Other Common Names:The other common names for the herb St.John's wort are Amber Touch-and-heal, Goatweed, Hypericum,Johnswort, Klamath Weed, Rosin Rose, St. John's Grass and Tipton Weed.
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is regarded as wildflower, weed, and an herb. As a healthful plant it has interested herbalists since the earliest Greek herbals.St. Johns Wort has a demonstrated ability to act as an antidepressant in both humans and animals. It is this use that garners most of the media attention, but this versatile herb also has dozens of chemical compounds that disinfect and heal wounds as well. St. John's Wort is really a tonic, or overall health booster for the entire nervous system.
DescriptionA perennial plant growing to about two feet with a woody branched root system producing many round, erect, stems branching at the leaf axis, which are covered with dark red dots, stems are solid dark red at base. The leaves are opposite, sessile and smooth edged, oblong to linear, light green and smooth, and covered with small transparent oil glands that look like holes, more visible when held to bright light. The cymes of yellow flowers grow atop each stem. Calyx and corolla marked with black dots and lines; sepals and petals five in number; ovary pear-shaped with three long styles. Stamens in three bundles joined by their bases only. The fruit is a three celled capsule containing small, dark brown seeds.
RangeSt.John's wort is native to Britain and Europe and now grows wild throughout much of the world. It is widely distributed from New Jersey southwards to farther north, and westward to Iowa. Thus it is found in Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, naturalized in North America, especially western states.
HabitatIt is found in meadows, on banks, and by roadsides, shady woods and copses and prefers sunny positions and chalky soils.
CultivationSt. John's Wort is easy to grow from seed or root division in spring or autumn, in any well-drained but moisture retentive soil. Succeeds in dry soils, prefers sun or semi-shade. After the seed is sown in autumn or spring it germinates in 1 - 3 months at 10°c.Seed may be sown in flats or plug trays in a commercially available germination medium, or in a sandy soil mixture. The seed requires light for germination and therefore should be sown very shallowly, at a depth not over two millimeters. Deep planting inhibits emergence and also results in weak young seedlings. Once seeding is completed, it is important to keep the temperature near 15° C. Temperatures of 20° C or higher greatly inhibit germination. At the same time, provision of good light is beneficial to germination, at least for fresh seed. Germination may begin after about 12 days, and will likely continue for two months or more. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring. The flowering tops are harvested in midsummer.
Flowering SeasonThe cymes of the yellow flower are in bloom during the midsummers.
Pests and DiseasesNo major pests observed in our field trials. The Klamath Beetle (Chrysolina spp.), introduced into California by the USDA in 1944, continues to be a problem for growers west of the Rockies.
|The most commonly used part of St.Johns wort are the flowering tops and the aerial parts of the herb.|
Medicinal and Commercial Applications
- St. John's wort has been used for centuries to treat mental disorders and nerve pain.
- St. John's wort has also been used as a sedative and a treatment for malaria, as well as a balm for wounds, burns, and insect bites.
- St. John's wort is used by some for depression, anxiety, and/or sleep disorders.
- As an ointment, it dissolves swellings and closes up the lips of wounds.St John's wort is effective as a compress for dressing wounds. In the middle Ages it was commonly used to heal deep sword cuts.
- It is expectorant, diuretic and sedative.
- It is used in treating in pulmonary complaints, bladder troubles, in suppression of urine, dysentery, worms, diarrhoea, hysteria and nervous depression, haemoptysis and other haemorrhages and jaundice.
- St. John's wort can be used for painful, heavy and irregular periods as well as PMS.
- St.John's wort has a diuretic action, reducing fluid retention and hastening elimination of toxins in the urine.
- St.John's wort has been used to good effect for bed-wetting in children.
- St.John's wort is also useful for gout and arthritis.
- It is effective in the digestive tract where it can treat gastroenteritis, diarrhea and dysentery.
- St.John's wort is also said to heal peptic ulcers and gastritis.
- It is also valued in the treatment of sunburn and as a cosmetic preparation to the skin.
Religious InfluenceThis aromatic perennial herb belonging to the family Hypericaceae, produces golden yellow flowers that seem to be particularly abundant on June 24, the day traditionally celebrated as the birthday of John the Baptist, the plant is commonly known as St. John's wort. Harvesting herbs during medieval times meant collecting the herb on a specific day, often a day with religious significance. Whether the mention of a specific holy day was simply a means by which to convey the best time of year to harvest the herb, or whether it is believed that collection on that day imbued the herbs with greater power, is subject to speculation. It is believed that the herb is best harvested on St. John's day (June 24th), which is often the time of peak blooming.
Folklore and MythsThere are many ancient superstitions regarding this herb. If you pinch the leaves or the petals they give out a reddish purple stain- the "blood of St. John". Keeping this herb in your garden will protect you from fairy trickery. Carrying a few stems of the foliage was an old way to avoid being "fairy-led", or lost and confused while wandering through the local enchanted forest. Its name Hyperieum is derived from the Grek 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. The plant was given to have magical powers. If a sprig of the herb were placed under the pillow on St. John's Eve, St. John himself may even appear in a dream, blessing the dreamer for another year.