ST JOHN’S WORT has a rich and colourful history throughout which it was believed to be imbued with magical powers; accordingly it was used to ward off evil and protect against disease, perhaps this is because of
St John’s Wort’s ability to elevate the mood.
The common name St John’s Wort comes from its traditional flowering and harvesting on June 24 - St John’s Day. The Ancient Greeks hung the plant over religious icons to ward off evil spirits and Theophrastus recommended it as an external wound treatment and the oil was thus astutely used to treat cuts, burns, infections and even snakebites.
Mysticism surrounding St John’s Wort continued into the Middle Ages, as well as its documented medicinal use and both Galen and Paracelsus held great store by its healing abilities.
Historically, the herb’s fame endured onwards to the American colonies where the plant was woven into door wreaths to drive away unfriendly spirits.
Interestingly, they believed the herb capable of inducing a confession if placed in the mouth of a suspected witch.
Modern use of the herb
Today, it still deserves an honoured place in the modern herbalist’s pharmacopeia and science has long proven the validity of its ability to influence mood and temperament due to its active constituents.
When the herb is used for a prolonged time, correctly and appropriately, it can be a very effective antidepressant, but not fast-acting like modern Prozac-type medications.
The active Hypericin increases the metabolism of serotonin and melatonin, which aid the body’s ability to receive and store light. The other active, hyperforin, contributes to emotional stability by slowing the uptake of those ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters and allowing them to circulate longer in the body.
You can find St John’s Wort in a variety of forms, including pills, powders and liquids and all are used to help alleviate depression and anxiety, or stress-induced states.
Less common is the infused oil of St John’s Wort, a wonderful remedy that works quite differently yet has marked antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it so helpful for treating bacterial and viral infections such as shingles and herpes. Hopefully research will verify other therapeutic applications of this valuable herb.
Rich red remedy to the rescue
St John’s Wort oil is an oil infusion of the flowering tops of St John’s Wort. The best infused oil is made with fresh flowers and that only happens in the summer. The flowers are often wilted for 24 hours before infusing them in a quality vegetable oil, such as cold-pressed olive or almond oil.
The infusing St John’s Wort is put in a warm place in the sunlight until the oil turns a rich red colour - this is the valuable active hypericin that makes the infused oil such an efficacious medicinal. After a month or so, the oil is strained and stored ready for use.
FLOWER MARKINGS INSPIRE SPECIES NAME
There are several species of St John’s Wort however none are more medicinal than the wild H.perforatum. It normally blooms around the midsummer and the blossoming continues until autumn and is ready to harvest when the buds are full and ready to open; leaves of this species are conspicuously dotted with translucent oil glands. When you hold the leaf up to the light, they look like tiny pinpricks covering the surface, hence the Latin name “perforatum”.
This oil is most commonly used as a massage oil, a healing salve or it can also be combined in other salves, moisturisers and natural remedies to improve their efficacy.
St John’s Wort excels as a topical application for myriad skin and nerve issues. This oil is not generally used for internal consumption, although herbalist Rosemary Gladstar proposes taking it safely internally by adding it to salad dressings or mixed with stir-fries. She also suggests mixing it with animal foods if they are particularly stressed or anxious.
Infused oil not the same as supplements
The active ingredients in St John’s Wort oil are hyperforin and hypericin, as well as various sesquiterpenes, rutin, kaempferol and quercetin, which have antioxidant properties.
It should be noted that unlike a standardised potency of St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) in pill or extract form; the infused oil will not conflict with other allopathic medications.
Standard potency extracts of hypericin can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills, heart medication, and even some HIV and cancer drugs. The infused oil works topically on the surface of the body, targeting damaged nerve endings and skin disorders.
The much stronger standardised products that consist of isolated actives work internally, targeting the nervous system and mood. The infused oil, in contrast, is safe and efficacious to use on the body without concern for interference with allopathic medication or specific conditions.
Superb nerve tonic
St John’s Wort oil makes a superb massage oil to use on its own or included in a massage blend to enhance deep relaxation of the nerve tissue.
Not only does it help reduce inflammation of muscle and arthritic pain, but also where there may be nerve damage, neuropathic pain or even sciatic pain, St John’s Oil is your oil of choice.
The oil helps with muscle strain and tension and the more it is used on sore muscles the more it helps to relax the tension. This also applies to whiplash and other neck pain that extends down the arms of the brachial nerve complex.
There is enough hypericin, the active constituent in it’s whole state, present within the infused oil to help bring about a mild feeling of well-being and assure a quality sleep.
Autoimmune conditions such as fibromyalgia or lupus can also be treated with the help of this oil because of its tonic action on the nervous system and inexplicable body pain. The oil’s ability to repair nerve damage is being explored with favourable results to help in cases of Bell’s palsy, multiple sclerosis and other diseases of the nervous system.
Restless leg syndrome is a very uncomfortable condition where the legs uncontrollably twitch and thrash about with a life of their own, usually during the night making sleep impossible. St John’s Wort oil comes to the rescue when massaged vigorously into the hips and legs and helps calm down the condition. Add ginger and rosemary essential oils to the infused oil for greater effect.
When the skin wears the nervous condition
Use St John’s Wort oil to treat psoriasis, which is a condition that is actually a disease of the nervous system manifested on the skin.
Of course during stressful times the condition rears its uncomfortable symptoms of flaky, inflamed and itchy skin in specific areas.
This benign oil will not induce further angry reaction and will gradually ease the symptoms due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and moisturising properties.
This also applies to another nervous condition that many are familiar with, called shingles, (Herpes Zoster) which is very painful and disturbing. Try adding a few drops of frankincense, chamomile, lavender or manuka essential oil to enhance healing action.
OLD FOLK REMEDY FOR INFLAMED SKIN
Place one egg in a bowl and stir in two tablespoons of St John’s Wort oil, drop by drop. Apply this emulsion to the affected area for half an hour and then rinse with luke-warm water.
Some people don’t believe in growing pains, but tall, young people who have actually experienced and felt its discomfort would greatly benefit from the soothing, relaxing action of St John’s Wort oil on stretched, frayed or sore nerve endings in the legs.
The perfect balm base
Do include St John’s Wort oil in a healing cream, balm or salve to help heal wounds, bruises, cuts and scraps and skin trauma. St John’s Wort has a vulnerary action on the skin, which means it helps the skin to regenerate and heal. Make sure the cuts and scrapes are well cleaned before applying St John’s Wort oil.
This oil is also known to prevent fungal and bacterial infection on the skin. Include lavender, frankincense, manuka or myrrh, tea tree or other vulnerary essential oils to increase its efficacy.
This same cream will be most helpful for varicose veins or swelling and certainly for treating insect bites quickly. Use St John’s Wort oil in a cicatrising blend to help diminish scarring; include carrot seed, lavender or frankincense essential oil to improve its tissue repair action. St John’s Wort oil on its own may be of soothing help for those people troubled by haemorrhoids or add a few drops of cypress, rosemary or helichrysum essential oil to effectively relieve the pain and discomfort. In traditional medicine, St John’s Wort oil was dropped directly into the ear to treat earaches or ear pain; one could still do this and even add a drop of chamomile oil with it to ease the ache, or treat ear eczema.
St John’s Wort oil is an effective home remedy for minor burns, as it helps to alleviate the pain and hasten healing. If the burn is not serious, one can apply the infused oil straight way, after cooling it first with cold water. Or alternatively, a muslin cloth can be soaked in St John’s Wort oil and kept applied to the area for a while. This same remedy will work also very well for sunburn. A few drops of lavender angustifolia oil included in the infused oil will be helpful.
Name: St John’s Wort
Botanical name: Hypericum perforatum
The Plant: This St John’s Wort plant is a sun-loving, hardy perennial that prefers well drained, gravelly soils; it is rather rangy, growing to a metre or so on long spare stalks, with a protruding stamen that is surrounded by bright yellow flower petals. The plant is a native to Europe and Asia but has colonised all over the world where it has become a weed and is even banned in some Australian states because farmers have experienced it as a hazard that causes photo-sensitivity in fair-skinned stock.
The Infused Oil: The fresh flower tops are wilted then infused in a quality cold-pressed vegetable oil. After a month in the sunlight, which turns the infusion red, the oil is strained and ready for use.
Indications: anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, nerve tonic.
Precautions: Despite the countless benefits of St John’s Wort oil, the only real contraindication that should be noted is increased skin sensitivity to the sun. Studies have found that using this oil on the skin could cause irritation when exposed to the sunlight, so don’t apply it on exposed areas before going outside, especially if you are fair-skinned.