St. JOHN'S WORT (Hypericum perforatum)


St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Family: Hypericacae

Habitat & Cultivation: Native to Europe, and migrated worldwide by settlers to Asia, America, Argentina and Australia.   A golden-flowered, hardy, partially woody, perennial that can be grown from seeds or by dividing root clumps.

Constituents: Phloroglucinols (hyperforin), Polycyclic diones (hypericin), Pseudohypericin, Flavanoids (incl. rutin), Glycosides, Resins, Volatile Oils, Tannins

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, Antiviral, Wound healer, Antidepressant, Anxiolytic, Astringent, Analgesic, Sedative, Restorative tonic for nervous system, Vulnerary

Parts Used:

  • Aerial parts (flowers – fresh/dry) – High in red pigment (hypericin); an active constituent and a compound

Traditional Uses: Infused Oil, Ointment, Cream, Tea, Tincture, Capsules/Tablets – To find a great quality product (high in active constituent - hypericin), look for a supplement containing 0.3% of hypericin or 3-5% Hyperforin. The suggested dosage is 900-1,500 mg/day.

  • Sunburns, Minor burns, Cuts & Scrapes: Apply John’s Wort oil gently onto the affected area 2-3x/day. 

  • Sciatica Nerve Pain: Pain caused by a trapped spinal nerve can be reduced by massaging Infused Oil onto the affected area 2-3x/day. 

  • Neuralgia (Nerve Pain): A brief, severe, localized, and shooting pain along the nerve may be caused by damaged, trapped or irritated nerve. Creating a massage-aromatherapy blend, which has anesthetic effect, may ease the pain. Combine 2 tbsp. of as John’s Wort oil with 20 drops of Lavender essential oil, 10 drops of Pepper essential oil, 10 drops of Rosemary essential oil, and 1 tsp of Crambark tincture. Shake it well and massage it into tense areas. 

  • Back pain: May, in many cases, require a specialist or medical attention. Some herbal remedies such as John’s Wort oil and essential oils may improve overall the healing process. Combine 2 tbsp. of as St. John’s Wort oil with 20 drops of Lavender essential oil, 10 drops of Pepper essential oil, 10 drops of Rosemary essential oil, and 1 tsp of Crambark tincture. Shake it well and massage it into tense areas. 

  • Bites & Stings: The most common symptoms are swelling, itching and inflamed skin; usually subsiding within a few hours. Apply John’s Wort oil as needed. 

  • Stiff & Aching Joints: Inflamed and painful joints may be a sign of arthritis. Creating an herbal blend by combining 2 ½ tbsp. of John’s Wort oil or Comfrey Oil with 20-40 drops of Lavender essential oil and gently massaging it into the affected area may relieve discomfort and aching. 

  • Cold Sores, Chicken Pox & Shingles: Common viral infections affecting skin.

    • Cold Sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Blisters mainly appear around the lips and nostrils, signaling that the body is fighting infection or has been over exposed to sunny or windy conditions.

    • Chicken Pox & Shingles are cause by a similar virus as Cold Sores, but the blisters are scattered all over the body. Shingles indicates that the body’s nervous system exhausted and it is open to infection. Choosing herbs which support the immune and nervous systems is important.

Take ½ tsp of tincture of either herb – Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) or St. John’s Wort with water 2-3x/day. Alternatively, take Echinacea tablets or capsules, or make a tea (infusion) of St. John’s Wort and drink up to ¾ cup (150ml)/day. 

  • Perineal Tears: Painful and slow to heal. Apply John’s Wort oil onto the affected area, or add a strong infusion (tea) to a hip bath. Can also create an herbal-oil blend by combining St. John’s Wort oil with Calendula Oil and gently applying it onto the affected area. 

  • Depression & Decreased Vitality due to Menopause: Menopause usually takes place between 45 and 55 years. To increase vitality, reduce tiredness, and increase spirit consider taking a ½ tsp of tincture of St. John’s Wort with some water 3x/day. 

  • Anxiety, Depression, Tension: Feeling powerless, stressed, and lacking a feeling of well-being are symptoms that can gradually, negatively affect our nervous system and overall health. Take tablets or make a tea with 1-2 tsp (5-10 ml) of flowers and 1 cup of boiling water. Drink up to 2 1/3 cups (600 ml)/day. May take 2-3 weeks before a noticeable effect. 

  • Long-standing tension leading to exhaustion and depression: Take 40 drops (1 tsp, 2-5 ml) of tincture 3x/day. 

  • Childhood bed-wetting: Give 5-10 drops of tincture at night. 

Research: In 2009, researchers evaluated 29 clinical trials and demonstrated St. John’s Wort’s ability to treat moderate to mild depression. The plant is as effective as standard antidepressants prescriptions with a fewer adverse effects.

Studies have shown that the plant’s ability to balance levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain makes the plant as affective as prescription antidepressants in treating depression. 

Many women experience depression and increase anxiety during menstruation. A pilot trial was held by University of Exeter in England, in 2000, using St. John’s Wort to treat menstrual symptoms. The outcome of the pilot was that the majority of women experienced a 50% reduction in postmenstrual symptoms, including anxiety and depression. 

Currently, the plant is being investigated for its ability to fight viral infections. Hypericin (an active constituent found in glands, located at the end of the pedals) has shown to be highly effective against HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and herpes simplex 1. 

Supported by laboratory tests, St. John’s Wort demonstrates both anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties. 

Laboratory studies have shown the plant’s effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, and antiviral agent.

Taking internally (tea, extract) or topically (oil) can relieve shingles, genital herpes, cold sores and rheumatic pain.

German authorities recognize the plant to be safe and prescribe it to teenagers and children.  

European physicians prescribe St. John’s Wort regularly to their patients in order to relieve stress and elevate mood.

Caution: Consult your practitioner before using St. John’s Wort if you are taking prescription medication(s). Safety during pregnancy has not been established. The plant can cause dermatitis if taken internally or externally; reduce sun exposure during use. DO NOT take internally during pregnancy or breastfeeding! DO NOT take it internally if you are taking any blood thinners, amphetamines, or antidepressants or experiencing severe depression.


Credits: Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine (Andrew Chevallier), The Complete Medicinal Herbal (Penelope Ody), Healing Remedies (C. Norman Shealy), National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs (Rebecca L. Johnson & Steven Foster, Tieraona Low Dog & David Kiefer), University of Maryland Medical Center
  • Jana Glanzer
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