St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum. From the time of the ancient Greeks down through the middle ages it was used to dispel evil spirits, witches, and black magic. It has been used from the time of the Common names are names are Amber Touch-and-heal, Goat weed, Klamath Weed, Rosin Rose. The genus name Hypericum is derived from the Greek words hyper (above) and eikon (picture), in reference to the tradition of hanging plants over religious icons in the home during St John’s Day, to ward off evil. It is associated with and potentially named after the Saint because some early Christian authors claimed the red spots, symbolic of the blood of St. John appeared on the leaves on the anniversary of the beheading of St. John which is August 29th. While others say that the plant is so named because June 24th the nativity of St. John is the best day to harvest the plant. In the Christian tradition St. John represents light, hence the flowers as they are in full bloom at the summer solstice are a reminder of the sun’s bounty. As a folk remedy it has been used widely to heal wounds, remedy kidney trouble, and alleviate nervous disorders, even insanity. The plant grows in meadows, dry pastures, and roadsides. The aerial parts are used. Collect the entire plant above ground when in flower and dry as quickly as possible. They can also be infused in olive oil, which is the common method used to obtain the bright red oil used in many modern herbal applications. A poem expressing the virtues of the plant and its uses:
St. John’s wort doth charm all the witches away.
If gathered at midnight on the saint’s holy day.
And devils and witches have no power to harm
Those that do gather the plant for a charm:
Rub the lintels and post with that red juicy flower
No thunder nor tempest will then have the power
To hurt or to hinder your houses: and bind
Round your neck a charm of a similar kind.
The Magic and Medicine of Plants, p 290
The Herbal Handbook, Hoffmann, D. p76
The Way of Herbs, Moore, M. p 236
A Review of St. John’s Wort, christopherhobbs.com