St. John's Wort

by Susan A.Smith

St. John wort (hypericum perforatum) - "Hypericum" is derived from the Greek word meaning "over an apparition," and it is said that hanging the herb over your door exorcises evil spirits. "Perforatum" describes the transparent perforations in the leaves, through which it is said the devil slips in and out.

Benedictine monks gave us the plant Christian name either for the birthday of St. John on June 24th or his beheading on August 29th. The red spots on the little yellow flowers, symbolic of the blood of St. John, do indeed "bleed" into an infused oil or alcohol tincture.

St. John wort is wonderfully versatile. Its use in relieving nerve pain, from sciatica to growing pains, goes back 2000 years. It is excellent for healing burns, cuts and abrasions, and various skin disorders such as psoriasis. A massage with the oil soothes muscle strains, sprains and pinched nerves. It is also a powerful antiviral, especially against the herpes virus (see Cold Sore Magic on page 3).

St. John wort is best known these days as an antidepressant (even K-Mart carries it!) and has been shown to be as effective in clinical trials as conventional antidepressant pharmaceuticals when used for mild to moderate depression, with significantly fewer side effects.

Michael Moore, sometimes known as the herbalist from Hell, says, "Hypericum has little or no value in bipolar depressions or depressive states with a clear pathology. Think of it for the friend who is out of work, the overwhelmed postgrad student, the woman who feels graceless and unprepared for menopause, or the self-appointed savior of (younger) women with his third tuck, bad prostate and scared haunted look behind the (tinted contacts) eyes." Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West



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