July is a busy month of harvesting fresh plants, both wild and cultivated. One of my favourite herbs of the season is St. John’s Wort, the latin name Hypericum perforatum. This bright little yellow flower is named after St. John the Baptist, a holiday celebrated in June, which is typically the week Hypericum begins to bloom. I’ve noticed in various farmers fields it’s still blooming, which means it can still be harvested. Note: This is not the ornamental hypericum which has large blooms the size of your fist. The actual size of medicinal hypericum flower is about the size of your thumb nail.
The oldest, and most common use for this plant is for skin care. It has long been used as a primary herb for healing inflamed, damaged, torn, dry, painful and cracked skin. I use it in all my salves and even my face cream. It is also famed for its place in treating hemorrhoids (as a topical ointment), and in all conditions where there is nerve pain or nerve damage (trigeminal neuralgia, sciatica, shingles, rheumatism, etc.). This makes it a favoured ingredient in massage oils, topical creams and ointments. Over the past century, hypericum has gained recognition for its use in the treatment of all nervous system disorders, including anxiety and depression. It helps to alleviate stress and apprehension while improving the overall mood. Herbalists like to use it in cases of painful menstruation accompanied by anxiety and moodiness. It is also used in cases of menopause with exhaustion and nervous anxiety. Research has also pointed to its ability to help lower blood pressure and lessen the fragility of capillaries. It’s also an antiviral that’s very effective against herpes. I think about it in all my cases of individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety, chronic herpes, and nerve pain.
CAUTION: It is contraindicated for those on anti-depressants. It can cause photosensitivity in some individuals, particularly red-heads or those with fair skin.
The flowers and buds must be harvested fresh – not dried – and made into an oil or tincture that same day, or the very next day while they are still full of vitality. I pick them and immediately place them into a jar of my favourite oil (olive, sesame, sunflower). Make sure to harvest on a very dry sunny day. Oil and water don’t mix, and contaminating the plant, oil, or your hands with water may result in a rancid oil that you cannot use for medicine.
Particularly magical, hypericum soaked in oil turns the most unbelievable cherry red as it infuses (see above). I let my hypericum oil sit on a sunny window for 21 days to extract all the medicine into the oil. Do not seal the lid of a jar while it’s infusing – fresh plants must exhaust themselves of moisture as they soak. For step by step instructions for making an herbal oil go here.
Herbal oils can later be turned into: massage oils, salves, ointments, lip balms, face creams, sunscreens, and just about anything else you can imagine putting on your body.
Hypericum can also be made into a fresh tincture to be taken internally. Go here for a step-by-step how to make a fresh tincture.
Plants are generous beings, and when you take the time to engage with them daily they might just reveal some secrets to you.
One of my most popular and well-loved recipes that includes hypericum oil is my Cleopatra’s Face Cream. I’ve given you step-by-step instructions here.