Spring

St. Joan’s Worth – The Sunshine Herb

St. Joan’s Worth, most commonly known as St. John’s Wort, is my favorite flower/herbal ally. I first learned about her over a decade ago when I became interested in herbalism. I was intimidated by this plant though and scared by all of the warnings about drug interactions and how it was the go-to plant for those suffering from depression. I suppose she seemed too powerful and I didn’t want to explore any plant that was for depression! I’m not depressed! I have no need for this plant. I formed the idea that SJW was for menopausal women and not worth investigating further.

Everything in its time, right? Several years ago I was a part of a local herbalism study group lead by a woman named Sasha Daucus. It was in one of these group meetings that I encountered St. Joan’s Wort and felt an immediate need to work with the plant. Sasha had brought a jar of SJW infused oil and we all passed it around. The smell, the color, I was immediately uplifted just looking at the crimson red oil; bottled sunshine! I applied it liberally on my arms and hands and during the rest of the meeting I was busy thinking abut how I would get my hands on a plant of my own.

“In addition to the well known use if St. John’s Wort as a remedy for depression, St. John’s Wort also has a powerful action on physical nerves. Use it on damaged nerves, such as those that may have been crushed or severed due to an accident. It can also work well to relax muscles, for instance the painful spasms of backaches.

For healing damaged nerves or relaxing muscles use an infused oil of St. John’s wort. Rub the oil directly on the area of nerve damage. You can buy the oil from some herbalists or make it yourself, using fresh flowers and buds when they come into bloom, around the beginning of summer. An effective St. John’s Wort oil will be an orange-red. If you don’t have any oil, you can rub the tincture on the affected area, and also take a capsule internally.

St. John’s Wort contains many phytochemicals with documented activity. Most researchers consider its effects to be due to a variety of constituents working together. Research indicates that St. John’s Wort enhances three key neurotransmitters- serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Other research indicates that it also lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol and enhances the activity of gamma- aminobutyric acid (GABA), another neurotransmitter that helps relaxation.

Tea, capsules, alcoholic extracts and oils all are good ways to use St. John’s Wort. Glycerine tinctures are of much lower potency. Use olive or sunflower oil to make your infused oils. Be aware that an infused oil is completely different than an essential oil. An infused oil is made by soaking the blossoms in a vegetable oil base. An essential oil is made by distillation and is not intended to be applied undiluted to skin. For the uses discussed here, you need the infused oil.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) is most well known as the “herbal Prozac.” In fact, for some people it works more quickly and more effectively than any pharmaceutical anti-depressant. To find out if it works for you, take three capsules daily– some people will quickly feel the effectiveness for others it may take up to 3 weeks to feel if it is going to work for you.

St. John’s Wort grows wild in our area, and is found particularly in dry rocky areas along roadsides. Good gardeners have also told me that it grows well as a garden plant. Other varieties of Hypericum are also common both in the wild and as landscape plants, such as the beautiful shrubby St. John’s Wort that grows abundantly along creeks and streams. A forest variety of St. John’s Wort H. punctatum, is common in some local areas, and it is likely that it is more medicinally active than the H. perforatum. From my own experience, I have found that H. punctatum works extremely well, which experience is backed up by other herbalists’ personal experience; and some limited analysis done by James Duke.

Some medications may interact with St. John’s Wort. If you are taking any supplement or medication that affects neurotransmission, consult a knowledgeable practitioner before starting with St. John’s Wort. The most common drugs that involve neurotransmission are anti-depressants, particularly MAO inhibitors, SSRI’s; or tricyclic antidepressants; certain migraine medications; and certain HIV/Aids medications.” – Sasha Daucus

Whew! Now that you’ve had a little introduction to the plant, I will talk about my love for SJW. I chose the month of June to blog about SJW because the prime time to harvest is the week of the Summer Solstice/Litha (St. John’s Day), June 19th- 25th. This is when the flowers will be ripe with the red oil that infuses your base oil with medicinal and magical powers. I am a firm believer in following the energetic and intuitive pull we may experience when encountering a plant. I wasn’t sure why I was so drawn to St. Joan’s Worth, but I followed my instincts and acquired some oil as soon as I could. For me, applying the oil to a pulled muscle, sore back, abdominal cramps, a scratch or bruise, on my hands before a nap, or when I am feeling tired and low on energy and especially when I am feeling anxious is the way I benefit from this plant. I do know women who take the capsules and drink the tea for mood enhancement and to combat the blues and they feel it truly helps. As with any herb, you must be patient as it can take weeks before you feel the subtle yet powerful effects of SJW.

For me the most surprising aspect of this flower is its ability to heal nerve damage. Unfortunately, I had a chance to try it for myself after my heart surgery left me with a large numb area over my right ribs where the surgical instruments cut through my intercostals. I applied St. Joan’s Worth oil liberally once the scars had adequately healed and six months after the surgery the feeling has returned to my tissues. I feel confidant that the SJW definitely helped expedite the healing process. She was a wonderful ally and very comforting during what was the most difficult time on my life.

I hope maybe you learned something from this post and maybe will feel called to a new ally. I’m always wanting to learn more about this plant and would love to hear what you may know! Especially magical properties! Please leave me any information or stories of personal experience in the comments below!

~ Blessed Be ~

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