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saint john's wort plant

Many people want to know about the benefits, uses, and identification of Saint John’s Wort plant.  This article aims to answer these and other questions about this amazing herb!

Saint John’s wort plant is an easy plant to identify and forage here in the Northeast.  You can find it along roadsides, in fields, and along the edges of forests.

Lately, St. John’s Wort has been getting a lot of attention for its potential as a medicinal powerhouse, so learning to identify St. John’s Wort means you can make your own remedies at home.

saint john's wort plant

How to identify St. John's wort

Hypericum perforatum, commonly known as Saint John’s wort is a perennial plant with yellow flowers and is used in both traditional European medicine and in folk herbalism. The origin of this plant dates back to its use by the ancient Greeks. The plant blooms around the feast time of St. John Baptist in late June and thereby gets its name. 

Characteristics to help you identify Saint John’s wort plant:

Saint John’s wort plant is characterized by black dots on the edge of five yellow flower petals.  These are often found on the leaves as well. It belongs to Hypericaceae family with average flower size of about one inch (2-2.5 cm). Flowers are bright yellow with 5 petals; leaves are usually small and opposite with 1-2 inches size. It usually grows from June to August and attains maximum height of 2 feet (60 cm). 

The species name “perforatum” refers to the fact that the leaves of the plant are “perforated” or appear to have tiny pin holes –tiny oil glands which are only visible upon close inspection.

If ever you are unsure whether you’ve found St. John’s Wort, simply hold a leaf up to the light.  If you can see right through numerous translucent holes that look like pin pricks, then you’ve most likely found St. John’s Wort. 

Another test to conduct to be sure that the plant in question is indeed St. John’s Wort is to squeeze a flower and bud between your fingers.  If it’s St. John’s Wort, it will release a reddish or purplish oil. 

Where does St. John's wort grow?

Location:

This well-known species is native to Europe, Northern Africa, and West Asia and now grows throughout most temperate climates worldwide. 

It can often be found near meadow drainages, creeks, and foothills and prefers plenty of sun and dry soil. It’s not uncommon to see this resilient plant pushing up through sidewalk cracks or in unlikely places. 

What are the benefits of St. John's wort?

St. John’s Wort can be used to treat a variety of ailments including depression, anxiety and resulting insomnia, and wound healing.

Saint John’s wort plant for depression:

St. John’s Wort has a reputation for being able to help treat depression. In fact, tinctures or extracts made from St John’s wort have been used to treat depression for more than 100 years in Germany. Significant efficacy and safety have been demonstrated in animal studies and clinical trials.

If you’re not a forager, you can find this herb as a tincture in health food stores, pharmacies, and online thru Amazon. As mentioned earlier, this herb grows naturally in the wild and can easily be identified and foraged for use in your own herbal remedies.  Learn how to make a tincture here.  

saint john's wort plant

Saint John’s wort plant for anxiety and resulting insomnia:

The extracts of this plant are also reported to help with anxiety and insomnia. 

Studies report the evidence that suggests St. John’s wort may provide some relief from anxiety by helping the brain use the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) serotonin, dopamine, gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), and norepinephrine more effectively. This can lead to feelings of overall wellbeing and happiness and may reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Although there aren’t many long-term studies that examine the use of St John’s wort for anxiety, the existing findings are encouraging.  These studies found that St John’s wort produced a positive shift in emotional responses towards negative signals within as little as 7 days. 

St. John’s wort also helps as a sleep aid by increasing the production of the body’s sleep hormone, melatonin. 

The best way to take St John’s wort:

When taken internally for depression, anxiety, or insomnia, St John’s wort is best consumed as a tincture or tea.  While most herbal remedies can easily be made with dried store-bought herbs, the St. Johns Wort plant is different.  The herb is only potent when used or extracted fresh, and dried St. Johns Wort herb is more or less useless. Because of this, my favorite way to get the benefits of this herb is to prepare it as a tincture or tea. 

If purchasing herbs, I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs (yes, I am an affiliate). 

saint john's wort plant
Saint John's Wort Infused Oil (yes, it's supposed to be red)

Saint John’s wort plant for skin:

This amazing herb is an often-used ingredient in traditional, folk medicine for the treatment of wounds, abrasions, burns, sunburns, and inflammatory skin disorders. Its use in wound healing could be justified by its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and astringent effects. 

To use for skin, the Saint John’s wort plant is infused in a carrier oil that can then be used as is, or as a base for lotions, creams, balms, ointments, and salves. 

Precautions:

Though St. John’s wort is natural, keep in mind that it can still interact with certain foods and commonly prescribed medication, especially those that also affect neurotransmitter levels. Before using this, or any other herbal remedy, always consult your doctor. 

Saint John’s wort plant can cause medical problems if you use them incorrectly or in large amounts.  Many herbs haven’t been tested in pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children. Because of this, we have little safety information on St. John’s wort for pregnant women or children. Talk with health care providers if you’re pregnant or nursing or are considering giving a dietary supplement to a child.

 

Disclaimer- I am not a medical professional. All information shared here is for information and entertainment only. Do your own research and consult your health care provider before treating yourself with any product, plant or mixture. 

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