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St. John’s Wort

Hypericum Perforatum

Also known as Hypericum, Amber and Klamath weed, St. John’s Wort has gained significant attention in recent times, due largely to its antidepressant quality. However, it has a long history of usage, both as a healing herb and as a magical herb with protection qualities. The yellow flowers produce a red liquid when crushed, which was said to represent the blood of St. John the Baptist, who was beheaded.

The association probably came about because the plant flowers at midsummer, 24 June in the Northern Hemisphere, which is the feast day of St. John. In medieval times, it was said that putting St. John’s Wort under one’s pillows on Midsummer’s Eve would ensure that the sleeper would not die during the following year. Burning it in the fireplace is said to protect one’s home against lightning and severe storms.

Healing uses:
St. John’s Wort is most recognised for its antidepressant qualities. It works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, the chemical which is responsible for transmitting emotions. A lack of serotonin is the direct cause of chemical depression. It has few of the side effects associated with pharmaceutical medications for depression, and is considered a safer, more organic treatment.

It is an extremely effective mood enhancer in cases of mild depression and is effective for pre-menstrual mood-swings. However it is less effective for more severe depression or depression associated with other psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder. In cases of mild depression, take 2 capsules of St. John’s Wort extract (widely available from health shops and pharmacies) twice daily. Maximum benefit will be obtained by continuing this dosage for at least 2 months. A health professional should be consulted in cases of more severe depression.

St. John’s Wort has also been shown to increase theta waves in the brain during waking hours. This phenomenon usually occurs only during deep sleep, times of creative activity and moments of euphoria. As a result of increased theta wave activity, individuals will find themselves more focused with clearer thoughts and improved brain power. Capsules of St. John’s Wort extract can be taken for a more sustained effect. For a short boost, St. John’s Wort tea, which is available in supermarkets, is very effective. This can be an excellent pick-me-up during a busy work day, or prior to sitting an exam.

While the mood-enhancing qualities of St. John’s Wort have taken centre stage in recent times, the herb has other equally useful healing functions. Steeping the flowers in olive oil for several weeks produces a red oil which has pain-relieving and antiseptic qualities. It is useful for all types of wounds, as well as bruises, burns and blisters. It is said that knights used this oil for their battle wounds during the Crusades. For a more immediate application when no oil is available, juice can be squeezed from the leaves and flowers and applied directly to the area.

St. John’s Wort is also effective for pain associated with rheumatism and arthritis. It is best applied as a poultice for these conditions. Place enough fresh leaves and flowers to cover the affected area into a pot and cover with water. Simmer for 2 minutes, the squeeze excess liquid from the herb. Wrap the herb in gauze and apply to the area, then cover with plastic wrap, which will help retain the heat. Leave in place for 2 hours, then apply a fresh poultice, if necessary. This poultice is also effective for muscular aches and pains.

St. John’s wort, in combination with horsetail, can help children overcome the problem of bedwetting. Give them a small cup of the tea, made with 1/2 teaspoon of the each of the dried herbs to 1 cups of boiling water, several hours before bed.

St. John’s Wort can cause an over-sensitivity to light in some individuals.
It should not be taken in combination with any prescription medication for depression or psychiatric disorders.
Some doctors report there is some evidence that St. John’s wort may interact with estrogens and oral contraceptives and that the combination may be associated with intermenstrual bleeding, and there have been unsubstantiated reports of women becoming pregnant while taking St. John’s wort while on oral contraceptives.

Other uses:
Because St. John’s Wort increases the serotonin supply to the brain, it can be extremely useful to alleviate the come-down after taking drugs such as ecstasy which rapidly deplete serotonin levels.

Growing St. John’s Wort:
This herb grows wild in Britain, North Africa, Europe, Western Asia, Australia and in parts of America. In America and Australia, it is considered a weed because. Given the right conditions, it will grow quickly and prolifically from seed. The conditions it prefers are light, dry, non-alkaline soils with sun or partial shade. The leaves and flowers are gathered in mid-Summer, and allowed to dry in a paper bag hung in an area free from any moisture. They are sufficiently dried when they crumble easily between the fingers. The dried herb should then be stored in an airtight container.

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