Hypericum perforatum

Other Names: Hardhay, Amber, Goatweed, Klamath Weed, Tipton Weed, Saint John’s Word, St. Johnswort

St. John’s Wort is the dried herb or flowering top of a member of the St. John’s Wort family, native to Europe and naturalized in Asia, Africa, North America, South America, and Australia. There are many ancient superstitions regarding this herb. Its name Hyperieum is derived from the Greek and means ‘over an apparition,’ a reference to the belief that the herb was so obnoxious to evil spirits that a whiff of it would cause them to fly.

St. John’s Wort has interested herbalists since the first-century Greek physicians Galen and Dioscorides recommended it as a diuretic, wound-healing herb, and for the treatment for menstrual disorders.

St. John’s Wort as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

St. John's wortThe medicinal parts include the fresh buds and flowers separated from the inflorescences, the aerial parts collected during the flowering season and dried, and the entire fresh flowering plant. The flowers release an odorless red juice when squeezed, which tastes weakly bitter and irritating.

St. John’s Wort is approved by Commission E for:

  • Anxiety symptoms.
  • Depressive moods.
  • Inflammation of the skin.
  • Blunt injuries.
  • Wounds and burns.

During the Middle Ages, remarkable, even mystical properties were attributed to St. John’s Wort. St. John’s Wort was thought to be best if harvested on St. John’s Day (June 24).

In nineteenth century America, it was used by physicians for wound healing, especially for lacerations involving damaged nerves, and as a diuretic, astringent, and mild sedative. Also an aromatic, astringent, resolvent, expectorant and nervine.

Folk medicine: The herb has been used for worm infestation, bronchitis and asthma, gallbladder disease, gastritis (also diarrhea), nocturnal enuresis, gout and rheumatism. Oily Hypericum preparations are used internally for dyspeptic complaints, and externally for the treatment of myalgia.

Chinese medicine: In a gargle solution, the herb is used externally for tonsillitis. The herb is also administered externally as a lotion for dermatoses.

Homeopathic Uses: The herb has been used for treatment of eripheral and central nervous system injuries, depressive moods, asthma and cerebral-vascular calcification.

One ounce of the herb should be infused in a pint of water and 1 to 2 tablespoonsful taken as a dose.

Eighteen double-blind clinical trials in humans indicate that standardized St. John’s Wort preparations are safe and effective in the treatment of depression and have far fewer side effects than conventional drugs.

For depressive moods, it is recommended the herb be administered for the duration of 4 to 6 weeks; if no improvement is apparent, a different therapy should be initiated.

Tea: St. John’s Wort as a tea is the traditional method of administration, with a single dose of 2-3 grams dried herb placed in boiling water. If dried herb of 2 grams is used, and the dried herb to extract ratio is 6, a usual dose of the extract would be 300 milligrams (Schultz, 1997).

Homeopathic Dosage: The daily dosage for homeopathic indications is 5 drops, 1 tablet or 10 globules every 30 to 60 minutes for acute therapy, and 1 to 3 times daily for chronic use.

Externally, St. John’s Wort oil is used for the treatment of wounds, abrasions, and first degree burns.


St. John’s wort was a traditional herb for solstice celebrations. In Europe, this magical herb, which was called Hypericum in pre-Christian times, was burned in solstice bonfires to repel the “powers of darkness”. The Catholic Church then renamed the plant and linked it to the celebration of the feast day of St. John. As previously noted, it is said that St. John’s wort can help lighten depression, which is an expression that was used to refer to the “powers of darkness”.

Culinary Uses of St. John’s Wort

Generally not recommended. The oil of St. John’s Wort is made from the flowers infused in olive oil. This can be used in tea or in poultices for external applications.

Folklore & Magical Uses

St John’s Wort gets its name from John the Baptist; it is supposed to be gathered at Midsummer. Wear it to keep colds, fevers, and mental illnesses at bay. Hang it in a window to protect against storms and fire.

Safe Summer Travels

Pick a sprig of St. John’s wort and tuck it away in your purse or billfold to help keep you safe in your summer travels. As you pluck it, repeat this ancient Gaelic charm.

Saint John’s wort, Saint John’s wort,
I envy whosoever has thee,
I will pluck thee with my right hand,
I will preserve thee with my left hand,
Whoso findeth thee shall always have good fortune.


The use of this herb can produce photosensitivity over the long term. Individuals using it should avoid strong sunlight, especially those predisposed to sensitivity of the sun.

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