What is St John's Wort?
If you ask a florist what St. John’s wort is they will tell you that it is a genus of over 400 plants that have a buttercup like flower that can be white all the way to dark yellow.
They are interested in how easy it is to put into an ornamental garden because it is so hardy. Also, although the flowers are incredibly cute with five petals and anthers that make it look like it is surrounded by a halo of colored balls, usually red or yellow, they more often use the lush green leaves and showy berries for filler in flower arrangements. These berries can be red, brown, purple, pink, orange or white and are perfect for that splash of color accenting a bouquet of flowers.
If you ask a farmer, it’s a pesky wildflower that he wants to get rid of because it invades his crops and makes livestock have problems with the sun. That’s because they like to eat it and it contains a lot of hypericin.
That is an interesting compound that has been studied in medicine for its beneficial properties and causes photosensitivity in large doses.
Relation of St John's Wort and St John the Baptist
This relation brings me to what people in general, as well as scientists think when you say St. John's Wort. First of all it is called St. John’s wort because it most always blooms on the birthday of St. John the Baptist.
That was determined by the church to be on the summer solstice around June 24th, the longest day and shortest night of the year also called Midsummer. St John is known because he told of Christ’s coming and he also baptized people in the River Jordan. He also baptized Jesus himself. There are many pagan-based celebrations on that day as well. Wort is a general word for a plant that is very useful as a food or remedy.
The latin name for the common species we refer to today is Hypericum perforatum. This grows as a bright yellow wildflower. Hyper means above and icum goes back to eikon in Greek which means image or apparition. Perforatum refers to something that goes through a thing, or a thing with holes. Some people think that it is called hypericum because of the custom of putting sprigs above picture frames for protection and that the perforatum refers to little perforations in the plants leaves. Others have a more mystical idea of the plant being over ghosts and allowing them to get through encounters with them unscathed.
Since ancient Greece, St. John’s wort was considered to have magical powers to ward off evil and protect people’s health.
St. John's Wort: Legends, Uses, and Superstitions of the Enigmatic Herb
St John's wort is also known as goat weed, tipton weed, tutsan, Aaron’s beard, Klamath weed and enola weed. Butterflies like to feed on St. John’s wort and the moth Treblebar would starve without it because that is its only food. In Roman times sprigs were placed as offerings to gods at the foot of their statues.
The best time to pick it for those purposes was thought to be on June 24th, the feast of St John the Baptist. And the little red dots that form on the leaves on Aug 29th are said to mark the anniversary of his death.
His death was one of the grossest bible stories ever. Herodias, second wife of King Herod who divorced King Herod’s brother to marry him, had it out for St. John because he publicly expressed disapproval of both of their divorces and consequent illegal marriage. She prompted her daughter Salome to ask her new father for the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter.
Herod, although repulsed by the request, was weary of the whole thing since he had been so involved with Jesus’s crucifixion that he granted her wish to make her happy. What’s one more wrongdoing after crucifying an innocent man? Well maybe St. John’s wort is counted on to save people from evil ghosts, but it sure didn’t save him from the evil queen and princess. But it’s kind of a religious theme that one can suffer to save others from that same suffering and that was some pretty drastic suffering.
Other stories stemmed from the belief that the yellow flowers were related to the sun and could enlighten the future. For this reason St. John’s wort became popular in fortune telling and divination.
In fact the following lines from a poem translated from German shows the use of St. John’s wort to tame the uncertainties of the heart. The belief was that if a maiden picked a sprig at midnight on Midsummer's night and it hadn’t wilted by morning, she would become a bride in the next year. Remember Midsummer's night is the shortest night of the year.
Thou silver glow worm, Oh! lend me thy light
I must gather the mystic St. John’s Wort tonight
The wonderful herb whose leaf will decide
If the coming year I should be a bride.”
The red leaf juice was also considered an effective love potion. It is also said that St. John’s wort could determine who in the family would die the soonest although no details were given except that it was similar to the above. Maybe they put the sprigs on their pictures and the one that wilted most was for it first.
It was a popular belief that bringing the flowers indoors on Midsummer Eve would protect the family from the evil eye, ward off witches , give good fortune and prevent fires and being struck by lightning. Placing a bunch beneath a pillow was said to keep nightmares away. Here is a poem from England along these lines;
“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 all 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 similar kind.”
Essential St. John's Wort Benefits: From Mood to Wellness
The benefits of consuming St. John’s wort have been cited by every existing civilization in history and the benefits so numerous it was almost a panacea, but it only caught the interest of modern scientists in the 1990’s.
Although there are dozens of beneficial compounds found in the plant, the two compounds found in St John’s wort that they have concentrated on are called hyperforin and hypericin.
Both compounds have chemical structures that you don’t even have to be a chemist to marvel at. They have an unusual aesthetic. They just look like something that could help you be happy. And oddly enough this is currently its biggest claim to fame.
Scientists have concentrated research on this to the exclusion of wonderful benefits of helping the lungs, dissolving kidney stones, helping regulate the correct amount of water in the system, rebuilding the skin and bones after any kind of mishap. Menopausal and menstrual help and many many more things.
St John’s wort is one of those things that you want to have on hand for whatever ails you. You can use it topically as well as ingesting it and it should be a part of any first-aid kit.
I hope you enjoyed all this information about St. John’s wort and I think you might conclude that one should take advantage of this wonderful gift of nature.
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*This article is intended for informational purposes. The statements above have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.