and should be used with respect and a healthy dose of common sense!
I love using Saint John's Wort as a flower essence. Its strength is in balancing the emotions as well as offering protection and as a remedy for generalized fears. Saint John's Wort is a light-filled plant and as such enables one to feel safe, alleviating nervousness and tension. I feel it is a powerful Shen tonic, calming the emotions and helping those who feel especially vulnerable.
Last week while mowing the lawn I discovered Saint John's Wort growing on the edge of a garden bed. In the ten years we've owned the property this plant has never been in our yard. At different times over the past several months, however, every person in our house has experienced a high level of stress for a variety of reasons. I believe Saint John's Wort has come to our rescue this year in response. I feel a profound gratitude to this plant for showing up when least expected to offer us support and plan to make a flower essence with it on Saint John's day, June 24th. I showed it to a friend who invited me to go to her yard, because she thought she also had some growing there. Sure enough, there it is, in profusion in the midst of one of her flower beds. Is it a coincidence that she is a therapist with a home office? Plants know where they are most needed and show up accordingly!
Patrice Green is an Herbal Educator, Certified Aromatherapist, Energy Medicine and Reiki Practitioner and founder of Green Aromatics. She received her herbal training at the Boston School of Herbal Studies, where she now teaches, and shamanic training from Isa Gucciardi, Ph. D. at the Sacred Stream in Berkley, CA. Inspired by time spent among the coastal Redwoods of Muir Woods and its beach, Green Aromatics strives to imbue its products and services with the same resilience, joy and equanimity of these majestic beings. Patrice may be reached through the Green Aromatics website.