The Forager's Path - School of Botanical Studies

Plant Profile: St Johns Wort

 

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Botanical Name:

Hypericum spp.
H. perforatum is most commonly used in herbal medicine.
The species commonly found growing in northern Arizona is H. scouleri.

Family:

Hypericaceae

Common Names:

St. John’s Wort

Primary Characteristics for Field ID:
H. perforatum has tiny holes in the leaves that are visible when held up to the light, hence the perforatum label.

Part Used for Medicine: 

Freshly opened flowers and buds.
Some people harvest the leaves along branch tips near the flowers.
Pinch the just-picked buds and flowers.
Your finger tips should be stained a deep red.
This shows good quality.

Habitat in Which it is Found/ Harvesting Season, Special Considerations:

In the arid Southwest, Hypericum is found where there is a bit of extra water.
I have seen it near springs, in the riparian zone along Oak Creek, in rock cracks where water collects and even near wildlife water tanks in the ponderosa forest.

Energetics:

Relaxing – especially to the Nervous System
Mildly drying
Uplifting to the spirit and emotions
With its yellow flowers and bloom during the peak of summer, Hypericum is often thought of as sunlight in a bottle.

Views on its temperature vary greatly depending on the source. When this happens with an herb (Hawthorn is another example), it usually means it is mild to neutral and can be experienced on either side of neutral depending on the individual.
My personal view is that Hypericum is mildly warming.

Ayurveda:

Benefits Vata with its relaxing and warming effects.
Benefits Kapha due to its uplifting, warming and drying effects
.
It can benefit Pitta due to its effects on the Liver.
It shoud be combined with cooler bitter herbs for Pitta people.

Primary Actions:

Internal

Mild Nervine Sedative
Nervine Tonic
Reduces Wind/Tension in TCM
Hepatoprotective
Vulnerary for intestinal healing as found in Leaky Gut Syndrome

Topical

Astringent/Vulnerary
Anodyne – a specific for nerve pain, it has a milder action for inflammatory pain

Indications:

Nerve Pain
A primary herb for this condition which is typically sharp and shooting – sciatica, shingles, pinched nerves, tooth pain, neuralgia.
Often combined with Prickly Ash bark for this use.
Use both topically and internally

Liver

A very effective liver herb if pharmaceuticals are not present
Enhances Phase 2 Liver Detox, one reason it is contraindicated with many pharmaceuticals.
Its effect on the liver is also one way it is helpful for depression as it is helpful in resolving the TCM condition known as Stagnant Liver Chi.

Nervous System
Can be used in tonic formulas combined with Milky Oats and Skullcap

Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)
Use with equal parts Lemon Balm during the darkest winter months.

Topical

Sunburn and other types of burns

**Depression**

Hypericum has been marketed as a miracle cure for depression which is inaccurate and potentially dangerous.
This medical condition has many stages, levels and causes.
Any treatment plan needs to be personalized, have multiple approaches and a long term commitment.
Hypericum can be a helpful part of the larger picture but should never be presented as a specific cure.

Herbal Combos:

Use equal parts with Milky Oats and Skullcap as a long term Nerve Tonic.
This triplet can be added to other nervine formulas as needed.

Use with Prickly Ash for all types of nerve pain. The SJW:Prickly Ash ratio should be 60:40 or 70:30.
This pair can be combined with other anodyne herbs if needed.

Uplifting Formula for Melancholy or SAD – use with other bright, uplifting plants such as Tulsi, Rose, Lemon Balm or Albizzia. This uplifting formula can be combined with other nervines for a more complex formula depending on the individual.

Use equal parts with Dandelion for a mild herbal pair for the liver.

Topically combines well with Calendula and Arnica

Safety Issues & Contraindications:

An herb that needs to be researched carefully when used with pharmaceuticals due to its positive effect on liver detox.

Preferred Method of Preparation:

Internal Use – tincture fresh in 70-95% alcohol

Topical Use – infuse fresh flowers in a carrier oil.
Warming the carrier oil during the infusion process allows for the moisture from the fresh plant to evaporate.

Dried Hypericum is easily available on the retail market but is considered much weaker in its therapeutics than fresh and is not recommended for use.

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