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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

The Magic of St John's Wort

St John's Wort
St John's Wort

St John’s Wort is one of my favorite plants. I know I say this a lot. Stay with me. With so much lore and healing surrounding this plant, its presence is exceedingly vibrant. To me, it is sacred and here's why:

This herb blooms on or around June 24th—the birthday of John the Baptist, a feast day—hence the name St John’s Wort. Wort is a common term in botany and derives from Old English, meaning plant.

Hypercium—the botanical name— is of Greek origin. Hyper means above, and eikon is icon.

St. John’s Wort, also known by some as St. Joan’s Wort, is a symbol of the Midsummer Solstice in Europe, the UK, and, more recently, North America. 

One ritual is throwing the plant into the fire, and if one desires, leaping over the flames to aid in cleansing the body of evil spirits.

St John’s Wort represents the sun in Celtic traditions, going by the name sol terrestis, which translates to the terrestrial sun. It is known to protect those who wander in the woods from the mischief of faeries.

Another ancient tradition during Midsummer celebrations is to hang St John’s Wort over pictures—typically religious or spiritual in nature—and over door frames for protection against evil powers, demons, and for cleansing. 

Some people wore a flower of St. John’s wort on their clothing during Midsummer for added protection against unwanted negative energies.

It was a common belief that witches were particularly active during Midsummer. In fact, one of the intentions of this plant was to guard against the threat of witches.

Some people placed St John’s Wort in their pillow. They were convinced that St John would appear during their slumber, offering blessings to protect them from evil, demons, and even lightning.

Dating back to the Middle Ages, this herb was used as a remedy to address insanity. Modern-day herbalists and practitioners work with St John’s Wort for its healing abundance.

Medicinal Uses: * Anxiety * Aromatherapy * Arthritis * Bed Wetting/incontinence * Burns * Congestion * Depression * Ear * Fibromyalgia * Flu * Herpes/Cold Sores * Lupus * Nerve/Back Pain * PMS * Rheumatoid_arthritis * Skin Care

Properties: * Anodyne * Antidepressant * Antioxidant * Anxiety * Astringent * Breath * Cholagogue * Midsummer * Nervine * Vulnerary

Parts Used: Herb tops, flowers

Constituents: glycosides (including a red pigment, hypericin), flavonoids, tannins, resin, volatile oil (1).

When pinched between your fingers, the bright yellow flowers leave a purplish-red stain. Whether it is a tincture, tea, or oil, whatever you are crafting immediately turns bright red. 

St John's Wort
St John's Wort

Pollinators absolutely adore these flowers. I have a code, never take a flower from a bee. If you pick the perpetually-opening flowers daily, it will continue to blossom, providing a treat for you and the bees. Be mindful of their presence.

The red oil of the plant represents the blood of John the Baptist, allegedly martyred on June 29th, when Herod’s daughter, Salome, demanded his head. Some report that around this time, the flowers begin to wilt. However, this is not my experience. I gather the flowers daily, and it thrives well into August. If you do not pick them, they wither, and the plant stops flowering.

I prune them in early spring. St John’s Wort is a gift, gracing the landscape, and is an essential part of my apothecary. 


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