St. John’s Wort is best known for its use in treating depression. It has many uses but also must be used with caution as it interacts with many medications.
St. John’s Wort lost its popularity in the 1800’s but has made a rebound in recent years. It is the number one treatment for depression in Germany and at one point it had outsold the antidepressant Prozac.
In the mid-1600’s it was popular to use earthworms and other animal parts as a medicinal ingredient. An oil compound made up of St. John’s Wort, earthworms, and other herbs were a popular remedy at that time.
In Christian tradition, oil infused with St. John’s Wort was often called the blood of Christ and was used in healing and during religious ceremonies.
St. John’s Wort has been hung above doorways, on bedposts, and worn to banish evil spirits and drive away storms and anything that could cause harm. It was also included, along with other herbs, in amulets, charms, and talismans.
Studies have been done on how well St. John’s Wort treats depression. Some studies found that it worked better than prescribed antidepressants, some found that it didn’t work any better than a placebo, and some studies found that neither the herb or the medications helped. More studies are needed and there is no consistent evidence on how well St. John’s Wort works for treating depression.
Common Name: St. John’s Wort
Scientific Name: Hypericum perforatum
Leaves- oblong, translucent dots, opposite
Flower- yellow, 5 petals, black dots on margins (edges)
Height- 1-3 feet
Harvest Time: Flowers May-August, Seeds July-September
Parts Edible: Flowers, leaves
Found: Throughout North America, native to Europe, fields, roadsides, abandoned, sunny areas
False Spotted St. John’s Wort (Hypericum pseudomaculatum) is native to the southern United States and can be easily be confused. False Spotted St. John’s Wort is spotted throughout its flower petals. The flowers are also about half the size of St. John’s Wort’s flowers. May have some of the same uses as St. John’s Wort.
-Used to treat bed wetting in children
-Used externally in the form of tea, tinctures, and infused oils to treat ulcers, wounds, sores, cuts, and bruises
-Tea has been used as a remedy for bladder ailments, depression, dysentery, diarrhea, cramps, and worms
-Seeds were once used to treat various ailments
Vitamins, Minerals, & More
Properties: antidepressant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic
-Fresh flowers used in salads
-Flowers infused in oil
-Flowers used in making tinctures
-Available as supplements
-Used in teas
-Flowers & leaves used to make yellow, gold and brown dyes
-Flowers used in making mead
-Do not take St. John’s Wort if you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding
-Not recommended for children under the age of 6
-Could make symptoms of ADD and ADHD worse
-St. John’s Wort can cause light sensitivity when taken internally
-Stop taking St. John’s Wort at least 2 weeks before having surgery
-Possibly dangerous if livestock consumes it
-Do not take St. John’s Wort and consult a doctor before taking if on:
- Birth Control
- Clopidogrel (Plavix)
- Dextromethorphan (cough medicine)
- Drugs that suppress the immune system
- Drugs to treat HIV
- Aminolevulinic acid
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Triptans (used to treat migraines)
- Blood-thinning medications
- Cancer medications
This is not a complete list. St. John’s Wort interacts with many medications so please consult your doctor before using St. John’s Wort.
St. John’s Wort does not treat severe depression. If you are suicidal or have thought of suicide or self-harm, please contact your doctor.
Traditionally, St. John’s Wort is harvested on St. John’s Day on June 24th. St. John’s Wort is harvested throughout its flowering season which is usually between May and August.
Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting
- Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
- Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
- Do not harvest on private property without permission
- Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
- Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
- Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)
–St. John’s Wort and Depression: In Depth
–University of Maryland Medical Center St. John’s Wort
–St. John’s wort
–NIH St. John’s Wort
–St. John’s Wort: Sunny Weed with a History
–MRH St. John’s Wort
–St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)
–Edible Wild Food St. John’s Wort
–USDA Bush Show All false spotted St. Johnswort
–USDA Common St. Johnswort
–Plants for a Future St. John’s Wort
–WebMD St. John’s Wort